Next Sunday is Mother’s Day. What better way to make Mom feel like a Queen than to host an Afternoon Tea in her honor? Let all the mothers in your life know that they are special. New mothers, expecting mothers, and grandmothers. Let this day become a celebration of the beauty of motherhood in every stage of life!
Typically, an afternoon tea is served between four and six. While our thoughts of anything “afternoon” naturally gravitates to somewhere around two o’clock (smack in the middle of the afternoon), there is a historical reason for what seems to many of us to be a late hour of the day.
Afternoon tea, that most quintessential of English customs is, perhaps surprisingly, a relatively new tradition when it comes to the consumption of tea. Drinking tea dates back to the third millennium BC in China. Tea was first introduced to European culture in France during the 1600s and became popular in England by the 1660s when King Charles II and his wife the Portuguese Infanta Catherine de Braganza (who adored tea) introduced the hot beverage to the Royal Court. Yet it wasn’t until the mid 17th century that the concept of “Afternoon Tea” first appeared.
As the story goes, in 1840, Anna Maria Stanhope, the 7th Duchess of Bedford, a lady-in-waiting to Queen Victoria, gave birth to the concept of Afternoon Tea. The Duchess grew hungry around four o’clock in the afternoon and since the evening meal was served fashionably late, at eight o’clock, she longed for something to tide her over. She asked that a tray of tea, bread and butter and cake be brought to her room during the late afternoon. This became a habit of hers and she began inviting friends to join her.
This pause for tea became a fashionable social event. During the 1880’s upper-class and society women would change into long gowns, gloves and hats for their afternoon tea which was usually served in the drawing-room between four and five o’clock.
Although the menu for the Afternoon Tea service isn’t set in stone, there are a few customs that are usually followed. Generally speaking, you can expect Scones, little sandwiches, bite-size sweets such as small cakes and cookies, fresh seasonal fruits and of course tea.
For this celebration, I decided to forego the scones, sticking to an assortment of little sandwiches, cute little cakes and some fresh fruit. I have streamlined the more elaborate Afternoon Teas to create a Mother’s Day menu that is elegant yet simplified. You could use the recipes that follow (marked with an asterisk) , or use this menu as a starting point for creating your own personal celebration. You might not be a baker, and that’s okay too. Many bakeries feature small cakes or pastries.
Our Mother’s Day Menu
Assorted Fruit Platter serve with Mimosas:
Pink Lemonade Mimosa *
Assorted Berries (Strawberries, blackberries and Raspberries)
Assorted Mellon Balls (Honey Dew, Cantaloupe and/or Water Mellon)
Grapes and or Kiwi
A selection of teas
Cucumber-Dill Canapés *
Deviled Ham on Mini Croissants *
Dill Egg Salad Tea Sandwiches *
Feta, Roasted Peppers and Chive Tea Sandwiches *
Red Pepper and Feta Roast Beef Finger Sandwiches *
Cakes and Pastries:
Easy Boston Cream Cupcakes *
Strawberry Cream Tartlets *
White Chocolate Mousse Pastries*
To begin the festivities, serve a refreshing mimosa and an assortment of fruits as a “first course” to our Mother’s Day tea. This will allow guests the time to mingle while the kettle warms for the brewed teas to follow.
Pink Lemonade Mimosas
1 Can Frozen Pink Lemonade
1 Bottle Pink Champagne
12 Strawberries (or as many needed for garnish)
Mix frozen Pink Lemonade according to package directions in a large pitcher. Chill well.
When ready to serve, pour equal parts lemonade and champagne into a flute glass.
Rinse strawberries well in cold water. Pat with paper towels to dry. Cut a slit in strawberry. Place berry on rim of glass and serve.
Assorted fruits are always a nice touch. You can pick up ready-made platters at your local market or create your own with whatever fruits you like. For Easter a few years ago, I made a lovely fruit platter, just to give you an idea.
****** Selecting the Teas ******
No Tea would be complete without the “Tea”. While coffee can be served, tea is an essential component of the whole “Tea” experience. Hosting an Afternoon Tea, be it for two or twenty-two, requires a great deal of thought to presentation. The selection of a menu dictates all that follows, while the preparation and presentation of the teas themselves are by far the easiest to deal with. Unless you are a huge consumer of teas, (which I am not) it really isn’t practical to have individual tea-pots with infusers and an assortment of loose-leaf teas in canisters for each guest. Yet you don’t want to brew a large pot of one kind of tea. Besides, in researching tea pots and the proper way to brew, I discovered that, unlike coffee, you don’t brew up a big pot. Tea truly is an individual experience. So how does the home-cook give guests variety? The best way to accomplish this might not be the “correct” way, but it is the easiest both in presentation and the pocket-book. First buy a selection of high-quality teas in bags. Arrange the tea bags in a basket. Fill a nice pot with hot water (for smaller groups, a silver tea-pot would be an elegant touch). Have teaspoons, cups and saucers arranged in front of the basket, flanked by a sugar bowl and milk saucer. Lemons would also be a nice addition, sliced thin and arranged attractively on a small plate or platter. Since there is always the issue of what to do with the bag once the cup of tea has steeped to the desired strength, there are several ways to handle this – one would be to place “disposal” bowls either on the tables themselves or near the tea station. The other would be to have a small, plastic lined basket for this purpose. It’s entirely up to you, to the space available and to where guests are seated (be it low or high). One thing is certain, the disposal bowls should never be with the food. If you wanted to, you could walk among your guests and offer the bowl, then remove it completely from the setting.
Don’t have enough tea cups? Many of us don’t, but almost all of us own at least one tea-cup. Let the ladies in attendance know it’s a BUOTC (Bring your own tea-cup). Besides, it would be fun to admire the cups of your guests and get the stories behind the cups. (For instance, I have a cup and saucer from the 1940s. It was made in Berlin after the war, and once belonged to a left-handed tea drinker. You can tell by the way the silver on the rim and handle have been rubbed away).
****** Afternoon Tea Sandwiches ******
The tea sandwich may take a number of different forms, yet should be easy to handle, and be capable of being eaten in two bites. It may be a long, narrow sandwich, a triangular quarter-sandwich, or a small biscuit round. The sandwich, once made, may also be cut into different shapes using a cookie cutter. Traditionally speaking, the tea sandwich is made using thin slices of white bread that has been “sealed” with butter or cream cheese to prevent the bread from becoming soggy. The crust is always removed once the sandwich has been made (unless using a baguette round, rolls or other bread that would make removing the crust impossible) but before serving. Modern renditions of tea sandwiches include breads such as wheat, pumpernickel, sourdough or rye. Fillings should always be kept light and delicate in proportion to the amount of bread. The Cucumber Tea Sandwich is considered the quintessential tea sandwich. Other popular choices include tomatoes, pimento cheese, smoked salmon, curried chicken and egg salad. The sandwiches may be served closed (topped with a second slice of bread) or open-faced. Variety is the key to a successful tray of Tea Sandwiches. Five or six different sandwiches should more than suffice.
Make Ahead Notes: Cream cheese spreads or other spreadable fillings can be made a day ahead and refrigerated in a covered container. Let spreads come to room temperature before spreading. Sandwiches can be assembled earlier in the day, covered plastic wrap and topped with damp paper towels. They can then be placed in a covered container, and refrigerated. Put the final touches such as a pretty garnish just before serving.
5 slices white sandwich bread
20 very thin slices English cucumber
½ cup salted butter, softened
2 teaspoons finely minced fresh dill
Fresh Dill Sprigs for Garnish
Using a 1¾-inch square cutter, cut 4 squares from each bread slice. Set aside. Discard crusts.
Place cucumber on paper towels to absorb liquid. Set aside.
In a small bowl, combine butter and dill, stirring well. Transfer butter to a piping bag fitted with a very small open-star tip (Wilton #15).
Pipe a decorative border around top edges of each square. Place a cucumber slice on top of each square. Pipe a star shape in the center of each cucumber.
Garnish each with a fresh dill sprig, if desired.
Deviled Ham on Mini Croissants
1 1/2 cups cooked ham (about 1/2 pound), chopped
1/3 cup mayonnaise
2 teaspoons whole grain mustard
3 tablespoons onion, chopped
1 teaspoon whole capers, drained
3-4 tablespoons curly parsley
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon Sriracha sauce (or your favorite hot sauce, to taste)
1 teaspoon sweet pickle relish
Combine all ingredients in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse in one second bursts, scraping down sides of bowl with a rubber spatula as needed. Pulse until very well combined, but not quite a smooth paste (some texture here is good). Cover and chill in refrigerator for at least an hour to allow flavors to meld. Serve on crispy crackers or on white bread.
Mini Croissant Sandwiches
12 Mini Croissants
2 Tablespoons butter, soft
12 Green Lettuce leaves
Split croissants open. Spread a little butter on the cut sides, both top and bottom. Place a torn bit of lettuce on the bottom of each croissant. Spread a generous amount of ham filling on top slice. Press top over bottom slice of croissant. Arrange on a serving platter.
Dill Egg Salad Tea Sandwiches
7 hard-boiled eggs, chilled
1/4 cup real mayonnaise
2 teaspoons yellow mustard
1/4 cup fresh dill, chopped fine
1/4 cup chives, chopped fine
1 Tablespoon Sweet Pickle Relish
salt and pepper to taste
Sliced Bread – desired type
Chop eggs and set aside.
In a bowl, mix together mayonnaise, mustard, dill, chives, and sweet pickle relish. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Add chopped eggs to mayonnaise mixture. Blend well. Cover and chill for several hours or overnight.
Remove crusts from bread. Spread egg mixture on half of the bread slices. Top with remaining slices and cut to desired shape.
Feta, Roasted Peppers and Chive Tea Sandwiches
1/3 cup Red peppers, coarsely chopped
1/3 cup Orange Peppers, coarsely chopped
8 slices sandwich bread
6 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
Fresh chives, finely chopped
Core and chop bell peppers. Place in a dry, non-stick pan and saute until peppers are lightly roasted. Set aside until ready to use.
Toast the bread in a toaster, and then, using a round food cutter, cut 2 circles into every slice of bread.
Crumble the feta on each bread round. Top with roasted peppers and garnish with chopped chives.
Red Pepper-Feta Roast Beef Finger Sandwiches
1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened
1 tablespoon heavy whipping cream
¼ cup Feta cheese crumbles
¼ cup finely chopped roasted red pepper, divided
10 slices white sandwich bread
15 thin slices deli roast beef
In a small bowl, combine cream cheese and heavy cream. Beat at medium speed with an electric mixer until smooth. Add feta cheese and roasted red pepper, stirring until incorporated. Set aside.
Using a serrated bread knife, trim crusts from all sides of bread slices. Cut each slice into 3 rectangles, approximately 3 x 1½ inches.
Spread approximately 1 tablespoon cream cheese mixture onto each bread slice. Ruffle a slice of roast beef on top of half of bread slices. Top with another bread slice, cream cheese side down.
15 blanched long fresh chives
1 tablespoon finely chopped roasted red pepper
Garnish each sandwich by tying a blanched chives around it and topping with a piece of red pepper.
****** Little Cakes and Pastries ******
Boston Cream Cupcakes
1 Box Yellow Cake Mix
1 Stick of Butter, melted
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line 24 mini muffin cups with paper baking cups. Set muffin tin aside until ready to fill.
Melt butter in a heat-proof bowl in the microwave. Let butter cool to room temperature without solidifying.
Empty boxed cake mix into the bowl of a stand-up mixer. Add eggs, one at a time, and mix until just blended. Add butter, mix for 2 minutes. Spoon batter into muffin cups.
Bake little cupcakes for about 15 or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.
Cool in tin for about 5 minutes. Remove little cakes from pans. Cool completely on wire rack.
To Assemble Cakes: Remove cupcakes from paper baking cups. Cut each cupcake in half crosswise using a serrated knife.
Spread 1 rounded tablespoon filling on bottom halves. Place tops back on filling.
Spread or pipe 2 teaspoons ganache over each top. Store in refrigerator until ready to serve. (Remove from refrigerator about 15 minutes before serving to allow cakes to warm slightly).
Vanilla Cream Filling
1 (4 serving size) package instant French vanilla pudding & pie filling mix
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1 tablespoon water
Combine pudding mix, heavy cream and water in medium bowl. Whisk 2 minutes. Cover with plastic wrap, pressing down onto pudding. Place in refrigerator for 30 minutes to allow mixture to thicken and set.
1/2 cup heavy cream
2/3 cup dark chocolate chips
Heat heavy cream in small saucepan on low heat until hot, but not boiling. Remove from heat.
Stir in chocolate chips until melted. Let stand 5 minutes before using.
Strawberry Cream Tartlets
1 cup milk
3 egg yolks
¼ cup white sugar
2 tablespoons plain flour
24 Tartlet Cups
8-10 strawberries, sliced
Use a vegetable peeler to cut 2 strips of orange peel about 3 inches long and about 1/2 to 3/4 inches wide, avoiding the white pith. Set peel aside until ready to use.
Add peel with milk in a medium saucepan and slowly bring to the boil over medium heat. Once milk has been heated, remove and discard orange peel.
Whisk egg yolks and sugar in a bowl until light and creamy. Whisk in flour. Pour hot milk on egg mixture, whisking constantly. Return mixture to a clean saucepan, and stir with a whisk over low heat for about 2 mins, or until mixture bubbles and thickens. Strain mixture into a clean bowl and allow to cool for 10 minutes. Stir mixture occasionally. Once mixture has cooled to room temperature, cover surface with plastic wrap. Place in refrigerator to cool completely.
Spoon custard into the pastry shells and top with a strawberry slice.
White Chocolate Mousse Pastries
1 Package (10 oz) Frozen Puff Pastry Shells
6 Squares (1 oz each) White Chocolate
1 ½ Cups Heavy Cream
1 Square (1 oz) Semi-Sweet Chocolate, melted
Raspberries for garnish, if desired
Bake and cool pastry shells according to package directions.
In a microwaveable bowl, heat white chocolate and ¼ cup heavy cream on high for 2 minutes or until chocolate is almost melted, stirring halfway through heating process. Stir until white chocolate is completely melted. Cool to room temperature, approximately 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Meanwhile, chill a bowl to beat remaining cream. Beat with electric mixer at medium speed until soft peaks form. DO NOT OVER BEAT. Fold half the whipped cream into white chocolate mixture. Fold in remaining whipped cream just until blended. Spoon into pastry shells. Drizzle with melted semi-sweet chocolate. Refrigerate 1 hour. Top with raspberries if desired for added color just before serving.
Here’s to wishing you a wonderful Mother’s Day!