High Tea: Pinkies in the Air!

We’ve covered a lot of traditional cuisine and entertaining tips in my articles over the last couple of years, along with some unique recipes, too! But it dawned on me that I hadn’t detailed one of the most beloved, classic party menus yet: High Tea!

High Tea is a very old English tradition. It is usually done in the afternoon and it consists of serving tea along with tiny sandwiches, pastries, and scones. There is a well-established tea etiquette (for fun, check out this website www.tealaden.com/teaweb/etiquette.htm) and some well-known traditional menu items, which can make the whole thing seem a little hifalutin. At the same time, plenty of people love the idea of hosting (or attending) this type of classy affair. So I thought in this article, I’d detail my version of High Tea in hopes that with my recipes, your next tea party will be beautiful, delicious, and stress free.

Smoked Salmon Tea Sandwiches
Smoked Salmon Tea Sandwiches

The first recipe is for Smoked Salmon and Egg Sandwiches. This sandwich is high in protein, good for you, and also a very popular flavor combination. To prepare the perfect hard-boiled eggs, I place several eggs in a medium saucepan and cover with cold water. Then, I bring them to a rapid boil over medium-high heat. Turn off the heat and cover the pot with a lid. Let the eggs sit for 12 minutes. Drain well and place the eggs in a bowl of iced water to cool. Peel the eggs needed for this recipe and store the rest in the refrigerator for up to a week. They are great addition to your weekly breakfast and add a good amount of nutrition to any salad.

Smoked Salmon Tea Sandwiches

  • 8 slices whole wheat walnut bread
  • 4 oz. cream cheese,softened
  • 4 (1/4-inch-thick) slices tomato
  • 4 oz. thinly sliced smoked salmon
  • 2 hard-boiled eggs, thinly sliced
  • 4 tsp. capers, drained
  • baby arugula leaves for decoration

Remove the crusts from the bread slices. Spread cream cheese on each slice. Top bottom ones with 1 oz. smoked salmon, 1/2 egg, 1 tsp. capers, and a slice of tomato. Top with remaining bread slices.

Cut sandwiches into triangles. Arrange on a cake stand and decorate with a few arugula leaves. Serve with green tea, mixed with lemon juice. Serves 4.

Chocolate Cupcakes
Chocolate Cupcakes

There has to be something sweet and decadent during the High Tea party. I like to display these chocolate cupcakes on a cake stand for more drama. You can definitely bake the cakes a few days ahead of time and spread the frosting on the day of the gathering. These are not only addictive, but also very healthy. I used whole-grain flour and good-for-you yogurt. Also, instead of using 1 cup granulated sugar, I used 1/2 cup coconut palm sugar and 1/2 cup granulated sugar. The coconut palm sugar is less refined and provides caramel notes to baked goodies. The frosting is based on traditional cream cheese icing, but I added some yogurt for a twist. I think these cupcakes are perfect for any celebration or happy day!

Chocolate Cupcakes

  • 2 oz. dark chocolate (about 54% cocoa), chopped
  • 1/2 c. reduced-fat milk
  • 1/2 c. coconut palm sugar
  • 1/2 c. granulated sugar
  • 4 Tbsp. butter, softened
  • 2 Tbsp. canola oil
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/4 c. plain yogurt
  • 1/4 c. cocoa powder
  • 3 oz. unbleached cake flour
  • 2 1/2 oz. whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1/4 tsp. salt and baking soda, each
  • 1 tsp.baking powder

Frosting:

  • 2 oz. cream cheese
  • 1 Tbsp. butter
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla
  • 1/4 c. cocoa powder
  • 1 c. powdered sugar
  • 2 Tbsp. plain yogurt

Preheat oven to 350°F. Place dark chocolate in a small microwavable bowl and cover with milk. Microwave 30 seconds and stir. Repeat until chocolate is melted. Beat sugars, butter, and oil in the bowl of a stand mixer. Add eggs and vanilla, beat. Add chocolate mixture and yogurt, and beat.

Combine cocoa, flours, salt, soda, and baking powder. Add to butter mixture. Stir gently. Divide the batter among 12 muffin cups lined with cupcake liners and brushed with canola oil. Bake 16 minutes. Remove cupcakes from the tins and cool them on wire racks.

Meanwhile, prepare the frosting. Beat together the cream cheese, butter, and vanilla until smooth. Add the cocoa, powdered sugar, and yogurt. Beat until smooth. Spread the frosting evenly on top of each cooled cupcake. Serve immediately or place in refrigerator until ready to eat. Serves 12.

Jelly sandwich
Jelly sandwich

This is a classic combination: cream cheese and jelly between two slices of bread. The mild flavor of the strawberry jelly pairs really well with tea. No strawberry jam? Blueberry, grape, or orange jelly also make delicious filling for these simple tea sandwiches. The choice of white bread is important. It is soft and neutral, so that the other ingredients will shine. Hey, these are also perfect for breakfast!

Cream Cheese and Strawberry Jelly Tea Sandwiches

  • 4 white bread slices
  • 2 oz. cream cheese, softened
  • 4 Tbsp. strawberry jelly

Remove crust from bread (Tip! With white bread, it’s easier to remove the crusts if the bread is still slightly frozen). Cut slice in half. Spread cream cheese evenly on bottom parts.
Spread jelly on top of cream cheese and cover with the remaining slices.
Arrange the sandwiches on a cake stand. Decorate with flowers. Serves 4

Open-faced sandwiches have become very popular nowadays, although they are not very traditional for High Tea gathering.

Goat Cheese, Mushrooms, and Prosciutto Open-faced Sandwiches
Goat Cheese, Mushrooms, and Prosciutto Open-faced Sandwiches

Prosciutto is an Italian cured ham, but you can also use crumbled bacon instead. If you want to make ahead your sandwiches, cook the mushrooms the day before and store in the refrigerator. Cut 8 ounces of white mushrooms into slices. Heat 2 teaspoons of olive oil in a large non-stick pan over medium-high heat. Add onion to the skillet and sauté for 2-3 minutes. Add the mushroom slices and salt. Cook for 5 minutes or until almost all liquid has evaporated. Note that the goat cheese has to be soft in order to spread it easily on the bread slices. These sandwiches are best served warm, so wait until your guests arrive to pop them under the broiler.

Goat Cheese, Mushrooms, and Prosciutto Open-faced Sandwiches

  • 4 slices white bread
  • 2 oz. goat cheese, softened at room temperature
  • 1/2 c. sautéed mushrooms (cooked in a skillet with olive oil, onion, and salt)
  • 1 oz. Monterey Jack cheese, cut into small pieces
  • 1 oz. prosciutto crudo (Italian cured ham)

Remove crust from bread slices. Cut into triangles and spread the goat cheese on all 8 pieces.
Top with mushrooms and divide cheese evenly. Put the open-faced sandwiches on a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil. Broil for 2-3 minutes or until cheese is melted. Arrange on platter.
Top evenly with prosciutto crudo. Serves 4

The good thing about High Tea recipes is you don’t have to spend a week in the kitchen preparing complicated cakes and meals. High Tea is all about finger foods: small things you can grab with one hand, while holding a cup of tea in the other. The sandwiches and sweets have to be easy to eat, so that you are able to talk and socialize with the other guests.

Let’s eat!

Photos by emmalsabelle Istock/Thinkstock (tea), Yana Todorova (sandwiches)

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