Afternoon Tea Party

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Take a tea break from ordinary to elegant with these delicate delights.

By Emily Chavez  |  Photos by Luis Chavez

As much as I do enjoy an “ordinary everyday afternoon tea,” how much more so do I delight in an afternoon of tea and accompaniments that turn the ordinary into extraordinary. Dainty sandwiches, crumbly scones and creamy confections readily come to mind when we think of a tea party and you will find all of those items here as well — but with some subtle changes that add depth of flavor. For instance, tea itself is used as an ingredient in the poached pears and shortbread cookies. Ginger, mango, lemon and champagne lighten flavor profiles to leave the palate refreshed. Finally, fresh, homemade ricotta gives a beautiful creaminess to be savored with every bite of bread and fruit. I highly recommend using sustainable and organic tea for the purist flavor infusions.

Ginger Orange Scones

Yield: 16 scones

Total Time: 40 minutes

Active Time: 15 minutes

• 2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

• 1 tbsp. baking powder

• 1/4 cup granulated sugar

• 1/2 tsp. salt

• 2 tbsp. orange zest

• 2 tsp. grated ginger

• 1/3 cup unsalted butter, chilled and cubed

• 1 cup heavy whipping cream

• 1 ½ tbsp. melted butter

– Preheat the oven to 425° F.

– In a food processor, combine the flour, baking powder, granulated sugar, salt, grated ginger and orange zest. Add the cubed butter and pulse until coarse.

– Transfer to a large bowl and add cream. Stir with a spatula or spoon until a sticky dough begins to form.

– Divide dough in half. On a floured surface, shape each half into a 7” disc, flouring lightly as needed. Then cut into 8 wedges using a floured knife.  Transfer to a large parchment paper-lined baking sheet and brush with the melted butter.

– Bake 13-16 minutes or until the edges are light golden brown.

– Cool for 10 minutes on the baking sheet, then transfer to a wire rack and serve. Can be stored in an airtight container for several days.

Green Tea Poached Pears

Yield: 4-5 pears

Total Time: 3 hours

Active Time: 1 hour

• 4-5 small pears

• 1 ¼  cups champagne

• 1 tsp. whole cloves

• 1/2 tsp. peppercorns

• 1/4 cup brown sugar

• Orange peel strips from one orange, using a vegetable peeler

• Juice from one orange

• 1 cinnamon stick

• 1 vanilla bean, split and seeds scraped out

• 2 Sencha green tea bags

• Salt

– Peel pears and place in a pot with the champagne, brown sugar, orange peel, orange juice, cinnamon stick, cloves, tea removed from the tea bags, vanilla bean seeds and pod, peppercorns and a pinch of salt.

– Cook on a low heat to dissolve the sugar and baste the pears. Once sugar is dissolved, bring to a boil then cover and reduce heat to a simmer for 20-30 minutes until the pears are tender when pricked.

– Remove pot from heat and let cool for 2 hours before serving.

Champagne-Soaked Berries with Cream

Yield: 4 servings

Total Time: 1 hour, 20 minutes

Active Time: 50 minutes

• 1 ½ cups strawberries, halved

• 1 ½ cups raspberries

• 2 cups champagne

• 2 tbsp. maple syrup

• 1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise

• 1 ½ cups heavy whipping cream

• 2 tsp. cacao powder

• Salt

– In a medium pot, bring the champagne, 1 tablespoon of maple syrup, vanilla bean and a pinch of salt to a boil, stirring occasionally.

– Reduce to a simmer and then pour the champagne mixture over the strawberries and raspberries in a bowl. Let sit for 10 minutes and then transfer to the refrigerator for at least 20 minutes or up to 4 hours.

– With an electric mixer, make the cream by whisking the heavy whipping cream in a chilled bowl until soft peaks form. Add cacao powder, the remaining tablespoon of maple syrup and a pinch of salt and continue whipping until stiff peaks form.

– Assemble by alternating layers of berries and cream to fill 4 serving dishes. Serve immediately.

Homemade Ricotta

Yield: 1/2 cup

Total Time: 2 hours, 15 minutes

Active Time: 15 minutes

• 4 cups whole milk

• 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream

• 1/4 tsp. salt

• 2 tbsp. lemon juice

– Line a colander with a tea towel over a bowl.

– In a pot on medium heat, bring to a low boil the whole milk, heavy whipping cream and salt.

– Add lemon juice and reduce to a simmer.

– Continuously stir for 2-3 minutes until it curdles.

– Transfer to the lined colander and let drain for
2 hours.

– Refrigerate the ricotta in a covered container for a minimum of one hour before using to allow it to fully set. Use within 3 days.

Note: The drained whey can be stored in a sealed jar in the
refrigerator to be used as a water substitute in fresh breads or soups.

Earl Grey Shortbread Cookies

Yield: 24 small cookies

Total Time: 1 hour, 45 minutes

Active Time: 25 minutes

• 1 cup butter, chilled and cubed

• 1 cup powdered sugar

• 1 ¾ cups flour

• 1 tsp. vanilla extract

• 3 Earl Grey tea bags

– Cream butter and sugar in an electric mixture. Add vanilla and tea removed from the teabags and mix. Then add the flour and mix until a crumbly dough starts to form.

– Turn out and knead by hand and shape into a disk. Cover dough and chill for 1 hour.

– Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

– Roll out dough to 1/3-1/2 inch thick and cut into desired shape with a knife or cookie cutter.

– Arrange cookies onto a parchment paper-lined baking sheet, placing one inch apart.

– Bake for 15-20 minutes or until the edges are just barely brown. Cool on a wire rack.

Spicy and Sweet Deviled Egg Sandwiches

Yield: 4 sandwiches

Total Time: 25 minutes

Active Time: 15 minutes

• 3 eggs

• Salt and Black pepper

• 1-2 tbsp. mayonnaise

• 1 tbsp. pureed mango

• 1/2 tsp. mustard

• 1/4 tsp. cayenne

• 1/2 tsp. paprika

• 2 tbsp. butter, room temperature

• 4 slices white bread

– Place eggs in a small pot and cover with water and a pinch of salt. Bring to a boil then reduce heat to a simmer for 8 minutes. Drain and run cold water over the eggs until they are cold.

– Peel eggs and finely cut only 2 of the eggs. Slice the third egg in half vertically and set aside for later.

– In a bowl, combine the finely cut eggs, mayonnaise, mango, mustard, cayenne pepper, paprika, salt and black pepper.

– Butter the bread and place one half of the reserved sliced egg facedown in the center of each of two “bottom” slices of bread. Then spread the egg mixture evenly around the sliced eggs.
Top with the remaining two slices of buttered bread.

– Cut off the crusts and then cut each sandwich in half. Refrigerate for up to 1 hour if not serving immediately.

Roast Beef and Chive Sandwiches

Yield: 8 sandwiches

Total Time: 20 minutes

Active Time: 20 minutes

• 8 thin slices of roast beef

• 1/2 cup arugula

• 3 tbsp. butter, softened

• 1tsp. lemon juice

• 1 tbsp. fresh chives, finely chopped

• 4 slices of wheat bread

• Salt and Black pepper

– Beat butter until smooth and creamy. Add lemon juice and salt and pepper to taste and beat again. Add chives and mix just to combine.

– Spread bread with chive butter.

– Layer roast beef and arugula onto two slices of buttered bread, and top with the remaining slices.

– Cut off the crusts and then cut each sandwich into 4 triangles. Serve immediately.