Popular throughout the American south, Sweet Tea can be a great way to beat the summer heat. Photo by liz west (Flickr) – CC BY 2.0 – https://www.flickr.com/photos/calliope/641462022/
With iced tea season on hand, it is time to look at another American twist to tea, the southern afternoon tea. If you haven’t guessed already, the main beverage of the southern afternoon tea is iced tea. So let’s take a look at its origins and then what to serve to make your southern afternoon tea truly American.
Southern Afternoon Tea – History
Afternoon teas in the US mimic British teas during the 1700’s. However, as the ice box and refrigeration developed in the US, so did iced tea. Keep in mind, a high temperature in London is the upper 60’s for the summer. In most of the southern US it is a good 20 degrees warmer, so ice became very popular very quickly in our country. Sweet iced tea, with black tea as the base, first appeared in the 1870’s. Before that, it was green tea that served as the base to iced tea. In the wealthy plantations the tea was served over ice with sugar and a slice of lemon. Periodically herbs like mint or basil were added as garnish.
Southern Afternoon Tea – What to Serve
A southern tea needs American food, luckily there is no shortage of historic recipes to draw from when crafting your menu. Much like the British, the southern tea includes both sweet and savory items. The big difference is the use of ingredients and foods that reflect what was available in the early to mid-1800’s in the United States. Of course you can update this with your favorite family recipes.
- Southern Tea Cake – This soft cake like cookie is the simple combination of sugar, flour, eggs, milk, butter,and pearlash (an early form of leavening agent, like yeast). Today’s version includes vanilla, baking powder and salt. These versatile cakes can be eaten plain or used much like the British scone.
- Apple Tansey – This calls for a true cast iron skillet to get right. First published in 1742 in Williamsburg, VA, this treat is highlighted in the Complete Housewife, which was originally published in England but was reworked by William Parks for American tastes. This recipe calls for Pipin Apples (Granny Smith seem to be a favored alternative), butter, eggs, cream, sugar and nutmeg. The goal is to fry the apples in butter and then add the eggs and cream and have it brown on one side and then flip (or cook under a broiler) to brown the other. Think of it like a sweet apple frittata.
Ambrosia Salad – Photo by Flickr User Steven Depolo (CC BY 2.0)
Ambrosia Salad – This fruit salad appeared in the 1860’s as the railroad connected the southern citrus fields with the northern Eastern cities. As California opened up, coconut was commonly delivered into San Francisco and made its way east for those who could afford it. Ambrosia salad was originally a layered salad of shredded coconut, sugar and citrus. It has since had pecans and marshmallows added to it.
- Biscuits with Ham – Pigs were a big staple in all early American homes. They provided both protein and fat for cooking other foods that could be cured with salt for long term storage.
So the next time you are thinking about afternoon tea, try the American version!
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Your Herb Garden Can Enhance Your Tea Experience
It is easy to add home grown herbs to your favorite tea. With all the work that goes into maintaining a garden, your herbs can be enjoyed in your beverages as well as food. Here are 3 tips on how to make this the best tea experience possible.
- Pesticides/Fertilizers – Be careful with how you fertilize and protect your herbs. Even if you don’t use a liquid fertilizer or pesticide in your herb garden, if they are used in your yard, transfer can happen with the wind, animals or you. Obviously, rinse your herbs before drying or consuming. Nobody wants fertilizer or pesticide in their cup of tea.
- Dry vs. Fresh – The herbs can be added both ways. You should blend by the cup, meaning pick and add when you are ready to consume. This is because you need to be super careful with storage. Fresh herbs should generally not be stored with your dry tea. The moisture will be quickly absorbed into the tea. Mold can easily grow if it occurs in your dark, airtight container (which is how you should be storing your tea). If you are drying your herbs, you can mix a batch with your tea and store it for later consumption. Just be absolutely certain they have been thoroughly dried. Any moisture in those herbs will find its way to the tea and may cause mold in your mix.
- You can have too much of a good thing – Herbs have beautiful smell and flavor and can quickly overpower your tea. So think of a flavor profile for your tea before you mix. You should also realize it won’t take much herbs to flavor your favorite tea. If you are wondering the ratio to use, with a few exceptions, anything over 10% will over power your tea and generally 5% does the trick.
So have fun playing with your home grown herbs. You will be amazed at which ones compliment tea well.
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Tea Infused Scones with Jam
Tea infused scones are a fun and easy addition to your afternoon tea. This is an easy way to serve something traditional but to put your own spin on it. The recipe below is a British scone recipe, not an American recipe. The difference between the two is very striking. British scones are built to add condiments like butter, clotted cream, and jam. So they do not have sugar in them and a much smaller amount of butter. American scones are built to be eaten as is and so they have sugar and more butter than British scones. The British scone recipe also lends itself to the creation of a savory scone that includes cheese and garlic, which I have given directions on how to add at the bottom.
Scones are best prepared just before you want to eat them as they are meant to be eaten right out of the oven. If you must make them in advance, you should reheat them before serving. I have made a few notes below on which ingredients you can prepare in advance so your scones come together quickly when you want them.
Tea Infused Scones : Ingredients
4 tablespoons of Summer on Cape Cod tisane
1/2 cup of water
1 1/2 cups of milk
1/3 cup of dried cranberries, raisins or currants (you can used any dried fruit, just cut them to the size of raisins)
3 1/3 cups of All Purpose Flour
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking soda
4 1/2 teaspoons cream of tartar
6 tablespoons unsalted butter (You can replace about 1/2 of this with vegetable shortening if you wish)
1 beaten egg with a tablespoon of water
Flour for rolling pin and service
For savory scones, substitute the dried fruit with a 1/3 cup of sharp cheddar cheese.
Tea Infused Scones: Steps
Tea Infused Scone – British Style Scones
This step can be made ahead and stored in the refrigerator until you are ready to make scones. Put the milk and 3 tablespoons of the tea on the stove top and bring the milk up to just below boiling. Remove from heat and allow the milk to steep for 10 minutes. Strain and return to the refrigerator to cool down. You can also prepare tea infused butter to use in this recipe.
- Set your oven to 425°F. Pull out a baking sheet and make sure it is lightly greased or line with a piece of parchment paper that is lightly greased.
- Bring the 1/2 cup of water to a boil and put in 1 tablespoon of Summer on Cape Cod tisane and allow to steep for 10 minutes. Strain and allow the 1/3 cup of cranberries to soak in the liquid while you are preparing the dough.
- In a large bowl mix together the flour, salt, baking soda and cream of tartar.
- Cut the 6 tablespoons of butter into small cubes and by hand pinch them into the flour. Keep doing this until all the flour looks a little shiny. It may seem that there is not enough butter to cover everything. However there is, so keep working until all the flour is coated. It will look like wet sand when you are done.
- Pour in 1 1/3 cups of the tea infused milk all at once and stir briefly. You are looking for everything to stick together. Do not stir a lot as you will lose the bubbles caused by the baking soda and cream of tartar. It should create a sticky dough.
- Turn out the dough onto a floured surface. Flour the rolling pin and roll out the dough to 1 inch thick. This will not take long if everything is properly floured.
- Flour a 2 1/2 inch biscuit cutter. If you do not have one, measure the diameter of a drink glass made of glass and flour the rim of the glass to use as a cutter. You should be able to stamp out 10 scones before re-rolling to get the last couple. You should get between 10-12 scones.
- Place the scones on the baking sheet and brush the top of the scones with the egg wash. This ensures that golden brown color.
- Bake the scones for 10 minutes in the oven. Pull them out and serve. Our clotted cream recipe is a great addition.
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Rose Tea Cupcakes with Jasmine Frosting
Rose Tea Cupcakes are a unique treat for your tea loving Valentine. These cupcakes can be made in advance and keep well in the refrigerator for about 5 days, if they last that long. While this cupcake recipe uses The Rose Garden tea, it can be made with your favor tea. The trick is to infuse both the butter and milk before making the cupcakes, which we will outline below.
Rose Tea Cupcakes-Ingredients
2 tablespoons of The Rose Garden tea
1 stick of butter
1/2 cup of whole milk
3/4 cup of white granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt (Omit at your own risk, your cupcakes may not be as fluffy as you would like without this)
1 teaspoon Baking Powder
1 cup of All purpose flour (keep around a couple of tablespoons of flour in case you need to add more to the batter)
Jasmine Green Tea Frosting-Ingredients
2 tablespoons of Jasmine Green Tea
1 stick of butter
1/3 cup of whole milk
4 oz (1/2 block) of cream cheese
3 cups of confectioners sugar
Making Tea Infused Butter
Prepping Tea Infused Butter
We have made tea infused butter before. For the cupcakes and icing, you will make 2 separate batches of infused butter. With each one you will need 1 stick of butter and 3 grams of tea (or a rounded tablespoon).
For the cupcake batter, melt one stick of butter with 1 rounded tablespoon of The Rose Garden Tea. This should be done on the cook top and not in the microwave. Put both the tea and butter into the pot. Once the butter melts completely, remove from the burner and allow the tea to steep for another 10 minutes. Strain off the tea and allow the butter to cool. Feel free to use a spoon to press on the tea to squeeze out the butter that it absorbed. Make sure the butter is solid before adding it to the recipe for the cupcake. It will return to a solid state much faster if you put it in the refrigerator. I found it is easier to make the butter a day or two before the cupcakes so I am not tempted to use the liquid butter.
Repeat the same steps as above for the butter for the Jasmine icing. Just use a rounded tablespoon of Jasmine Green tea instead of the The Rose Garden tea. This butter also needs to be solid, but at room temperature for the icing to work correctly.
Making Tea Infused Milk
Rose Infused Milk
Just like the butter, we are going to heat the amount of milk shown above with a rounded tablespoon of the associated tea on the stove top. Do not walk away from the milk as it is heating as you do not want it to come to a boil. You are looking for steam to rise and a few small bubbles along the edges of the milk and you should start to smell the tea. Feel free to stir and make sure the tea leaves don’t just float on the top. As soon as the steam remains as you stir, pull the milk off the burner and allow the tea to steep in the milk for 10 minutes before straining. Again, feel free to use a spoon to press the tea against the strainer to squeeze out the milk it absorbed. The 1/2 cup of milk for the cupcakes will become roughly a 1/3 cup and the 1/3 cup for the icing will become a 1/4 cup. This is fine. Make sure the milk cools to at least room temperature before using in the recipe. It is fine to make this a day or two before making the ice cream, just store in a container with a tight fitting lid in the refrigerator.
Making Rose Tea Cupcakes
- Make sure you have made the tea infused butter and milk and they have cooled before doing anything else.
- Preheat the oven to 325°F and line your cupcake/muffin tray with paper liners for the cupcakes.
- Using an electric stand mixer, beat together the The Rose Garden tea infused butter with the sugar. It should be mixed until lite and fluffy, about 5 minutes. You should stop the mixer a few times during the process and scrap down the sides and bottom to make sure everything is mixed evenly.
- In a separate bowl, mix together the flour, salt and baking powder.
- On low, adding 1 egg at a time, mix in the eggs with the sugar and butter.
- Once all 3 eggs are mixed in, add the flour mixture and milk to the bowl, alternating about 1/3 of each at the time. Make sure each time that the ingredients are fully incorporated. Once down, take a look at the batter and pinch out a small amount. If is really shiny and feels oily, you will need to incorporate more flour. Using 1/2 tablespoon at a time, mix in the flour until the batter is shiny but doesn’t feel oily.
- Put the batter into the paper liners, filling them about 2/3 of the way full. Put them in the oven for 25 minutes. A tooth pick should pull out clean. Do not over cook. These cup cakes will be pale yellow to white in color, you do not want brown edges.
- Pull out the cupcakes and allow them to cool in the tin for 5 minutes before removing them from the tin and placing them on the cooling rack to come to room temperature.
- Once the cupcakes are at room temperature, you may ice them.
Making Jasmine Green Tea Frosting
- Put the cream cheese and Jasmine Green Tea Infused butter into an electric mixer and blend until fully incorporated, about 5 minutes.
- Then mix in 1 1/2 cups of the confectioners sugar until fully incorporated.
- Next add the Jasmine Green Tea Infused milk Mix until combined, it will look runny.
- Last mix in the remaining 1 1/2 cup of the confectioners sugar. The icing should look thick and fluffy. It is a heavy frosting because of the cream cheese.
- Using an icing knife or a butter knife, apply the icing to the cooled cupcakes in a circular motion. Scoop out about 1 1/2 tablespoons of icing at a time to apply. If you icing starts to run on the top of the cupcake you did not let them cool enough. You can package up the icing and put it in the refrigerator and apply it within 2 days of making the cupcakes. It will start to get to hard after that ice cleanly for you.
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Next week marks the start of the Chinese New Year, and what better why to mark the occasion than with a Chinese sweet traditionally served during the New Year celebration, Niangao. This is a very sweet and dense rice cake with a simple almond flavor that pairs nicely with a cup of tea. This cake is traditionally steamed, not baked. So make sure to check the section on equipment and setup for steaming a cake, it is actually easier than it sounds.watch Half Girlfriend 2017 movie online now
Niangao – Ingredients
2 cups of water
16oz or 1 pd of Dark Brown Sugar
16oz or 1 pd of Sweet (Glutenous) Rice Flour (Asian Market, this is NOT Brown Rice Flour)
2 tsp of Almond Extract
Toasted Sesame Seeds for Garnish
Pitted Chinese Dates for Garnish – Sliced in half or small pieces (These are not always easy to find at the Asian Market, so feel free to substitute Medjool Dates)
Niangao – Equipment
9 inch round cake pan or 1 large loaf pan
Large deep pan with lid that is big enough to hold the cake pan
Electric stand mixer
Small pan to boil water and sugar in
Large spoon for stirring
Kettle full of hot water
Niangao – Instructions
- Before you even pick up the ingredients it is critical to build your steamer. Now if you are used to using a bamboo rice steamer and your cake pan fits in it, go ahead and use that. For those of us that don’t have a bamboo steamer, we need to do some simple construction to build one. First make sure your cake pan fits nicely inside your large pan that has a tight lid, you need to have at least an inch of room above the cake pan when you set it in the bottom. If the lid is not tight, you will need to adjust your cooking time up to compensate for losing steam from the pan. Second, tear off 2 pieces of aluminium foil about the length of your forearm and shape them into snakes. If you are opting for the bread loaf pans, you may need 3 pieces. Do not crush them flat, you are building a platform to put your cake pan on so it does not sit in the boiling water. Shape the snakes into S or C and place into the bottom of the pan and put your cake pan on top. Adjust the height of the snakes so that the lid still fits over without touching the cake pan. Try your best to make them level otherwise you will find that your cake may come out thicker on side versus the other. Once you know everything fits, spray your pan and place it on your snakes. Start up your kettle full of water, you will use this water to fill up the pan at the appropriate time.
- Take out the second pan and put in the 2 cups of water and dark brown sugar. Place it on a burner set to high and start stirring. The goal is to melt the sugar without allowing the water to come to a boil, so you cannot walk away. It will only take about 5 minutes for the water to steam and for you to no longer have sugar crystals along the side of the pan. Remember, do not let it boil. Once you know you are sugar crystal free, take the pan off the burner and put aside.
- Put all the rice flour into the bowl of your stand mixer and slowly pour in the hot water. Set the mixer to low until all the water is in and then put it on medium. Once the water looks incorporated, stop the mixer and scrape the sides and bottom and start it again. Put in the almond extract and mix for a couple of minutes and then stop.
- While your electric mixer is going, pour water out of the kettle into your steamer set-up. Take out the cake pan so you do not get it wet. You want enough water to come up about 3/4 of your snakes. Go ahead and turn on the burn the pan is sitting on. Since you already have warm water, set the burner to low. We want a simmering boil while the cake steams, not a rolling boil. Put the cake pan on your snakes and pour in the batter from your mixer bowl.
- Sprinkle the toasted almonds and arrange the dates on top of the cake. Put the lid on the pan and allow to cook for 60 minutes. You should check the pan and possibly refill the water at the 25 minute mark. You will probably not need to refill the water if you have a tight fitting lid. If your lid is not tight fitting, plan on checking every 15 minutes. Remember we do not need the water at a rolling bubbling, just a gentle simmer.
- When an inserted tooth pick comes out clean, the cake is done. Turn off the burner, and transfer the cake to your cooling rack. It needs to cool completely, which can take upwards of 3 hours. If you try to slice it sooner, it is a sticky mess. The cake can be cooled in the refrigerator.
To serve, slice the cake into thin pieces and rewarm in the microwave for 30 seconds so they are not rock hard. You can also fry them in a little sesame oil.
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