Afternoon Tea and The Great House at Sonning

Tea at Sonning on the Thames

A few weeks ago I helped my daughter Stefanie prepared her first tea party for two of her best friends. We both love tea time so much. When Stefanie was eleven years old we lived in England. This is where her appreciation of taking tea began. Every Sunday after church our little family would go for tea at The Great House at Sonning. Stefanie’s brothers were very gracious never to complain, they enjoyed running on the grass and enjoying the tea time treats. The tea was served in a china pot with china tea cups along with cream and big brown sugar cubes. The tea sandwiches and treats were served on a three tier china server. On the top plate were golden brown scones, and large chocolate dipped strawberries. The treats were tucked on the middle plate, and the tea sandwiches were on the bottom. We almost always sat outside. The grounds were beautiful and the scenery breathe taking. As we drove across a small bridge the hotel was sitting on the right. St. Andrew’s Church was across the street as I remember. We all loved listening to the church bells chime. What a lovely memory and a tradition to continue to this day. Fifteen years have passed since we live in England. There are times when I really miss those days. Upon our return to the Sates, I began having tea parties for the women in my family. The first party was a Christmas tea, we have faithfully had a Christmas tea ever since. This year we will celebrate our fifteenth. The party started with seven family members. To date our party has 25 guests invited. Among the guests are my daughter, Step daughter, mother-in-law, sisters, sister-in-laws, nieces, and very dear friends. It has truly become the highlight of our Christmas season.

The Great House at Sonning.

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the great house at sonning

sonning

sonning on the thames

church

St. Andrews Church.

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Stefanie, Amy, and Joanne.

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Tea sandwiches and savories.

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Tea treats.

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All photos of The Great House at Sonning obtained from Hotels.com

Egg Salad and Bacon on Seeded French Baguette

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It’s hard to believe Labor Day weekend is already here. Fall will be coming soon and thoughts of hosting a tea party are on my mind. I would really like to change up my standing menu by changing the tea sandwiches and lightening up my quiche. I thought different fillings on top of crostini would offer a nice change. Egg salad is one of my favorite sandwich fillings so I want to start with that. Instead of the plain mayonnaise I added a little Dijon mustard, fresh lemon juice, fresh chopped chives and salt and pepper. Because I’m a bacon lover I fried up some bacon to add a little something extra. The seeds on the baguette work nicely, adding flavor that works well with the egg and bacon. These little egg crostini turned out delicious and look elegant on the plate. Just what I was envisioning. I will be working on a tuna and chicken salad crostini next. I would also like to lighten up my quiche. My favorite quiche is loaded with three different cheeses. It is delicious but a bit on the heavy side. I’m going for a classic French quiche in which the filling has a delicate custard and crisp diced ham. I love that it’s a light bite and oh so delicious. I’m still struggling with the tart crust. I need to find the perfect dough. My dough turned out a bite gummy. However the filling taste just right. So please don’t judge my crust just yet! It’s a work in progress. I will post my final result soon. But here’s a sneak peak at my French quiche.

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DSCF5901Egg Salad crostini:

6 eggs

4 Tablespoons of mayonnaise

1 Tablespoon of Dijon mustard

3 Tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

1-2 Tablespoons fresh chopped chives, or green onion

Kosher salt, to taste

Freshly cracked pepper, to taste 

French baguette, seeded or plain, toasted

Boil the eggs and cook the bacon till it’s crispy. Prepare the mayonnaise dressing. In a small bowl add the mayonnaise, Dijon mustard, lemon juice, chives or green onion, and salt and pepper to taste and stir to mix well. Chop the eggs and add the mayonnaise dressing over the eggs and gently blend together. Reserve just a small amount of the mayonnaise dressing to spread on your crostini.Toast your baguette rounds in a 400 degree oven for 8-10 minutes till golden brown. Lightly spread the crostini with the mayonnaise dressing place a piece of the bacon on each crostini and top and put a dollop of the egg salad on top.

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Lemon Puffs

 

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These little beauties are lemon puffs. I’ve already shared with you in my last post how to prepare the lemon curd which fills the flaky layers of baked puff pastry. The baked sugary puff pastry has a flaky crunch as you bite down and then you taste the smooth but tart lemon curd. The whipped cream is the cherry on top. It is a very refreshing bite or two, it won’t take you long to eat and you’ll wish you could start over. The lemon puffs are so pretty; anyone would think they had taken hours to prepare. They look just beautiful on a dessert tray line with a white paper doily. These lemon puffs will make your next tea party or any occasion extra special. I hope you will enjoy as much as I do.

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Gather your ingredients.

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Roll your puff pastry just slightly and trim the ends to make the pastry even. Then measure 2″x 4″ pieces.

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Place them on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.

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Egg wash and sprinkle one pan with sugar one pan plain. Bake in a pre-heated 4oo degree oven 10-12 minutes. Till golden brown.

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Remove to a wire rack and cool completely. Assemble by putting a layer of lemon curd on a plain baked puff pastry. Top with a baked sugared puff pastry. Dust with powdered sugar , top with a dollop of freshly whipped cream. Sprinkle on a little freshly grated lemon zest.

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Lemon Puffs

2 sheets of puff pastry, I use Pepperidge Farm

1 egg beaten with a few drops of water for egg wash

Lemon curd

Freshly whipped whip cream

Lemon zest to sprinkle over whipped cream

To prepare the puff pasrty

Sprinkle a little flour on a work surface and rolling pin. Roll the puff pastry even. With a ruler cut the pastry 2”wide by 4” long place pieces on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Using a pastry brush apply egg wash to the tops of the pastry. Then sprinkle half with sugar and leave half plain. The plain will be the bottoms and sugared will be the tops. Makes 15 lemon puffs

Lemon Curd

8 oz. unsalted butter

1 pound granulated sugar

5 lemons, grated zest and juice from all of the lemons

6 eggs, plus 2 egg yolks, beaten

Cook over double boiler water should just be simmering. Melt the butter then add the sugar, juice and zest from the lemons. Slowly add the eggs stirring constantly about 20 minutes. The mix will become thick and get thicker as it cools.

Fresh Whipped Cream

8 oz. heavy whipping cream

2 tablespoon confectioner’s sugar

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

To Assemble

Place the plain piece of baked puff pastry on a plate top with lemon curd. Place the sugared piece of baked puff pastry on the top. Sift on a small dusting of confectioner’s sugar. Add a dollop of the fresh whip cream to the top and a sprinkle of fresh lemon zest.

Bakers note: If you want less puff pastry you can cut one piece in half and fill with the lemon curd and top with the cream.

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Lemon Curd

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The recipe for this lemon curd is so rich and delicious. I love the deep yellow color that appears as the curd becomes thick. It takes a little patience at the stove stirring, but is well worth the effort. This lemon curd was made at the tearoom I had worked several years ago. It went between two sugared and baked rectangles of puff pastry and topped with fresh whip cream.  On the menu it was called a lemon puff. It was a refreshing and delicious little treat. I could however, seriously skip the dessert and just eat the lemon curd until I was full. The lemon curd goes beautifully with scones as well as toast. It is a very special treat, one that I love to serve at tea parties. I have even given it to my guests in little jars as a gift to take home with them. It is always appreciated.  I will be sharing the lemon puffs recipe for you in my next post.

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Melt the butter over a double boiler. I used a pot and a bowl. Just have the water on low heat to simmer.

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Add the sugar, lemon juice, and lemon zest.

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Slowly stir in the eggs.

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Stir continuously about 20 minutes.

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Curd will coat the back of a wooden spoon when it’s done. It will thicken more as it cools.

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Strain through a sieve.

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Pour into your favorite jars. Seal and store in the refrigerator.

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Lemon Curd Recipe

8 oz. butter

16 oz. granulated sugar

5 lemons, freshly squeezed

Zest of 5 lemons

6 eggs and 2 egg yolks, whisked together

Melt the butter over a double boiler over low heat. Add the sugar, lemon juice, and lemon zest. Stir with a wooden spoon to incorporate the ingredients. Slowly stir in the eggs, stir continually as you incorporate. Continue to stir over low heat. It will take about 20 minutes for the curd to become thicker and a deep yellow color. The back of the wooden spoon should have a thin coating of the curd that coats the spoon.

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Mini Quiche

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These mini quiches make the perfect little savory bite. I love serving them at my tea parties. The crust is flaky and the custard light and delicious. The cheddar cheese adds a sharp note and the red pepper adds a hint of sweetness. They just melt in your mouth.

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 Quiche Custard

3 large eggs

¾ cup heavy cream

¼ cup milk

1 cup sharp cheddar cheese, grated

½ cup diced red pepper

½ teaspoon kosher salt

¼ teaspoon fresh cracked pepper

Dash cayenne pepper

Whisk eggs, heavy cream, milk, salt, pepper, cayenne pepper to blend.

Method:

Use store bought or homemade pastry crust. Using a biscuit cutter cut circles from the dough. Gently push the dough circles into the spaces of a greased mini muffin pan. Put a small amount of the cheese and a couple of pieces of the diced red pepper into each space. Carefully fill the spaces with the custard do not overfill. Bake in a preheated 375 degree oven for 25 minutes. Cool on a wire rack. When you can safely remove them arrange on a serving platter. Serve hot or cold. Recipe yields 48 or more mini quiche.

Note:

You can make this recipe ahead. The quiches freeze well. Just refrigerate to thaw the night before ready to use. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Bake for 10-12 minutes.

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Swedish Cream Cake

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The first tea room I ever had the pleasure of taking afternoon tea was in the beautiful town of Poulsbo, Washington. Judith’s Tearooms and Rose Café was located on the main street going through the town. There were lots of little shops and an aquarium that my daughter, Stefanie loved to visit. After enjoying all over favorite shops we would stop at Judith’s for afternoon tea. Even at the age of five Stefanie loved having afternoon tea, especially when her Grandmother Janet was visiting. Stefanie always sat in the princess chair. It was a wicker chair with a high back and had fancy pillows on it. Janet loved this tearoom as much or maybe more than we did. On one of her visits we went to the tea room three times. We were in love with the Swedish Cream Cake on the menu. It was the only dessert we ever ordered. It was a moist yellow cake soaked in cream sherry then topped with dried apricots soaked in sherry and freshly whipped cream. To this day the cake is still one my favorites. Judith had a cookbook printed of all her tea time recipes. To my delight the Swedish cream cake recipe was in my hands. I usually bake the cake once a year; I love to have it in the spring while sipping a cup of tea. It brings back such a beautiful memory.

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Swedish Cream Cake

Yellow cake, you will need the batter of 2 homemade cakes or 2 boxed cakes without pudding

4 tablespoons sour cream

1/2cup cream sherry

Dried apricots, soaked in cream sherry for 24 hours

Freshly whipped cream

Grease and flour a tube pan.

Follow your recipe for yellow cake either homemade or boxed doubled add the sour cream. Pour batter into prepared pan. Place in center rack in preheated 350 degree oven 55-60 minutes depending on the amount of batter. Remove and let cool on a wire rack 15 minutes. Pour the ½ cup of cream sherry slowly over the cake. Let cool 1 hour and remove from pan. Cool cake completely. Place cake on a serving plate. Cut a slice of the cake and top with apricots and whipped cream.

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Chicken Salad With Apricots

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These delicious tea sandwiches are the favorite at every tea party I have hosted to date. The chicken is baked with fresh herbs and chicken stock, which boosts the flavor and tenderness of the chicken. The red onion and celery are tradition flavors. The surprise ingredient of dried apricots gives a sweet note and makes this chicken salad unique. I learned the recipe by making it over and over again at the Mulberry Tea Room where I worked several years ago. I have many of the recipes stuck in my head. I enjoy using them for tea parties and special lunches. I never measure ingredients, I go by sight.  The chicken is topped with fresh chopped thyme, sage, kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper. Chicken stock is poured over, but not covering the chicken and then baked. I chop some red onion and a stalk or two of celery, then grab a handful of dried apricots from the bag and chop 4 or 5 of them. When the chicken is finished baking, it rests for a few minutes, then chopped and cut into a small dice. Then toss the onion, celery, and apricots with the chicken to see if the amounts look balanced. I generally add less onion then celery. I don’t want to overpower the other ingredients. I then add a tablespoon of the stock that the chicken was cooked in, and give it a toss. Add the mayonnaise now a few tablespoons at a time. You want it to be coated nicely but not too heavy. Adjust your seasoning of salt and pepper to taste. For the tea sandwiches you will want thin bread. I like using white and wheat. The bread should buttered with room temperature butter, then heap a big spoonful of the chicken salad in the middle of the buttered bread and smooth it out. I like to cut the sandwiches into triangles; rectangles would be nice as well. They look so pretty on a serving platter. The crusts don’t usually go to waste; anyone helping with the cutting of the sandwiches gets to snacking and sharing with whoever’s hanging around. There always some left over salad hanging out between the crusts.

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Chicken Salad with Apricots

4 skinless boneless chicken breasts

½ -3/4 cup chicken stock

Fresh sage and thyme, chopped, enough to sprinkle over the chicken

Kosher salt and Fresh cracked pepper to taste

1 small red onion, chopped finely

2 stalks of celery, chopped finely

4-5 dried apricots, chopped

3-4 tablespoons of mayonnaise

Place the chicken in a baking dish. Top with chopped herbs, kosher salt, fresh cracked pepper, and chicken stock. Bake the chicken at 350 degrees till the internal temperature is 160 degrees. Remove from the oven, cover with foil and rest 10 minutes. Chop the onion, celery, and apricots. When the chicken is cool enough to handle cut it into a small dice. In a medium bowl add the chicken, onion, celery, apricots, 1 tablespoon of the chicken stock, and mayonnaise. Toss to coat evenly; adjust the seasoning of the salt and pepper to your taste.

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