Amazing Afternoon Tea Adventure

I well remember the first time I experienced the British social phenomenon known as afternoon tea. It occurred on my maiden voyage to the UK.  It was part of a British invasion, of sorts, as I, my hubby, parents and siblings settled into a Cotswold rented country home for an overlapping month to sample life in the land of kings and queens.   Since this was a pre-kids vacation, it was highly memorable.  We had taken the train through beautiful lush green rolling rural lands to London’s Paddington Station for a day of sightseeing; common Tourist must-sees such as the Tower of London,  Westminster Abbey, Big Ben, St. Paul’s Cathedral, Buckingham Palace, Tate Gallery, and British Museum.  And no royal visit to London would be complete without a shopping excursion to the world famous Harrods and Selfridges department stores or a most civilized pause at Fortnum and Mason for afternoon tea.  If you are not familiar with the proper English afternoon tea ritual, this semi-formal social dining experience consists of quartered crustless sandwiches (cucumber, egg, salmon, etc.), a rich pastry/dessert assortment, and savory tea biscuits scrumptiously enhanced with clotted cream and fruit jams, of course, all complemented by the finest of English teas.  My preferred selection of these mouth-watering offerings is without doubt the biscuit, cream, jam combination. If you have experienced this amazing delicacy you know exactly what I am talking about. If you have not, I feel truly sorry and will try to encouragingly explain. You start with a freshly baked tea biscuit – crisp and golden outside, tender and flaky inside. Step 2 is to smother your brilliant non-buttered biscuit with “clotted” cream.  You know how  “the cream always rises to the top”?  Well clotted cream is made by letting 100% pure cream heat slowly until a thick film forms on the cream’s top layer. It is rich, smooth, creamy, and absolutely delicious! Next, you generously spread some strawberry preserves atop the clotted cream to create the perfect English afternoon tea treat for glorious consumption.  I was fortunate to recently receive the below tea biscuit recipe from one of my Chefs at George Brown College and can honestly tell you that this recipe is comparable to any of the tea house biscuits I have digested over the years. Trust me, I have enjoyed more than my share at some of the finest tea houses on earth including Glasgow Willow Tea Rooms,  Hong Kong’s Peninsula Hotel,  Singapore’s Raffles Hotel and the Ritz in New York city.

Hubby about to enjoy his Afternoon Tea

Hubby about to enjoy his Afternoon Tea

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Tea Biscuit Ingredients/Yield: 4 dozen biscuits

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(recipes does make a lot, but they freeze really well)

1200g bread flour

60g baking powder

250g unsalted butter

500ml whole milk

4 large eggs

250g white sugar

20g salt

250g raisins,dried cranberries,dried blueberries,dried cherries (Note: I did a combination of all the above for a total of 250g) BUT you can omit and make plain if you prefer

Topping

1 egg beaten

60g turbinado sugar

Instructions

Pre-heat oven to 375F

– line 4 cookie sheet with parchment paper

1) shift the flour and baking powder and place in stand mixer bowl

2) cut butter into small cubes and add to flour mixture and blend with paddle attachment for 4 minutes on low speed or until mealy stage

3) in a small bowl add milk, eggs and salt and whisk until combined

4) add wet ingredients to flour mixture and blend until just combined – dough will be very thick

5) add dried fruit if adding and blend with wooden spoon

6) transfer dough to floured surface and knead for 1 minute to ensure all ingredients are incorporated and dough is smooth

7) roll dough to 1.5cm-3/4inch thickness- Note this might seem really thick if you have never made biscuits before BUT don’t roll to thin- you want nice height on your biscuit

8) using a 6cm-3inch deep circle cutter, cut out your biscuits

9) place biscuits on prepared cookie sheet and brush egg wash on tops and sprinkle with sugar

10) bake for 15-18min or until tops are golden

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add egg wash on surface

add egg wash on surface

sprinkle sugar on top

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baked tea biscuit

baked tea biscuit

baked teat biscuit-golden brown on top

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I admit that I was less than motivated to go to the trouble of creating my own clotted cream for the truly authentic English tea biscuit experience. Instead I resorted to my easiest and always next best savory substitute – C’estbon Cheese Cheve with my own homemade strawberry preserves. At home paired with a lovely pot of Earl Grey tea, now with one tiny bite and soothing sip I am instantly transported back to my happy place in beautiful Britain.  I hope this recipe takes you to your own very special place. Cheers.

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