Mother’s Day is a great occasion to channel your refined, elegant side by treating your mother to high tea. However, the name “high tea” is a bit of a misnomer. In England, the afternoon teatime that we call “high tea” is traditionally named “low tea,” because it offers a more relaxed atmosphere, usually with sofas and low tables. “High tea” is what the English call their main evening meal, which consists of meats and heavier options than are on the menu at afternoon tea.
There are three main components of afternoon tea: the savories (sandwiches/appetizers), scones served with jam and cream, pastries and sweets. The afternoon tea has been adapted in America, and there are several places that you can take your mother to on Mother’s Day to enjoy afternoon tea. The Drake Hotel, The Peninsula Hotel, The Four Seasons Hotel, and Russian Tea Time all offer seatings.
However, if you would like to flex your creative muscles, throwing your own high tea for your mother is a great, fun way to show her how much you care. If you want to go stick to tradition, here are a few recipes that you can make to really celebrate the spirit of afternoon tea.
2 cups all purpose flour
1/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons frozen unsalted butter
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup raisins
1. Preheat oven to 400˚F.
2. In a large bowl, mix flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
3. Cut the butter into small pieces and mix it into the dry ingredient mixture.
4. In a separate bowl, whisk together the sour cream and egg.
5. Pour the sour cream/egg into the first bowl and stir it in with a fork until large clumps form.
6. Using your hands, massage the dough and form it into a ball.
7. Use a lightly floured surface (a clean countertop) to pat the dough into about an 8 inch circle roughly ¾ of an inch thick.
8. Sprinkle about a teaspoon’s worth of extra sugar on top.
9. Cut the flattened dough into 8 triangles and place on a lined cookie sheet.
10. Bake on the middle rack of the oven until golden, for about 15-17 minutes.
11. Let cool for 5 minutes and then enjoy warm or at room temperature.
To accompany the scones, try purchasing a nice jam or jelly that you like and a tub of whipped cream.
Easy Finger Sandwiches
You are free to make any variety of sandwiches, just cut them into tiny pieces. Here are a couple of afternoon teatime sandwich staples.
All you need is one large cucumber, some whipped cream cheese and a loaf of white bread. Make sandwiches by spreading a thin layer of cream cheese on both slices of bread and putting a layer of thinly cut cucumber slices in between. To give these sandwiches their adorable quality, cut off the crust and cut into about 4-5 mini sandwiches. You can slice them into triangles, squares, rectangles, or whatever your heart desires.
Egg Salad Sandwiches
For this sandwich, you can use your own interpretations, but the simplest method would be to make a few hard-boiled eggs, let them cool and then chop into a bowl with a squeeze of mayonnaise, salt and pepper. Once you have a slightly chunky egg salad, spread two slices of bread with the egg filling, then top with another two slices. Again, don’t forget to cut them into small servings.
There are hundreds of cookie and pastry recipes you could use for a sweet finish. Thumbprint cookies are a teatime essential; plus, you’ll get more use out of that fancy jam you bought for the scones.
1 cup of jam (raspberry is preferable)
2 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 sticks of unsalted butter at room temperature
2/3 cup sugar
2 large egg yolks
1 tablespoon grated lemon peel
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1. Preheat oven to 350˚F and line 2 large cookie sheets with parchment paper.
2. In a bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder and salt.
3. In a separate bowl, beat the butter and sugar until they are incorporated and light.
4. Add the yolks, lemon peel and lemon juice to the bowl with the butter/sugar mixture and combine ingredients.
5. Add dry ingredients (flour mixture).
6. Massage and gather the dough into a large ball. Then, pinch off and form dough into 1-inch balls.
7. Place the balls one inch apart on the cookie sheets, and press your finger into the center of each ball, creating an indentation. Fill each indentation with about a ½ teaspoon of jam.
8. Bake for 20 minutes, until golden, and let cool.
9. Optional: drizzle with melted white chocolate for some extra decadence.
If you don’t have any loose tea or a loose tea strainer, ordinary Lipton English Breakfast tea bags are a great substitute. Steep bags of tea in hot water for about 5 minutes, and then stir in some milk and sugar to your liking for classic English-style tea.