Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Tea for Twelve


My mother and I have been hosting our annual cookie exchange for longer than I can remember. I tend to be a entertaining over-achiever when it comes to menu planning, while my mother tries to reel me back from the abyss of excess. She isn't generally very successful, and even less so this year when I decided we should have a high tea theme. I was lucky to pick up two 3-tiered Food Network stands at Kohl's at a bargain price on black Friday, so I felt compelled to fill them with treats. Smoked salmon, curried egg salad, and tarragon chicken salad sandwiches; bacon and cheese mini quiches; black-pepper cheddar and cranberry-tangerine scones; chocolate chip banana mini muffins and cheesecake brownie bites as well as the traditional clotted cream, jam and not-so-traditional passionfruit curd.


We had several different types of teas brewing, throughout the party, including seasonal favorites and a rooibos blend.


I made pecan bars (center) from the Fine Cooking Cookie cookbook and they were soo good! The hint of cinnamon in the shortcrust pastry, the thin layer of chocolate that added another dimension, I think they were my most successful cookie offering yet.


I personally feel that open-faced smoked salmon sandwiches are compulsory at any tea. Ours were on pumpernickel bread with dilled goat cheese and cucumber.


Then you also have to have both sweet and savory scones, so I chose cranberry-tangerine and black pepper-cheddar. I had planned to make the earth-shatteringly delicious passionfruit curd from Dutch Monkey Doughnuts, which Arpana was so kind as to share with me, but in the end ran out of time, so was lucky enough to be able to buy a bit of theirs instead. It was the perfect compliment to the tangerine zest in the sweet scones.


We also had banana chocolate chip mini muffins from my grandmother's recipe and cheesecake brownie bites, another great find in the Fine Cooking Cookie cookbook.


When I saw that foodbuzz was doing a Top 9 Tea Party Takeover to help raise money for Ovarian Cancer Research, I knew that I wanted to be a part of it. By putting up this post, foodbuzz will donate $50 to Ovarian Cancer Research, but you can help too. Electrolux has teamed up with Kelly Ripa to donate even more money. If you help Kelly create the perfect tea party outfit here, they will donate another $1 to the cause.

As you may have already noticed, I am a big fan of Fine Cooking and frequently use their website as a resource for recipes or just browsing for inspiration. I also like the easy searchability and reliable recipes of Epicurious, which is where I found my Black Pepper-Cheddar scone recipe. I made a few changes to the recipe - I did the whole thing in the food processor until I added the liquid, which took way more than 3/4 c of buttermilk, it was closer to 1 1/4 cups in all. To save on clean-up, I just dumped the dough straight onto my cookie sheet, patted it into shape and cut it there, moving the pieces apart so they weren't touching. I also wasn't gentle while mixing. The resulting scones were such a hit, I had several people asking for the recipe and I was happy to direct them to Epicurious.

Cheddar and Pepper Scones Epicurious | 1999

Edited by Fran McCullough and Suzanne Hamlin
The Best American Recipes 1999

The King Arthur Flours, its catalog (1-800-827-6836) and web site
(www. are, in our opinion, a baker's best friend.
The staff of exemplary Vermonters is unfailingly courteous and helpful
should you have a baking problem or question. They appear to be
serious at-home bakers too — many of the recipes on the web site and
in the catalog are contributed by employees.

These cheddar and pepper scones from the web site are really part
angel biscuit, part scone — not the usual dry, crumbly, heavy scone,
but rich and extraordinarily light. The black pepper is a powerful
ingredient, by the way — timid palates should use less.
Yield: Makes 15 large scones or 40 small ones
3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter
1 cup grated cheddar cheese (4 ounces)
1 tablespoon coarsely ground black pepper, or to taste
3/4-1 cup buttermilk or plain yogurt

Milk for glazing

Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, sugar and salt
into a large bowl. Cut in the butter and cheese. Stir in the pepper.

Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 400°F and set a rack on the upper-middle level.
Grease a heavy baking sheet or line it with parchment paper.

Gently stir enough buttermilk or yogurt into the flour mixture to make
a soft, sticky dough. Gather the dough into a ball with your hands. On
a well-floured surface, roll or pat the dough into an 12-x-8-inch
rectangle approximately 3/4 inch thick. Try not to handle the dough
too much, and don't worry if it looks rough.

Using a large spatula or a couple of spatulas, transfer the dough to
the baking sheet. Use a dough scraper or knife to cut the dough into
40 squares, each 1 1/2 inches. Separate the squares slightly on the
baking sheet. Brush each square with a little milk. (Or cut circles
out of the dough with the rim of a glass or a biscuit cutter and
transfer them to the baking sheet.)

Bake the scones for 15 to 20 minutes, or until they are brown on the
bottom and very lightly brown on top. Don't overbake; break one open
to test for doneness. Transfer to cooling racks to cool briefly and
then serve as soon as possible.

To serve: The scones are still good when cool, but they are best when
just out of the oven. Butter and scrambled eggs are appropriate

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  1. Nice Spread, but HUGE even for 12 big eaters like I am. I love the salmon sammies. You go girl.

  2. I have got to get one of those scones! The savory, no wait... the sweet, no... the savory... OK, I'll take one of the delicious salmon sandwiches, too!
    Seriously, You did a very nice post for a very good cause.

  3. This all look soo good!

    My favourite though are the pumpernickel open faced sandwiches.

    Would you be willing to share the passionfruit curd with me? I would love the recipe!

  4. Congratulations on the Top 9 today!

    Wow! What a party. I wish that I had been there.
    I like salmon sandwiches, and the savory scones.
    All of these items would be perfect to a bridal shower I'll be giving in a couple of months.

    I'm so glad that I found your blog!

  5. Congrats on the Top 9! And those chocolate chip mini muffins look divine!!!

  6. Special thanks to all of our party guests/kitchen helpers for making this such a wonderful party.

  7. Oh my goodness, do you know how to throw a party! This looks absolutely amazing! I love your tea pot too. It's so pretty!

  8. Hi, @poodle_power! I ordered Black from Tula tomato seeds. It will be my first tomato growing attempt. Excited!

  9. Oh no! Well, I'm going to give it a go. My daughter has a green thumb, so I hope with her help we'll have some luck. It's so sweet of you to offer to send me some seeds.

  10. I want to come to the next tea! What a beautiful array of treats! :-)