Often the overlooked part of afternoon tea in the downward rush to cake, but it is worth paying attention to making great sandwiches. They work particularly well if you are serving Champagne before the tea, and help turn simple tea and cake into a full meal (not to be mistaken for high tea which is a different meal entirely.)
Sandwich fillings should be delicate enough to not overpower what follows (no hommous!), and offer variety so there is something for all attendees. Finger sandwiches are popular, but I think triangles look nicer. This is one of the rare occasions we use processed loaves instead of fresh as they make better, more petite sandwiches and cut better. Here we have used a Hovis seeded loaf.
The sandwich fillings we chose were:
- Egg mayonnaise and watercress
- Cheddar and fruity chutney
- Tomato and basil with a drop of thick vinaigrette
- Philadelphia (thinly spread) and cucumber
Cake stand c/o Spode who are celebrating the 200th anniversary of their iconic Blue Italian range this year.
Tea, of course. Many purists would argue for only bergamot-scented Earl Grey or aromatic, almondy Darjeeling, but I think there is room for a whole host of different teas these days. You could even match your teas to the different courses of the afternoon tea, as you would with wine. Maybe green tea, followed by Darjeeling and then Assam?
Green tea works surprisingly well with some sandwiches and is a great partner for citrus flavours like our lime shortbread. The strong, full-bodied flavour of Assam is a good counter for too much sweetness, and the one I would usually go for at a hotel afternoon tea to balance those over-sweet pastries. Whilst the smoky flavour of Lapsang Souchong works perfectly with chocolate flavours.
And of course, there is always the Champagne option, perfect with sandwiches, and it adds an extra indulgent note to proceedings. Just don't follow the Champagne with Lapsang!
450g self-raising flour
2 rounded tsp baking powder
75g butter, cut into cubes
50g caster sugar
200ml skimmed or semi-skimmed milk
1. Pre-heat the oven to 220C (200C fan). Grease & flour two baking sheets.
2. Rub the butter into the flour until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Stir the sugar through.
3. Beat the eggs into a measuring jug then top the liquid up to about 300ml with the milk. Keep 2 tbsp back for glazing the tops before baking.
4. Add the egg & milk a little at a time, beating thoroughly. The mixture should be slightly wet and sticky.
5. Don't overwork the dough, but on a floured surface flatten or roll it out to about 1.5cm thickness.
6. Press the scones out with a round cutter (size depending on preference, we used 5cm here). Gently knead any remaining dough, re-roll and cut.
7. Place the scones on the prepared baking sheets, brush with the remaining egg & milk mixture, and bake for 10-15 minutes.
8. The scones are ready when golden, well-risen and a tap to the bottom gives a hollow note.
9. Cool on a wire rack, although they are best served warm. Cover with a clean cloth to keep them moist.
10. Any remaining scones can be frozen, then defrosted for a couple of hours at room temperature before warming in the oven.
We prefer to serve one or two individual things, such as this butterscotch walnut blondies recipe or these pink heart cupcakes, and a centrepiece cake to cut. This time we had a shortbread fan to tea, so made this delicious lime shortbread recipe.
For the centrepiece cake, we considered some past triumphs such as the cappuccino caramel torte, berry cream sponge cake, coconut, mango & lime cake or even our easy chocolate cake recipe, but plumped in the end for this old stalwart I had almost forgotten about: cherry bakewell cake. It went down very well indeed, you can find the cherry bakewell cake recipe here.
The perfect treat, and great for entertaining.
Do you ever make a full afternoon tea at home? Let us know if you try our recipes!