Tea Cakes

Nothing goes better with a cup of tea than a few tea cakes. Long a favorite around the globe, tea cakes are a sweet treat enjoyed by adults and children alike. Different countries and customs have different styles of cakes, but the tea cakes we're most familiar with resemble small versions of traditional cakes, but designed to be a light tea complimented by hot black or grey tea. 

Tea Cake Creations
There are all manners of tea cakes from those resembling simple cookies to more ornate petit fours. Often the cakes are created with a small bit of batter or dough left over from larger baking projects, but the best tea cakes are created from scratch with intent to make a delicious morning or afternoon treat.
Making Tea Cakes
To make tea cakes, you don't need a great deal of time, just some basic ingredients, especially if you want to create the most simplistic, old-fashioned tea cakes. To begin your baking project, gather the following ingredients:

1 c. butter, softened
2 c. sugar
2 tbsp. buttermilk
3 eggs
5 c. all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. vanilla

You'll also need a stand or hand mixer as well as an extra bowl on the ready.

Put the butter into the mixing bowl and cream. While beating the butter, gradually add sugar. Once the sugar is blended into the butter, add eggs on at a time and continue to beat. Next, pour in the buttermilk and beat the mixture until smooth. Put this creamed mixture aside.

In a separate bowl or large measuring cup, combine the flour and baking soda. Then slowly add the flour mixture into the large mixing bowl stirring slowly to ensure smoothness and minimal messes. Finally, add the vanilla and stir.

The dough will need to chill for hours, possibly overnight. To roll and cut the tea cakes, you'll need firm dough, so it is far better to wait a bit than try to work with dough that is too soft.

When your dough is firm enough, roll it to 1/4 inch thickness on a lightly floured surface. Cut the dough into circles using a biscuit cutter or cookie cutter. The ideal size should be about 3 1/2 inches in diameter. Place each cake onto a greased cookie sheet and sprinkle each cake with sugar.

Bake the cakes at 400 degrees for 7-8 minutes until the edges are a light brown. Before serving, remove the cookies and let them cool completely.

Serving Tea Cakes
The old fashioned tea cakes you've created have been served for generations in households across the United States and England. To serve the cakes properly, you should arrange them on a piece of serving ware along with other small food items such as tea sandwiches and fruit and pour yourself a cup of hot tea. Then you can sit back and enjoy your afternoon snack in the way it was intended.

The Sweet History Of Iced Tea

While tea has an impressive history stretching back 5,000 years, iced tea has a history stretching back only as far as the discovery of preserving ice. After all, what good was iced tea in the winter time? 

Iced Tea Punches
While popular lore has iced tea being discovered by accident in the early twentieth century, there are documents dating the use of iced tea in the seventeenth century. In 1795, South Carolina was the only colony in America producing tea plants. It was also the only colony (later state) to produce the plant commercially. The plant arrived in the late 1700s thanks to French explorer and botanist, Andre Michaux. Michaux brought many showy plants to South Carolina during this time to satisfy the tastes of wealthy Charleston planters.

Once the plant arrived, accounts of iced versions of tea began to appear almost immediately in cookbooks of the day. Both English and American cookbooks show tea being iced to use in cold green tea punches. Heavily spiked with alcohol, these punches were popular and made with green tea, not black as iced tea is made today. One popular version was called Regent's Punch, named after George IV, the English prince regent in the early nineteenth century.
Traditional Iced Tea
The first version of iced tea as we know it today, albeit made with green tea leaves, was printed in 1879. Housekeeping in Old Virginia published a recipe by Marion Cabell Tyree calling for green tea to be boiled then steeped throughout the day. Finally, "fill the goblets with ice, put two teaspoonfuls granulated sugar in each, and pour the tea over the ice and sugar." Ms. Tyree also called for lemon in her drink. 

In 1884, the head of the Boston Cooking School, Mrs. D. A. (Mary) Lincoln, printed her recipe for presweetened iced tea calling for cold tea to be poured over cracked ice, lemon and two sugar cubes. Mrs. Lincoln's recipe called for the black tea used today in iced tea as well as sugar proving sweet tea is not just a southern tradition.
Iced Tea Becomes Commercialized
Many other accounts of iced tea exist prior to 1904 when many historians mistakenly believe iced tea was invented. While it has been shown that the beverage had existed for a century prior to the World's Fair in St. Louis, Richard Blechynden is said to have realized that an iced version of his free hot tea would be more appealing on a summer day. It was, and with so many fair goers from around the country looking for cold drinks, the popularity of iced tea skyrocketed and the beverage became immediately well-known and eventually common throughout all of North America.
Iced Tea Today
Today, iced tea comes in many variations. It is served sweetened, primarily in the southern states, and served black in most others. In many area of the United States you'll get iced tea when you ask for "tea" any month of the year. Iced tea is now sold in bottles and is one of the most popular beverages in the world. It can be found in some variation on every continent. From spiked punch to healthy drink alternative, iced tea has traveled a great distance in its relatively short history.

Cucumber Tea Sandwiches

A classic of teas and subdued receptions, cucumber tea sandwiches have a history as rich as their flavor. If you're planning a quiet afternoon tea or simply want to try something a bit different next time you're asked to bring a dish, cucumber sandwiches are simple to prepare and bring along. 

Of course, you must remember the proper form and allotment when making tea sandwiches. You should plan for each guest to have four to six cut sandwiches and your sandwiches should be beautiful and tasty. 

Always use the best bread possible and never serve end slices. The bread used for any tea sandwich should be soft and delicious, although freezing the bread before using it during the preparations of the sandwich will make it a bit easier to handle. As it defrosts, the slices will become soft again. 

Tea sandwiches are delicate and light, so be sure to cut the completed sandwich into thirds or quarters. Once the filling is complete, always remove the crusts. You should also always spread unsalted butter lightly inside each piece of bread to ensure your sandwich is prepared properly. 

To prepare cucumber tea sandwiches, gather the following ingredients: 

1/2 seedless cucumber
1/2 cup unsalted butter at room temperature
1/2 cup coarsely chopped watercress leaves
16 slices of high-quality white bread
1/2 cup alfalfa sprouts

Begin by peeling the cucumber and then slicing it into extremely thin slices. You should have about 32 individual slices of cucumber when you're finished slicing. Place the cucumber slices between two paper towels while you move on to the next step. The paper towels will help to remove any excess moisture. 

Combine butter and watercress in a small bowl. Blend as smoothly as possible and then spread a thin layer of the mixture on each slice of bread. Butter only one side of each slice. Place 8 slices of buttered bread in a row. Put the other 8 aside for now. 

On each of the 8 buttered slices, place four cucumber slices. Arrange the slices with one in each corner of the bread to make cutting easier. You should have four slices of cucumber per piece of bread. 

Sprinkle each piece of bread with salt according to taste and then place one tablespoon of alfalfa sprouts onto each. Retrieve the other 8 slices of buttered bread and carefully place one, buttered side down, onto each of the prepared slices. 

Use a long sharp knife to cut away the crusts on each of the sandwiches. Then cut the large sandwiches into triangles or squares to make them petite and dainty - the way tea sandwiches should be. 

Finally, arrange the sandwiches on an attractive platter or tiered serving tray. You can garnish the serving tray with grapes or parsley for added flair, or simply serve the sandwiches as they are positioned. 

One thing is certain, however. When you pour a cup of hot tea, a cool cucumber sandwich will be a wonderful snack alongside it.

The 4 Types Of Tea

No matter if it is raining or sunny, at the middle of the night or early morning, a cup of perfectly brewed tea can brighten your spirits at any given time. Many of us love the taste and aroma that a cup of nicely brewed cup of tea has to offer. There are numerous types of tea you can buy which give you unlimited options to choose from. Although most of us have one preferred type of tea, I would recommend all tea lovers to experiment with the different types of tea you never know what you may discover.

There are four types of tea:  mainly White, Green, Black and Oolong tea.

WHITE TEA: White tea has a slightly sweet taste and when brewed properly it provides you with a light and delicate flavor. White tea can be served throughout the entire day.
GREEN TEA: Green tea is extremely beneficial to your health. It contains many helpful antioxidants that help to get rid of harmful toxins and keep you free form diseases. It is perfect as an awakening brew in the morning to get your energized and ready for the entire day ahead (this is one of my favorites).
BLACK TEA: Black also works great for early mornings; they are also packed with antioxidants that can help you stay healthy. The taste of different black teas would depend on the location of its growth. Some may have a flowery or fruity flavor depending on where they were grown and how they were processed.
OOLONG TEA: Oolong tea has several health benefits and can improve your health. You may consider drinking a cup of oolong tea after dinner at night.
However these are not the only types of tea that you should consider trying.

CEYLON TEAS: Dimbula and Kandy are both nice options for a mid-morning drink. Nuwara Eliya is a very light tea which has a perfectly delicate flavor, it tastes excellent when served with some lemon and ice.
CHINA TEAS: Jasmine tea offers a very soothing taste which makes it very much suitable for a late-night drink. After a meal consisting of fish and white meat, Keemun would be a great choice.  Lapsang Souchong provides a very smoky taste and is good to serve it after a flavored meal although you should make sure to serve it without milk.
KENYAN: Teas from Kenya are the perfect options for the first drink of your day; they offer a coppery colored, full-bodied beverage.
INDIAN TEAS: Darjeeling tea is also a good option as breakfast tea. Assam tea is also a flavorful tea that can be served during breakfast or sometime mid-morning.
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