Friday, December 01, 2006

Tea Time Preparations

With all of my familial obligations, my book tour, and my workload, I have been very remiss when it comes to seeing my friends. One recently got married, one recently got engaged, one is contemplating a move to Seattle, and one is finally settled into a home with her BBE (best boyfriend ever). So several months ago I asked them to mark their calendar to come for a tea party on December 2nd. Lo and behold, they all did, and they are all coming. I am so very excited—a real, grown-up tea party with my friends.

I got the easy stuff out of the way first. Here is the table setting:

Planning the party has been a bit of a challenge. I have at least two vegetarians, one Weight Watchers, one Atkins, and one who is currently on a gluten-, egg-, dairy-, sugar, soy-free diet. I am doing my best to keep the tea traditional, while accommodating the restrictions. On the menu:

Sharffenberger Champagne
British Tea (kindly sent by my London relatives)
Strawberries and clotted cream
Tea sandwiches
—Salmon, cream cheese, and dill
—Cucumber, cream cheese, and mint
—Basil-walnut cream cheese
Rice cake canap├ęs
Mini phyllo quiches
Served with lemon curd, pumpkin butter, and strawberry jam
Eggnog bread
Mini mocha brownies
Mini cinnamon macaroons
Mini fruit tarts
Gluten-free, dairy-free, egg-free cookies

Okay, so there are only 6 of us, and I think I may have gone a bit overboard, but nothing goes to waste here. After they all leave, hungry husband, son, and son’s friends will happily scarf down whatever remains, including the crumbs on the plates. So no worries there.

I am making almost everything myself. I did buy the rice cakes, mini quiches, fruit tarts and gluten-free goodies. I would never attempt rice cakes, as I cannot find a singular use for these tasteless items, save as packing material, and attempting a whole batch of gluten-free, dairy-free, sugar-free, egg-free anything would really be going overboard, and amount to a challenge I am not up to, given all else that has to be done (sorry T!).

I made my nanny’s shortbread, featured in an earlier post with my niece and nephew: Eating Suburbia: Tea Party. I received a wonderful silicon mini-cake pan that has decorative edges, so I was able to make individual shortbreads.

Daughter had to make eggnog bread for a meeting at work this week, so she kindly made extra. She is unable to attend our little soiree, as her college roommate has her engagement party the same day. Sure nice of her to contribute nonetheless.

I am getting ready to make the mini cinnamon macaroons, a recipe I pulled out of Bon Appetit some time ago. The recipe is middle-of-the-road when it comes to complexity, due to the use of a pastry bag and the unusual baking process.

1 ¼ cup sliced almonds
3 T plus 1 t packed golden brown sugar
½ t cinnamon
1 ¼ cup plus 2 T powdered sugar
½ cup powdered sugar, sifted
3 large egg whites

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Stack 2 rimmed backing sheets. Line top sheet with parchment paper.
Combine first 4 ingredients in a food process. Using on/off turns, process until almonds are finely ground (do not allow mixture to turn to paste). Transfer to medium bowl.
Using electric mixer, in large bowl, beat eggs whites until foamy. Gradually add sifted powdered sugar and beat until peaks form and mixture is shiny. Gently fold egg whites into almond mixture.
Transfer batter to pastry bag fitted with ½-inch round tip (#12). Pipe batter onto prepared baking sheets in 1-inch rounds, spacing 1 inch apart. Using a wet fingertip, gently flatten tops.
Bake cookies 1 minute. Turn baking sheet around and reduce heat to 350 degrees. Bake 4 more minutes. Turn baking sheet. Bake 6 more minutes until cookies are golden brown. Transfer parchment paper with cookies to rack to cool.
Repeat with remaining batter, using new parchment and making sure that cookie sheets have cooled.

Ingredients: easy to get, cheap to buy
Preparation: Ten minutes
Taste: These cute little cookies are great. They are extremely sweet, as macaroons typically are, so having them be mini in size works out great.
Makes about 6 dozen

As an added surprise, my daughter has brought over her hatboxes. We were able to retrieve quite a few antique hats when cleaning out my granny’s house, plus she has purchased one or two herself. Because what’s a tea party without hats?


Jen Leo said...

Susan, this is very exciting. I am excited to see everyone, too!

But we are going to make endless fun of you for setting the table more than 24 hours ahead of time so you could blog about it. :-)

It's going to be fun. I'm glad I was able to clear most of my "work" plate so that I can enjoy your special tea treat stress free.

You're the best!

Tanna said...

No way they can't laugh about setting the table early, everybody does the easy stuff first.
You've put together a totally stunning Tea Party. I'd be happy with leftovers too!
Have a wonderful Tea!

Helene said...

You are giving me the inspiration to plan the same thing when we get back from vacation. Lovely table setting!
Did I read correctly: eggnog bread? Can you share the recipe?

mrs b said...

I've been bugging daughter for the eggnog recipe. I promise to get it to you soon!