“Come along inside….We’ll see if tea and buns can make the world a better place” – The Wind in the Willows
Here’s how to plan the perfect Afternoon Tea…
Who doesn’t love a good old Afternoon Tea? Since launching Afternoon Tea at Exeter Golf and Country Club earlier this summer, the response has been astounding. With bookings, and repeat bookings and large bookings and small bookings coming out of our ears, we thought what better way to celebrate the British tradition of Afternoon Tea with a couple of recipes and some top tips from our chefs and front of house team.
When is the best time to plan the perfect Afternoon Tea?
The summer is the ideal time to plan the perfect Afternoon Tea. With the sun shining, you can take it outside for an al fresco alternative. So, what are the essentials, what will really impress and what are the best combinations to create an Afternoon Tea to really wow your friends and family?
History of Afternoon Tea
Firstly, a bit of background knowledge to throw into conversation whilst sipping from your bone China tea cup! The Afternoon Tea dates back to the 1840s, when the Duchess of Bedford spent time at Belvoir Castle in Leicestershire. The Duchess found the long stretch from luncheon to dinner at 8pm simply too long to bear and so found a light meal of tea (usually Darjeeling) and cakes or sandwiches was the perfect balance. On discovering what she deemed to be the perfect refreshment, the Duchess soon began inviting her friends to join her. Afternoon Tea quickly became an established and convivial element of the day in many middle and upper class households. Of course nowadays, the graceful yet humble tea pot and cake stand is often furnished with a cheeky glass of fizz! And, why not – after all the Afternoon Tea is a great way to celebrate fabulous friendships or family occasions, as well as offering a spot of indulgence for a catch up and chat.
Top tips to plan the perfect Afternoon Tea
When planning the perfect Afternoon Tea to impress your friends at home, here are some things to keep in mind.
1. Variety! As the saying goes, variety is the spice of life. People love a plethora of tastes and textures to tempt their taste buds. So try to use different flavours, styles and textures. For example, a well-made light scone with a good quality jam and Devon clotted cream, such as the amazing Langage Farm cream we use here at the club is a must on your cake stand! Delicate, fruity morsels of loveliness are always a winner, perhaps try a raspberry jelly or a fruit tart brimming with fat, juicy strawberries and creamy crème patisserie? A mini cake with vanilla, chocolate or caramel, or a slice of angel cake or Battenburg offer colourful, tasty additions to the Afternoon Tea. A fresh cream eclair, a intricate cream slice, a colourful meringue, mini cheesecake or of course the resplendent macaroon are other alternatives which will wow your guests!
2. Super-duper sandwiches. Sandwiches on an Afternoon Tea are different to the sandwich you may devour when you’re ravenous at work. Afternoon Tea sandwiches are for nibbling and savouring. Dainty bites of flavour presented in delicate fingers of the freshest sliced bread with scrumptious yet exquisite fillings such as local ham, fresh egg ad cress, smoked salmon, cucumber and cream cheese. Leave the highly flavoured, mayonnaise based and salad garnishes for your bog standard sandwich…the Afternoon Tea sandwiches are a cut above the rest.
3. Pretty presentation on every layer. Think carefully on how you are going to plate it. It is true – people eat with their eyes. Try to use a wide range of ingredients and colours such as feminine pinks and yellows are always deliciously eye-catching. Also, vary the height of your cakes and patisserie to fill the cake stand layers – although remember not to overload them – your guests need to be able to lift the object of their desire straight from the plate without touching the rest! And, flowers – an Afternoon Tea would not be complete with a flower in a vase – again this should be delicate and choose a flower to match what’s on the cake stand! For example, if you are serving a pale pink macaroon, then choose a pale pink flower, if you are using lots of stronger colours like the deep pink or red of your jelly or strawberry tart, decorate your table with a big bold rose to match. Finally, you need to get your table dressed to impress. Polished cutlery encased in good quality linen napkins, a bright white table cloth and of course your finest bone China teacups and saucers, side plate and cake stand and you’re there!
That’s how to plan the perfect Afternoon Tea, in three easy steps.
To get you started on the road to a fantastic Afternoon Tea here are a couple of our own recipes.
2lb of self raising flour
8 oz of butter cut in to small cubes
4oz of caster sugar
1 tsp of baking powder
5 eggs medium
A splash of milk
In a mixing bowl (or by hand if you have the time) place the flour, sugar, baking powder and the butter.
Gently work the ingredients to a fine crumb like texture.
Make a well in the centre and add the eggs and lightly fold the flour over the eggs.
Next is the tricky bit, milk, you need just enough to make sure the dough isn’t too dry – roughly 100ml.
Make sure the ingredients are altogether, no clumps of flour or butter.
On a floured surface gently roll the dough to about two finger thickness using the desired size of cutter (we use a 65 size, should say on the side of the cutter) dip the cutter into flour and cut out the scones, once you have cut the first batch out gently press the mixture to gather again DON’T knead it , this will make them heavy.
Then leave on a baking tray for 10-15 min before baking.
Brush with beaten egg and bake in a oven at about 180 degrees Celsius for 10 – 20 min depending on size.
To test if they are cooked pick one up and tap the base lightly and it should resemble a hollow sound.
Serve your lovely, light scones warm to eat them at their best.
Bake well slice
For the pastry
300g butter room temp
Pinch of salt
For the almond filling
250g of caster sugar
250g of ground almond
4 medium eggs
For the top
200g of icing sugar
Splash of water
Beat egg and sugar, try not t over soften.
Add the butter and mix for a few seconds
Gradually add the flour and the salt.
Leave in a cool place for 30min.
For the filling
Beat butter and sugar until white and creamy
Gradually add the egg one at a time (wait until the first is completely incorporated before you add the next.
Add the ground almonds and mix for a few seconds.
Leave to one side
Now pull out the pastry, roll as thin as you can with out it breaking or cracking.
Use this to line a small baking tray that has parchment or grease proof in it.
Prick it all over and lay another piece of parchment that is larger than the tray and pour in baking beads or dry rice (this will stop the pastry bubbling up)
Bake in the oven at 180 degrees Celsius for 15- 20 min.
Carefully remove the paper and weights (rice or baking beads) and place in the oven for a further 10 min to dry it out.
Let it cool a bit then spread the jam in a thin layer across the bottom.
Carefully pour on the almond filling and push into the sides taking care not to mix in the jam.
Place back in the oven at 160 degrees Celsius for 20 min or until set.
Using the icing sugar pour a very small amount of water over it and mix well, you wont need a lot of water just enough to dissolve the sugar and your looking for a consistence of old school custard .
Put it in the microwave for 10 -15 sec to make it slightly runny.
By know the tart should be ready, take it out and let it cool (if it’s too warm the icing sugar will run off).
Now pour on the icing sugar and very carefully spread all over the top trying not to pick up any crumbs.
Leave top set and then cut the desired shape and serve
Alternatively you can place flaked almond on top of the mix before it goes in the oven for the final time, or add some glacier cherries on top of the icing for a bit of color.
If you would like any of the recipes from the Afternoon Tea you have enjoyed at Exeter Golf and Country Club please just get in touch with our Sous Chef, Rob Ireland who will be delighted to help – firstname.lastname@example.org