Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Tea with the Queen: A Victorian Menu

Henry James wrote, "There are few hours in life more agreeable than the hour dedicated to the ceremony known as an afternoon tea." Afternoon tea was invented by Anna Duchess of Bedford (1783-1857), one of Queen Victoria's ladies-in-waiting. During this time, the noble classes ate large breakfasts, small lunches and late suppers. Every afternoon, Anna experienced what she referred to as a "sinking feeling," so she requested that her servants bring her tea and petite-sized cakes to her boudoir. Many followed the Duchess' lead, and thus the ritual of afternoon tea was birthed. In fact, a culture of sorts emerged around the tradition of drinking tea. Fine hotels began to offer tea rooms, while tea shops opened for the general public. Tea dances also became popular social events at which Victorian ladies met potential husbands. Our special "Tea With the Queen" menu includes our favorite tea recipes, as well as one recipe for Victorian lemonade, as an alternative to tea.

Tea Sandwiches

Tea sandwiches are traditionally light, delicate sandwiches sliced small enough to be picked up with the fingers or a pair of sandwich tongs. Teas sandwiches can be cut into triangles or, using cookie cutters, shapes for special occasions. White or wheat bread, with the crusts cut off, can be used for these sandwiches. The following recipes are modern interpretations of Victorian tea fare.

Choice of bread, sliced
Seedless cucumber
Canned tuna, drained
Tuna seasoning (your choice)
Cream cheese
Smoked salmon
Eggs, boiled (or egg salad of your choice)
Choice of garnish, if desired

Cucumber Sandwiches:
1. After cutting off the crusts of the bread and cutting the bread into triangles or shapes, butter both sides of the bread.
2. Cut seedless cucumber (sold in gourmet supermarkets, always wrapped in cellophane) into very thin slices, and place between bread slices.
3. Garnish if desired.

Tuna Sandwiches:
1. Mix one can of tuna (drained) with tuna seasoning and enough mayonnaise to make a thick spread.
2. Spread on prepared slices of bread. You may add thin slices of cucumber if desired along with garnish.

Salmon Sandwiches:
1. Spread cream cheese on prepared slices of bread.
2. Place thin slices of smoked salmon (Nova is particularly good) between slices of bread.

Egg Sandwiches:
1. Mix sectioned boiled egg and mayonnaise (or use store bought egg salad) and season as desired.
2. Spread on slices of prepared bread.
3. Add thin slices of cucumber if desired, along with garnish.

Watercress Sandwiches:
1. Spread cream cheese on prepared slices of bread.
2. Rinse and dry watercress and lay between slices of bread.
3. Garnish if desired.

Scones with Lemon Curd and Clotted Cream

Scones are traditionally served with afternoon tea and accompanied by lemon curd and clotted cream. You can add a variety of treats into the batter, such as raisins, fresh apple bits, orange peel, cranberries, and chocolate chips. Lemon Curd is a traditional spread for scones, and is usually served with Devonshire (or clotted) cream. Our lemon curd is rich and smooth, and can be kept refrigerated for up to two weeks. Unfortunately, Americans cannot make clotted cream or Devonshire cream, as we do not have the same breed of cows as in England. Instead of buying an expensive import, ERAS offers a simple recipe for clotted cream, which is perfect for spreading on scones.

2 cups flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 cup and 2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup buttermilk (or milk)
1 lightly beaten egg
2 large eggs
1/2 cup lemon juice
1/4 cup butter
1 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons Confectioner's sugar
1/2 cup sour cream

To make scones:
1. Mix baking powder, 2 tablespoons sugar and salt and cut in 6 tablespoons of butter until the mix is crumbly.
2. Pour in the buttermilk until the dough is sticky. Be careful not to overmix. The dough should cling together.
3. Turn out onto a floured surface and shape drop or use a biscuit cutter to form biscuit sized scones. The secret of tender scones is a minimum of handling.
4. Place on an ungreased cookie sheet and brush with egg for a shiny brown scone.
5. Bake at 425 degrees for 10-20 minutes, until light brown.

To make lemon curd:
1. Wisk 1 cup sugar and 2 large eggs in a bowl until blended.
2. Sift in 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice.
3. Pour into a saucepan and cook over low-medium heat stirring constantly for 20 minutes. Do not let the mixture come to a boil (lest it curdle or burn), but allow it to gradually thicken.
4. When the mixture thickly coats the back of a metal spoon, remove pan from heat and stire in 1/4 cup butter until melted.
5. Pour the mixture into a bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate the mixture for at least 4 hours. The lemon curd will thicken as it cools.

To make clotted cream:
1. Mix 1 cup heavy cream and 2 tablespoons Confectioner's sugar using an electric mixer. Whip until stiff peaks form.
2. Gently fold in sour cream and mix until thick.
3. Place in refrigerator and chill until time to serve. If made ahead of time, it will keep in the refrigerator up to 4 hours.

Cherries Jubilee Cake

Many special dishes were created in Queen Victoria's honor during her 64-year reign. Among them was a dessert called Cherries Jubilee, which was invented for Victoria's Diamond Jubilee celebration in 1897. This Jubilee Cake, which uses Cherries Jubilee as a filling, is a truly fancy dessert in grand Victorian style.

5 eggs, separated
1/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
3/4 cup sugar
1 cup flour
1/4 teaspoon salt

Cream cheese filling:
8 oz. cream cheese softened
1/2 cup confectioners' sugar
1 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons cherry jelly
1/4 teaspoon almond extract

Cherry filling:
1 quart pitted black cherries
1/2 cup claret
1 cup or less sugar (to taste)
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon lemon juice

To make cake:
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
2. Beat the egg whites until they stand up in soft peaks.
3. Beat in the 1/4 cup of sugar a tablespoon at a time.
4. Without washing the beater, beat the egg yolks with the lemon juice until thick and lemon-colored.
5. Gradually beat in the 3/4 cup of sugar.
6. Pour the yolk mixture over beaten egg whites and fold together gently with a spoon or spatula until well blended.
7. Sift the flour and salt together and fold into the egg mixture.
8. Spoon the batter into two unbuttered 9-inch layer pans.
9. Cut through the batter gently several times to break any large air bubbles.
10. Bake about 30 minutes. Test by pressing lightly with a finger. If the cake springs back, it is done.
11. Invert on a wire rack and cool.

To make cream cheese filling:
1. Cream the sugar and cream cheese together.
2. Add remaining ingredients and beat until thick.

To make cherry filling:
1. Dissolve the sugar in the claret and pour over the cherries. Let stand for several hours.
2. In a small bowl, mix the cornstarch with 3 tablespoons of the cherry juice.
3. Heat the cherries in a sauce pan to the boiling point.
4. Lower heat and stir in cornstarch mixture. Simmer, stirring constantly until thickened.
5. Remove from heat, add spices and lemon juice and allow to cool.

To assemble cake:
1. Place one layer of sponge cake on a cake platter and spread a layer of cream filling about 3 inches wide around the perimeter of the top of the cake.
2. Cut out the center (in a heart shape if you are using heart-shaped pans) of the other layer, leaving a 3-inch border.
3. Put aside the center piece you cut out. Place the layer with the cut-out center on top of the other and press down to make the layers stick together.
4. Decorate by placing a paper doily on top of the cake and sifting confectioners' sugar over the doily.
5. Carefully remove the doily and fill the center of the cake with the cherry filling.

Victorian Kisses

This lovely confection is a forerunner to the modern day variety by Hershey's!

9 eggs
White sugar

1. Beat the whites of nine fresh eggs to a stiff froth.
2. Mix egg white mixture with fifteen spoonfuls of fine white sugar and five or six drops of essence of lemon.
3. Drop mixture on paper with a teaspoon, sift sugar over them, and bake them in a slow oven.

Plum Puffs

Here is a recipe for "Plum Puffs" from the Anne of Green Gables Treasury by Carolyn Strom Collins and Christina Wyss Eriksson (Viking Press, 1991). This recipe yields 2 to 3 dozen puffs.

1/2 cup water
3 tbsp. butter
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp. granulated sugar
2 Eggs
1/2 cup plum jam (or any other fruit jam)
1/2 cup cream cheese OR whipped cream
Sifted Icing Sugar

1. Preheat your oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease a baking sheet lightly.
2. In a large saucepan, heat the water and butter until boiling. When the butter has melted, turn the heat to low, add the flour and sugar all at once and mix them in thoroughly (a wooden spoon seems to work best for this). Continue to beat the mixture over low heat until it leaves the sides of the pan, about 1 minute.
3. Remove the pan from the heat. Add one egg and beat the mixture until it is smooth. Add the second egg and beat again until smooth.
4. Drop the dough by teaspoonfuls onto the baking sheet, about 2 inches apart; they should be about 1 inch around. (The puffs will double in size as they bake.) Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until they are golden brown.
5. Take the puffs out of the oven and turn the heat off. Close the oven door. With a toothpick or thin skewer, poke a tiny hole or two in each puff to let the steam out. Return the puffs to the turned-off but warm oven for about 5 more minutes to ensure that the insides are done. Remove the puffs from the oven and cool them on a rack.
6. When cool, gently split the puffs in half and fill each one with a spoonful of jam and a dab of cream cheese or whipped cream. When all the puffs are filled, arrange them on a platter and sift icing sugar over the top.

Victorian Lavender Lemonade

During the Victorian era, drinking lemonade on one's porch was a popular pasttime in the summers. A "ladies-only" light luncheon may also have been served. Below is our simple recipe for lavender lemonade, a drink enjoyed during the 19th century. Consider serving your lemonade in an antique style, glass footed pitcher and tumblers. Victorians believed the violet-hued glass preserved good tidings within their homes. Below is our easy recipe for this refreshing beverage, perfect for your Victorian picnic.

5 cups water
1 1/2 cups sugar
12 stems of fresh lavender
2 1/4 cups lemon juice

1. Boil 2 1/2 cups of water with the sugar.
2. Add the lavender stems and remove from heat.
3. Place on the lid and let cool.
4. When cool, add 2 1/2 cups of water and the lemon juice.
5. Strain out the lavender.
6. Serve the lavender lemonade with crushed ice and garnish with lavender blossoms.

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