Saturday, November 6, 2010

Cooking on Saturday ~ Low or Afternoon Tea

In my current WIP, I had planned to have my heroine and her friends visit a tearoom for afternoon refreshments after a couple of hours shopping. Guess what? Tearooms were not class as respectable places for a lady of quality to frequent. No these places did not become popular for ladies of society until the late 1800’s. Fat lot of good that does me.

I am most upset about this occurrence. Now I’ll have to have the confrontation with the old bitty somewhere else.

Nevertheless, seeing as I was going to write about this today anyway let’s look at what is served at an Afternoon Tea and the proper etiquette for such an event. Maybe I can slip one of these in with visitors arriving to welcome my heroine back into society.

Afternoon Tea or Low Tea was served between 3pm and 4pm, just before a leisurely stroll in Hyde Park. There is a certain protocol one must be respect if you are to entertain the most fashionable of society.

Tea Etiquette:

Place settings:- fix
It is always best to use the utensils from the outside of a place setting.
You may use a petite knife and fork on an open face sandwich, but it is preferred one not use them on a closed sandwich. A knife and fork is not required if a savories pasty is properly made, you do not want your guest’s pastries runny.
It is thought to be very ill mannered to place used utensils on a cloth or table. When not in use place the utensil on the right side of the corresponding plate.

How to hold your cup and saucer:-
For one not to spill the hot tea onto oneself, the proper way to hold a cup is to place one's thumb at the six o'clock position and one's index and middle fingers at the twelve o'clock position, while gently raising one's pinkie up for balance. This is known as Pinkie Up.
Never loop one’s fingers through the handle, nor grasp the cup bowl with the palm of your hand. Extremely ill-mannered.

The placement of one’s napkin:-
There is only one acceptable placement of one’s  napkin, and is to the left side of one’s place setting. The napkin ought to be folded with the closed edge to the left and the open edge to the right. No exceptions! 
The proper etiquette for excusing oneself from the table, whether during or after dining is to quietly place one’s napkin to the left side of one’s place setting. If you wish for your hostess to invite you back for a repeated experience simply place your napkin folded with a crease to the left side of your place setting.
For an Afternoon Tea service it is customary to use twelve-inch napkins.

Afternoon Tea food placement for a three-tier curate stand:-
Top Tier - Scones
The practice of placing scones on the top tier began during the 1800s when Afternoon Teas first became fashionable, a warming dome was placed over the scones, as the dome would only fit on the top tier.
Middle tier - Savories and Tea sandwiches
The savories and crustless sandwiches were place on the middle tier. The top tier would be removed once the scones had been eaten. In early Victorian days, sandwiches were made only of ham, tongue or beef. Cucumber sandwiches did not become popular until the 1870s.
Bottom tier - Sweets
Sweets of cakes, fancy biscuits, ices and fruit were placed on the bottom tier.

How To Eat A Scone:-
The acceptable manner in which one eats a scone is the same as one would eat a dinner roll. Simply break off a bite-size piece, place it on your plate, and then apply, with your bread and butter knife, the jam and cream. Then pick the scone up between your thumb and forefinger to eat, taking care not to get cream all over your mouth. One never uses a fork to eat a scone. It should go without saying that dipping is not tolerated.

Stirring Tea and Spoon Placement:-
It is considered rude in gentle society to stir one's tea in wide circular motions. Proper etiquette requires the teaspoon be held at the six o'clock position to begin then fold gently towards the twelve o’clock position two or three times.
The teaspoon must never be left in the teacup, very ill mannered. When not in use, the small teaspoon is placed on the right side of the tea saucer.
If you are at a buffet tea hold the tea saucer in your lap with your left hand and hold the tea cup in your right hand. When not in use, place the teacup back in the tea saucer and hold in your lap. In polite society, one never waves one’s cup and saucer around to the air.

Drinking Tea:-
One never uses one’s tea to wash down food. Sip in delicate short swallows and always before eating.
Milk was originally added to a cup first as tea cups in Europe were made from soft paste porcelain, this helped to temper the cups from cracking.
Proper Service of Lemon Slice vs. Lemon Wedge:-
Traditionally, a lemon slice with a clove in the center of the lemon slice could be placed to float in the teacup. The floating lemon slice helped to enhance the flavor of the tea.

If one is serving a wedge of lemon, traditionally the wedge is covered in gauze or tied in cheesecloth to avoid the seeds and juice from squirting when squeezed.
The used wedge would then be placed on either the side of one’s tea saucer or a service plate provided on the table.

Plain Scone:-
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 tablespoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 pound (1 cup) unsalted cold butter, diced
1 1/2 cups half and half cream
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt together.
With a pastry blender or two knives, cut the cold butter into flour mixture until particles are the size of small peas. Fold in your Alternative Ingredients of choice to the flour mixture. Add half and half cream and vanilla extract to the mixture and blend until dough forms. DO NOT over mix the dough.
With floured hands, pat dough to a 1-inch thickness onto a floured board. With a floured cutter of your desired shape, cut out and place 1-inch apart on a parchment paper lined or a lightly greased and floured baking sheet.
Sprinkle some cinnamon-sugar on top of each scone to taste.
Bake 20 to 25 minutes until lightly golden brown.  Baking time will vary according to the size of your scone.
Scones are best served warm.
Makes: 24 scones.

Cucumber Tea Sandwich:-
1/2 seedless cucumber, peeled and very thinly sliced (about 32 slices)
1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup coarsely-chopped watercress leaves
16 slices best-quality white bread*
Salt to taste
1/2 cup alfalfa sprouts

Choose the best-quality white or wheat bread as possible. Never serve end slices. Freezing the bread before cutting and then spreading makes for easier handling.
Place cucumber slices between layers of paper towels to remove excess moisture.
In a small bowl, combine butter and watercress; spread on one side of each slice of bread.
Lay cucumber slices onto the buttered side of eight (8) slices of bread. Sprinkle the cucumbers with salt. Cover each with 1 tablespoon alfalfa sprouts and top with the remaining slices of bread, buttered side down.
Carefully cut the crusts from each sandwich with a long, sharp knife after the sandwiches are filled. Cut the sandwiches in half diagonally and then cut in half again. If desired, decorative shapes can be made with cookie cutters.
Makes 8 whole sandwiches or 16 halves or 32 fourths.

Chocolate Covered Strawberries:-
60 large fresh strawberries, with stems left intact
1 (12-ounce) package semisweet or bittersweet chocolate chips
3/4 cup half and half cream
1 to 2 tablespoons brandy, your favorite liqueur, or 2 teaspoons prepared coffee
Line a baking sheet or cookie pan with waxed paper.
Wash the strawberries and pat dry thoroughly with paper towels; set aside. NOTE: Make sure the strawberries are completely dry. Even a drop of water in the melted chocolate can cause it to "seize" and turn the entire mixture into a grainy mess.
If you use refrigerated strawberries, allow them to come to room temperature before dipping in the melted chocolate. If you use cold fruit, condensation will form and that will prevent the chocolate from sticking.
Methods of Melting Chocolate:-
Double Boiler:
 In the top of a double boiler over hot water, not boiling water (don't let the bottom of the bowl touch the water, melt chocolate; add cream, stirring until smooth. NOTE:  Be careful boiling water may cause steam droplets to get into chocolate which can result in "seizing," when the chocolate becomes stiff and grainy. NOTE: If you don't have a double boiler you can improvise one by placing a glass or stainless steel bowl over a pot of simmering water.
Remove from heat and blend in brandy, liqueur, or coffee. Let the chocolate cool slightly, but it should not set.

Madeira cake:-
1/2 lb butter
1/2 lb best white sugar
1 lb of flour
8 eggs
1/2 a nutmeg
3 oz of candied peel
A few drops of essence of lemon
A little icing sugar

Slightly melt the butter, then add sugar, beating both together with wooden spoon, break in the eggs one at a time, stir in the flour, add the nutmeg and essence, divide the mixture into three, and bake in hoops.
Smooth them with a knife, and dust them with icing sugar and put strips of candied peel on them.
Bake for about 45 minutes.

There my friends you have how to hold a 19th century Low or Afternoon Tea. Next week I’ll look at High Tea. Yes, it is very different to Low or Afternoon Tea.

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