Tag Archives: Tea Biscuits

An Autumn Savoury Tea

As I write this post, it’s autumn – the days are shorter and cooler and leaves are off the trees, all signs that winter on PEI is not far off. This time of the year always makes me think of warm and cozy teas leisurely enjoyed in front of the fireplace.

Teatime
A Fireside Tea

My late day event today is what I’m calling a “savoury tea” – which, because of my menu choices, most closely resembles (but is not quite) a “high tea”. I’m drawing the menu from previous postings to my food blog so those interested in the food items can access my recipes by clicking on the hotlinks throughout this posting.

Some people refer to the traditional afternoon tea of dainty (and always crustless) sandwiches, scones, and an array of sweets as “high tea” (which it isn’t). I’m not sure why this happens – perhaps it is because the food is often served on a tall (hence “high”) three-tier server (pictured below), or curate stand, along with fancy cups and saucers on the table or it may be because the mere mention of afternoon tea evokes the notion that it is a “high” society event. In any event there is a distinction between a “high tea” and an “afternoon tea” (the latter sometimes referred to as a “low tea”).

Three-tier Server
Three-tier Server

Originally, afternoon teas consisted of light refreshments served on low tables like coffee tables, for example. The idea of an afternoon tea was to have some refreshments, mid-afternoon, to counter the sluggishness often experienced in the afternoon and to stave off the hunger until dinner was served later in the evening. Partakers would often be seated in comfy armchairs as opposed to formal dining chairs and would use the low tables upon which to set their cup and saucer and refreshments. In fact, some high-end hotels in London serve afternoon tea in the surroundings of their lobbies and, indeed, comfortable armchairs and sofas are still used along with low coffee tables. Today, however, the traditional afternoon tea is most often served at regular height tables. What characterizes a traditional afternoon tea are crustless finger sandwiches, scones, sweets and, of course, tea.

High tea, on the other hand, is more like a light supper featuring hot menu items which are most frequently served at a regular height table. Foods denoting a high tea might include egg dishes like quiches, and/or dishes that include meat and fish. Bread or biscuits would most commonly be served but less likely sandwiches if hot savoury dishes are part of the menu. And, of course, there would indeed be tea! High teas, then, tend to be comprised of more substantial fare and are typically served later in the afternoon or early evening as in the case of mine today. For those who watch the British soap opera, Coronation Street, you’ll often hear the characters invite others “round for tea” – it’s “high tea” or supper they are referring to in this context. (Yes, I’m a “Corrie” fan!)

Because of the choice of menu items I am serving, my savoury tea is, therefore, most similar (but not quite identical) to a “high tea” versus an “afternoon tea”.

A Savoury Tea
A Savoury Tea

The Table

I was fortunate enough to find an antique Gibbard tea trolley, in relatively decent condition, a few years ago and it is, indeed, handy. I love to use it for displays in my dining room and, because it has a double drop leaf, it often serves as my tea table when it is just tea for two. It’s the perfect size to hold all the tea elements and is easily wheeled to whatever location in the house I choose for the tea. (I am still on the hunt for a Roxton maple tea trolley in excellent condition to match my dining room set so, if anyone on PEI has one they are interested in parting with, or knows someone who does, please get in touch!)

Tea Trolley
Tea Trolley

The Linens

The tablecloth square on my tea table is one I bought in Burano on my last trip to Italy. Yes, when I’m looking for mementos of trips, my interests usually veer toward tabletop items and foods local to the area!

The Tea Table is Set
The Tea Table is Set

Napkin folds for tea tables tend to lean toward basic, classic designs, much like the simple triangular fold I’ve chosen here. Most often, the folds tend to be flat designs as opposed to stand-up folds and the napkins are usually plain in color.

Simple Teatime Napkin Fold
Simple Teatime Napkin Fold

The Flowers

I like to include fresh flowers on my tea tables. They don’t have to be anything more elaborate than a simple bouquet of mini carnations. The arrangement, however, does need to be proportionately sized. Floral arrangements for tea tables are typically quite small, especially if it is a tea table set for two. Using a single color and variety of flower keeps the look simple and uncluttered.

Bouquet of Mini White Carnations for the Tea Table
Bouquet of Mini White Carnations for the Tea Table

Dishes and Glassware

Sometimes, it’s nice to use a formal tea set or pieces from formal china for tea settings. Matching pieces do lend an air of formality and cohesiveness to the setting. However, it’s totally acceptable to have a mix of dishes on the tea table so long as they coordinate in style and color.

Always use small tea-sized plates, or supper plates, for tea events. Small portions of food characteristic of tea fare just look better on small plates as the food does not appear so minuscule and “lost” as it would on a large dinner plate, for example. These pink design plates were a thrift shop find.

Tea Plate
Tea Plate

From my collection, I have simply chosen two different teacups and saucers that I particularly like. They both have pink designs to compliment the plates.

Teacup and Saucer
Teacup and Saucer

Both cups have wonderful designs inside and outside.

China Teacup and Saucer
China Teacup and Saucer

The teapot, a Sadler, also has a pink theme. The pink shades coordinate with the salmon pink shade highlighted in the tablecloth.

Sadler Teapot
Sadler Teapot

I found these little pedestal glasses with cranberry trim at a second-hand shop and knew they would be perfectly sized for tea tables. They lend an air of elegance and color to the table.

Cranberry Glass
Cranberry Glass

I adore my three-tier servers! They give an air of elegance and sophistication to any tea table. Plus, they are super useful and an efficient way to serve the food. All the food items can be brought to the table at once on one unit, taking up less space as tea tables tend to be small and compact. Sandwiches/savoury items go on the bottom tier, scones/biscuits on the middle tier, followed by the tempting sweet treats on the top tier.

The Menu

So, here is what is on my five-course savoury tea menu.

~ Starter ~

Cream of Roasted Tomato Soup with Grilled Cheese Squares

~ Savoury ~

Harvest Quiche

Baked Stuffed Fingerlings

Mini Lobster Cakes

~ Biscuits ~

Biscuits served with lemon curd and preserves

~ Sweet Offerings ~

Dark and Light Fruitcake

Frypan Cookie Balls

Gluten Free Earl Grey Cranberry-Orange Shortbread

Gluten Free Melting Moments

~ Dessert ~

Luscious Lemon Curd Tartlets

~ Tea ~

Fortnum and Mason’s “Afternoon Tea” blend

The traditional order in which to consume tea foods are sandwiches/savouries first, followed by the scones/biscuits, and ending with the sweets. So, let’s take a closer look at the menu items.

Starter Course

For the starter course, I’m serving my homemade cream of roasted tomato soup with tiny squares of grilled cheese.

Cream of Roasted Tomato Soup with Grilled Cheese Squares
Cream of Roasted Tomato Soup with Grilled Cheese Squares

In keeping with the small portion size conducive to tea serving size, I’m serving the soup in small soup cups and threading the grilled cheese squares on to a skewer.

Cup of Cream of Roasted Tomato Soup with Grilled Cheese Squares
Cup of Cream of Roasted Tomato Soup with Grilled Cheese Squares

Savoury Course

For the savoury course, I have selected three hot items – mini harvest quiches, baked stuffed fingerlings, and mini lobster cakes. By clicking on the foregoing hotlinks, you can access my recipes. I will often plan ahead for tea events when I am doing my batch cooking for the freezer. In this case, I made some mini quiches and lobster cakes earlier and had them frozen. This allows me to add some variety to my tea events that I probably might not otherwise have if I had to mix up special small batches especially for a tea event.

Mini Harvest Quiche
Mini Harvest Quiche

The fingerlings are stuffed with sausage, cheese, tomato sauce, and seasonings and are tasty little bites.

Baked Stuffed Fingerlings
Baked Stuffed Fingerlings

Living on PEI, lobster fishing is one of our main fisheries so, naturally, I am going to include it in some fashion on my menu. The small lobster cakes are served with a small dob of sour cream.

Mini Lobster Cake
Mini Lobster Cake

Keep the size portions small – they can be the same size as appetizers/hors d’oeuvres or very slightly larger. For example, I use the small individual tart shells for the mini quiches because I like the look of a complete, uncut quiche for each serving. If using pieces cut from a larger quiche, I recommend making the quiche in a small quiche/pie plate 6” – 8” in diameter, no larger.

Biscuits Course

Because this is a savoury tea, I am swapping out the traditional scones associated with afternoon tea and am replacing them with biscuits. I currently have two biscuit recipes on my food blog –  classic tea biscuits and whole wheat biscuits.  Either works well with this type of tea.

Homemade Biscuits
Homemade Biscuits

Biscuits are less sweet and rich than scones and I think they go better with my savoury tea. That doesn’t mean, however, that lemon curd and preserves can’t be enjoyed with biscuits!  It’s a great way to transition the palate from the savoury course to the sweets!

Lemon Curd, Jam, and Marmalade
Lemon Curd, Jam, and Marmalade

I have made a batch of my lemon curd to enjoy with the biscuits. Sometimes, I will use small dishes for the preserves but, if I have the small jars, I will often use them because I like the look of the tiny jars clustered together on a server plate!

Sweets Course

Fruitcake is often (but not always) found on tea tables. I am including both my light fruitcake  and dark fruitcake, cut into small pieces. Fruitcakes are rich and are best served in small pieces (and they go particularly well with a fine cup of tea). Two kinds of cookies – Gluten Free Earl Grey Cranberry-Orange Shortbread and Gluten Free Melting Moments are also included along with Frypan Cookie Balls.

Tea Time Sweets
Sweets on the Tea Table

Desserts Course

This is an optional course because, really, the sweets themselves are generally sufficient.  However, a nice touch is to add one special signature dessert.  With my fresh batch of lemon curd, a luscious lemon curd tartlet was an obvious choice.  I added some bright red raspberries for contrast along with a sprig of greenery.

Luscious Lemon Curd Tartlet
Luscious Lemon Curd Tartlet

Tea Selection

My tea selection is one of my personal all-time favorites – Fortnum & Mason’s “Afternoon Tea” blend which I brought home from my latest trip to London.  When in London, I always try to make time for a stop at Fortnum & Mason’s flagship store on Piccadilly to browse through their food halls and to pick up some of their tea. This tea from Ceylon is crisp and refreshing yet full bodied so it goes equally  well with a savoury tea as it does with a traditional afternoon tea.

Fortnum and Mason's "Afternoon Tea" Blend
Fortnum and Mason’s “Afternoon Tea” Blend

I thoroughly enjoy the opportunity to go out for afternoon tea but, unfortunately, where I live, there are no restaurants or hotels that offer this option. I think that’s why, when I’m in London, I allot time for 1-2 afternoon teas which are always a highlight of my visits. I often agonize over which ones to choose because there are so many wonderful options. I have written postings on three I particularly enjoyed and you can access those by clicking on the following links:  Afternoon Tea in London and “Scents of Summer” Afternoon Tea in London.

Tea time can be elaborate or simplified and, with some planning, can be made in to an event for entertaining family and friends at home. You’ll find inspiration for tea events of all sorts here on my blog. Simply go to the “Afternoon Teas” menu or type “Afternoon Tea” in the search box on the home page.

An Autumn Savoury Tea

Meal Planning – Week 1

I am a big believer in meal planning and follow it regularly.  I recommend meal planning for several reasons:

  • Eliminates last minute meal planning – that’s when you leave work with no idea what’s for dinner and, suddenly, as you pass a supermarket with a deli or prepared food section or a fast food outlet and, well, you know the story – that becomes dinner.
  • Saves money and reduces food waste – have a plan in mind for using leftover meat such as ham, turkey, or roast beef. For example, use the leftover meat in sandwiches, casseroles, and/or soups. These are great ways to stretch the food dollar and eliminate food waste.
  • Healthier way to eat – You will eat less pre-packaged foods that often have way too many preservatives, additives, and other unhealthy ingredients. Meal planning means you are in control, to the extent possible, of what is in your food.
  • Less stress – Once you have a plan in place for meals for the week, you don’t have to stress each day over what to make for meals.

The keys to good meal planning are:

  • Make meals with ingredients you know your family will like – doesn’t have to be fancy, new, or creative. Sometimes, the old faithful comfort foods are the best.
  • Make the meal plan on the weekend and formulate the shopping list BEFORE you go to the supermarket and then stick to the plan, avoiding distractions of already-prepared or frozen entrées that supermarkets display to tempt shoppers.
  • Make your To-Do list for the meal preparation for the week – for example, if you are making baked beans on Saturday, get those beans soaking overnight on Friday evening.
  • Read each recipe carefully to ensure you will have all the ingredients and that the method is easy to understand and do-able in the time in which you have to do the food preparation.
  • Watch the supermarket sales flyers. Know your favorite dishes and buy ingredients for them when they are on sale. You’ll be more likely to stick to a meal plan if you already have most or all of the ingredients for a recipe on hand.
  • Plan around what’s in season. One of my favorite soups is cream of cauliflower which freezes well (provided whole milk, not fat-reduced, is used). I make several batches of this soup each fall when the locally-grown cauliflower is in season. I would not make it, however, in January with imported cauliflower that has traveled thousands of miles for days and is highly priced. Good meal planning needs to take place, on an ongoing basis, throughout the year.

Here is my suggested meal plan for the upcoming week, focusing primarily on dinners with some suggestions for a couple of lunches making the most of a boiled picnic ham. I’ve provided a list of the main ingredients that, for the most part, would probably involve a shopping trip to the supermarket for most. However, as always, read each recipe thoroughly and carefully to create your own shopping list as I have not listed what I consider to be “staple” items like milk, butter, eggs, spices, etc.  Click on the green hotlinks to access the recipes.

MONDAY

Blueberry Muffins – These are great breakfast or coffee break muffins and they freeze very well.  Nice treat to start off the week!
Shopping List: Blueberries (fresh or frozen), orange juice, orange rind

Blueberry Muffins
Blueberry Muffins

Dinner:  Meatloaf
Serve with mashed or riced potatoes and your favorite side of veggies. Homemade mustard pickles go great with meatloaf!

Shopping List: Ground beef, onion, prepared mustard, tomato soup, dry onion soup mix, graham wafer crumbs, fine bread crumbs, garlic powder, vegetables of choice

Meatloaf with Riced Potatoes and Mixed Vegetables
Meatloaf with Riced Potatoes and Mixed Vegetables

Dessert:  Gingerbread
At least once every winter, I have to have a dose of this yummy comfort food! Drizzle with brown sugar sauce for an extra-special treat!
Shopping List: Applesauce, molasses, coffee

Gingerbread
Gingerbread with Whipped Cream and Brown Sugar Sauce

 

TUESDAY

Homemade White Bread – This is always such a treat!  This bread will be super good with the ham sandwiches this week!
Shopping List: All-purpose flour, dry yeast, milk, butter/shortening

White Bread
Homemade White Bread

Dinner:  Old-fashioned Boiled Ham Dinner – This is truly dinner-in-a-pot and is my definition of “comfort food”!  The meat and vegetables are all cooked in the same broth in the same pot. Make sure you cook enough veggies for Wednesday night as this always tastes even better the second day. Easy to heat the vegetables in the microwave and, poof, you have two nights’ meals prepared in one effort. You’ll want those mustard pickles or mustard beans with this dinner!
Shopping List: Smoked pork picnic shoulder (ham), parsnips, carrots, rutabaga (turnip), potatoes

Boiled Ham Dinner
Boiled Ham DInner

Dessert:  Blueberry Grunt
This is such an incredibly yummy dessert – serve it with your favorite vanilla ice cream!
Shopping List: Blueberries (fresh or frozen) and lemon rind, vanilla ice cream

Blueberry Grunt
Blueberry Grunt

 

WEDNESDAY

Lunch:  Ham Sandwiches made with homemade white bread!  Don’t forget the mustard!

Dinner:  Leftover boiled ham dinner from Tuesday.

Dessert: Cherry Wink Cookies
Shopping List: Dates, cornflake crumbs, maraschino cherries

Cherry Wink Cookie
Cherry Wink Cookie

 

THURSDAY

Homemade Tea Biscuits
Shopping list: Whole milk, whipping cream, unsalted butter

Tea Biscuits
Tea Biscuits

Lunch:  Ham Sandwiches

Dinner:  Hawaiian Fiesta Casserole – this is a great way to use up left-over cooked ham and stretch its use. Serve these with those tasty biscuits and perhaps a green salad!
Shopping List: Rice, cream of celery soup, sour cream, liquid chicken bouillon, broccoli, canned pineapple chunks, Parmesan cheese, fine bread crumbs, leftover cooked ham, and ingredients for a green salad and dressing

Hawaiian Fiesta Casserole
Hawaiian Fiesta Casserole

Dessert: Decadent Chocolate Chip Squares
Shopping List:  Chocolate chips and coconut

Decadent Chocolate Chip Squares
Decadent Chocolate Chip Squares

FRIDAY

Dinner:  Mac ‘n Cheese with a green salad and homemade tea biscuits
Shopping List: Elbow macaroni, liquid chicken bouillon, cheddar cheese, Parmesan cheese, salad ingredients and dressing

Mac 'n Cheese
My Island Bistro Kitchen Macaroni and Cheese

Dessert: Cinnamon Sweet Bread
Shopping List: Staple baking ingredients

Cinnamon Sweet Bread
Cinnamon Sweet Bread

SATURDAY

Dinner: Maple-Orange Sauced Chicken Breasts with Rice
An extra special weekend treat!
Shopping List: Boneless skinless chicken breasts, onion, fennel, orange juice, orange rind, chicken stock, maple syrup, orange marmalade, rice

Maple-Orange Sauced Chicken
Maple-Orange Sauced Chicken

Dessert: Coconut Cream Pie
One of the best pies going!
Shopping List:  9” pie shell, coconut milk, whole milk or cream, sweetened shredded coconut

Coconut Cream Pie
Coconut Cream Pie

SUNDAY

Sunday Breakfast:  Pancakes

Pancakes
Pancakes

Dinner:  Bistro Burgers with Home Fries
Shopping List: Ground chuck, mayonnaise, maple syrup, ketchup, rhubarb relish, Dijon mustard, sour cream, onion salt, Parmesan cheese, Blueberry BBQ sauce, dry onion soup mix, bread crumbs, Cheddar cheese slices, red onion, tomato, prosciutto, fresh pineapple, bread and butter pickles, hamburger rolls, potatoes (for home fries)

"The Bistro Burger"
“The Bistro Burger”

Dessert: Leftover Coconut Cream Pie

Meal planning can be a challenge, especially with high food prices, ingredient availability (particularly in winter for fresh local ingredients) and, of course, for those who are busy and time-challenged.  However, with having a plan in place and establishing a routine for meal preparation, it is a way to eat better, save money, reduce food waste, and eliminate the stress of last-minute meal preparation that can sometimes result in unhealthy food choices. For those with children, it’s a good way to help them make good food choices and engage them in meal preparation by assigning them tasks to help with the work of making meals.

For my Week 2 Meal Plan, click here.

For my Week 3 Meal Plan, click here.

 

Tea Biscuits

Do you love the smell of tea biscuits baking in the oven?  It’s one of my favorite kitchen scents.

My first recollection of biscuits dates back to visiting a grandmother.  She made the best biscuits, added a good slather of peanut butter to the warm, fresh-out-of-the-oven biscuits, and served them with a tall glass of cold milk to a wee gal patiently sitting on a high stool at her elbow by the cupboard.  I suspect her biscuit recipe was just made from memory and wasn’t written or recorded anywhere.  Isn’t it funny how some foods remind us of certain people and bring back great recollections!

Biscuits are not hard to make and they require only pantry staple ingredients — essentially, flour, leavening, salt, shortening/butter, and liquid – usually dairy (i.e., milk, whipping cream, or buttermilk).  What makes biscuit recipes differ is usually the quantity of ingredients used, the type of dairy used as liquid and, sometimes, there will be some additions to the basic ingredients – for example, some recipes call for cream of tartar, a small amount of sugar, or even an egg.

I often hear people say they can’t make biscuits because they always turn out hard as bricks.  I suspect this is quite likely due to over-kneading the dough.  Biscuit dough should be kneaded as little as possible, just enough to gather up the dough and have it hold together to cut out the biscuits.  Usually, only 8-10 kneads is all that is required.

Texture of biscuit
Texture of biscuit

The dough can be rolled out with a rolling pin or simply patted to the desired thickness, which is what I do.  I find about 1″ thick dough yields a good depth of biscuit.  I use a 2″ crinkled-edge cookie cutter for mine but a straight edge cutter works just as well.

Over the years, I have tried many biscuit recipes, some yielding good results, others not so much.  As the old saying goes, if you can’t find something already suitable, develop your own so that’s what I have done to create my own biscuit recipe that has come from many kitchen testing trials to arrive at the right selection and amount of ingredients to yield the flavour and texture I was looking for.

My Island Bistro Kitchen’s Tea Biscuits

Ingredients:

2¼ cups all-purpose flour
1 tbsp sugar
4 tsp baking powder
¾ tsp salt
½ tsp cream of tartar
¼ cup cold unsalted butter
⅔ cup whipping cream
¾ cup whole milk

1-2 tbsp milk for brushing on top of biscuits

Method:

Assemble ingredients.

Tea Biscuit Ingredients
Tea Biscuit Ingredients

Preheat oven to 425°F. Line large baking sheet with parchment paper.

In large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and cream of tartar.

Using a pastry cutter, cut in the butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Make a well in the center of the ingredients.

In large measuring cup, mix together the whipping cream and milk. Pour into well in dry ingredients. Mix together just until flour mixture is incorporated. Do not overmix. Mixture will be a soft, moist batter.

Let batter stand in bowl for just a minute or so then turn out onto a floured surface. Knead dough 8-10 times, just until it holds together enough to cut out the biscuits. Do not over-knead.

Roll or pat to desired thickness – I suggest about 1” thick will yield a good depth of finished biscuit.

Using a 2” round floured cookie cutter, cut out biscuits.  Dip the cookie cutter in flour before cutting out each biscuit.

Gather up remaining dough, pat down to about 1” thick, and cut out the rest of the biscuits.

Using a small spatula, transfer the biscuits to prepared baking sheet, placing them about 2” apart. Prick tops of biscuits with fork tines and lightly brush with milk, if desired.

Bake for 14-16 minutes or until lightly browned on top.

Yield: Apx. 16 – 2” biscuits.

Tea Biscuits

Ingredients

  • 2¼ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 4 tsp baking powder
  • ¾ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp cream of tartar
  • ¼ cup cold unsalted butter
  • 2/3 cup whipping cream
  • ¾ cup whole milk
  • 1-2 tbsp milk for brushing on top of biscuits

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 425°F. Line baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. In large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and cream of tartar.
  3. Using a pastry cutter, cut in the butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs.
  4. Make a well in the center of the ingredients.
  5. In large measuring cup, mix together the whipping cream and milk. Pour into well in dry ingredients. Mix together just until flour mixture is incorporated. Do not overmix. Mixture will be a soft, moist batter.
  6. Let batter stand in bowl for just a minute or so, then turn out onto a floured surface.
  7. Knead dough 8-10 times. Do not over-knead.
  8. Roll or pat to desired thickness, about 1” thick.
  9. Using a floured 2” round cookie cutter, cut out biscuits. Dip cutter in flour before cutting out each biscuit.
  10. Gather up remaining dough, pat down to about 1” thick, and cut out biscuits.
  11. Using a small spatula, transfer the biscuits to prepared baking sheet, placing them about 2” apart. Prick tops of biscuits with fork tines and lightly brush with milk, if desired.
  12. Bake for 14-16 minutes or until lightly browned on top.
  13. Yield: Apx. 16 - 2" biscuits
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