Sunday, August 5, 2012

Tally Ho, Y'all



Well Tally Ho and Howdy! The Summer Olympics are now well underway and if you have been rushing around trying to get your British flare on, may I suggest you slow down for a few moments to enjoy a bit of tea. Tea has always been my all-time favorite time passer. Growing up, my mother used to let us kids dress up in her old clothes and wigs (yes, I went there) and then help us put together tea parties. She would always be able to pull something out of the pantry to snack on and make us feel special by putting the tea in a pot and dressing up the table with linens and fancy plates (thanks Mom for fostering that). I remember having my first real grown-up tea while on my honeymoon at Chateau Lake Louise in the Canadian Rockies. That is where I also discovered my love for Crumpets!

In the years since, I have enjoyed high teas in fancy hotels and in people's homes. All of them have one thing in common - they make you feel special for taking the time to sit back and relax. As I was watching the Olympics this past week, I was thinking about how special it would be to have tea in the Royal Palace, let alone with the Royal Family. It occurred to me then that royalty or not, palace or not, taking the time to enjoy a spot of tea can make one feel royal, in a sense, especially when you can share the experience with someone and make them feel like a queen. So just like that I was in the kitchen getting that kettle blowing. Throw in some southern charm and before you know it I have tea fit to make anyone feel like they are a queen... even if it's just me. I'm jus' sayin'!

"You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me."
~ C.S. Lewis




Some quick tricks I have learned over the years...

~ You don't have to have matching china. Mixing and matching is fun and it brings more charm to the table.

~ You don't have to make everything from scratch. Fix a few items like a sandwich or a scone and then purchase cakes and cookies or visa versa.

~ Make a tea that is to your liking. Though many prefer a rich black tea, you most certainly can make an herbal remedy as well. With so many on the market, click here to find what's right for you.

~ Keep your sandwiches from drying out or getting too soggy by making a thin swipe of butter over your bread before you place your filling. This will create a barrier so that the filling does not soak through. To keep sandwiches moist, place a clean, damp linen over your plate of sandwiches in the fridge while waiting to serve. This will keep them from drying out. 

~ Remember the curds and jams. Lemon curd is extremely easy to make for your scones and the pay off will be all the compliments you receive. I found this easy recipe several years ago and it is my all-time favorite curd recipe. Don't forget to pull out those yummy jars of jams that you have been hoarding in the pantry. They go perfect on a scone or as a spread on a tea sandwich.

~ Enjoy the art of conversation when you invite someone to join you for tea. We get so used to communicting through social media that we sometimes forget to simply enjoy talking to a friend in person.  Here are some great conversation starters.

~ If you are sipping by yourself, always remember that this is a great opportunity to relax and reflect. Grab that journal or book and blow off the dust.

~ Most importantly, remember that the art of tea is to slowly sip and relax


Here is my Southern spin on an English Scone. Notice I make mine sweet whereas traditional scones are only sweetened with currents. I have added fresh peaches and some heavy cream because that's how we do it in the summer in the South.




Peaches & Cream Scones
(Adapted from Allrecipes)

Ingredients
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, frozen
1 medium sized peach, diced
1/3 cup sour cream
2 tablespoons of heavy cream (and a bit more for the tops)
1 large egg

Directions 
Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a medium bowl, mix flour, 1/3 cup sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Grate butter into flour mixture on the large holes of a box grater. Use your fingers to work in butter (mixture should resemble coarse meal), then stir in peaches. In a small bowl, whisk sour cream and heavy cream and egg until smooth. Using a fork, stir sour cream mixture into flour mixture until large dough clumps form. Use your hands to press the dough against the bowl into a ball. The dough will be sticky in places and there may not seem to be enough liquid at first, but as you press, the dough will come together. Place dough on a lightly floured surface and pat into a 7 to 8-inch circle about 3/4-inch thick. Sprinkle with remaining 1 tsp. of sugar. Use a sharp knife to cut into 8 triangles, placing each on a cookie sheet (preferably lined with parchment paper), about 1 inch apart. Paint the tops with a thin brush stroke of cream. Sprinkle with a pinch of sugar. Bake until golden, about 15 to 17 minutes. Cool for 5 minutes and serve warm or at room temperature.

Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a medium bowl, mix flour, 1/3 cup sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Grate butter into flour mixture on the large holes of a box grater; use your fingers to work in butter (mixture should resemble coarse meal), then stir in peaches.

In a small bowl, whisk sour cream and heavy cream and egg until smooth. Using a fork, stir sour cream mixture into flour mixture until large dough clumps form. Use your hands to press the dough against the bowl into a ball. (The dough will be sticky in places, and there may not seem to be enough liquid at first, but as you press, the dough will come together.)

Place on a lightly floured surface and pat into a 7- to 8-inch circle about 3/4-inch thick. Sprinkle with remaining 1 tsp. of sugar. Use a sharp knife to cut into 8 triangles; place on a cookie sheet (preferably lined with parchment paper), about 1 inch apart. Paint the tops with a thin brush stroke of cream. Sprinkle with a pinch of sugar. Bake until golden, about 15 to 17 minutes. Cool for 5 minutes and serve warm or at room temperature.











And just in case you would like to have a tea party, but are not in the mood to do it yourself? Check out this fabulous post/pod cast from Field & Feast this week where Cecilia Nasti interviews the lovely Sophie Parrott here in Austin. Sophie runs "The Marvelous Vintage Tea Party" and she is an expert when it comes to high tea.