I have a love affair with tea. It's not the tea so much, although I do enjoy a good cuppa, it is the tradition, the unhurried pace, the romance and the relationships that are built over a china tea cup and a biscuit. Tea is a defining part of our day. Sir Knight and I begin every morning slowing sipping brimming cups of sweetened English Breakfast tea. We quietly wake up, talk about the day to come and welcome yet another morning. In the late afternoon, when Sir Knight leaves his work day behind, we once again indulge in the daily ritual of afternoon tea. Instead of a quiet morning cup, our afternoon tea is a riotous affair. Rather than just Sir knight and I gently anticipating the day to come, our afternoon tea table is full of clinking tea cups, laughter and stories of the day gone by. Afternoon tea begins with Sir Knight, Maid Elizabeth, Master Hand Grenade and I, but soon includes Miss Calamity, Princess Dragon Snack and Master Calvin.
For our family, the allure of tea is the relationship it encourages. It is impossible to have tea on the fly. It requires ritual and a slow pace. Over the years, it has become the hallmark of our day together. Sir Knight and I depend upon our morning tea start our day well. We talk of the day to come and pray together. Without our tea time, our day hasn't really begun. All of our children anxiously anticipate our afternoon tea. It is a time to tell "Faver" all of the exciting (or rather mundane) things that have happened that day. It is a time to gather in the warm embrace of familial ties. It is tea time.
Not only is tea for family, it is for all who cross our threshold. One of the first things we do when company unexpectedly shows up at our front door, is put the kettle on. Tea immediately puts people at ease and creates a hospitable atmosphere. Laughter and tears both flow well with tea. Joys and heartaches respond equally to a brimming cup.
Of course, tea is one thing, but one must have "tea treats" as well. Scones, of course, are an undeniable favorite, but we have many other favorites. This past week, we made a batch of our very favorite shortbread cookies, and a good thing it was. Just as the cookies were cool enough to bake, we had many guests arrive at our home, so of course, we promptly put the kettle on and popped the shortbread into the oven!
Simply Perfect Shortbread (From my friend Lady Day)
1 pound butter (4 cubes), softened
1 cup granulated sugar
4 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp. almond flavoring
Soften butter and mix all the ingredients with a mixer. Form dough into a roll and wrap in waxed paper or plastic wrap. Chill the roll in the refrigerator (an hour or overnight). Slice the dough into cookies and bake at 350 degrees for 20 to 30 minutes or until lightly browned on the bottom. Do not over bake!
* For chocolate shortbread, dip into melted chocolate when cool.
|Forming the shortbread dough|
into a long log
|Slicing chilled dough into cookies|
|Fresh cookies laid out with a|
table full of teacups
Of course, Sunday afternoon is reserved for lounging, relaxing and generally being lazy, but what Sunday afternoon would be complete without tea? This Sunday we chose a good old fashioned steamed pudding to accompany our tea. It is simple, wonderful and can be slowing simmered on a slow wood cookstove.
Chocolate Steamed Pudding (From the King Arthur Flour cookbook)
2 oz. (squares) unsweetened baking chocolate
1 tsp. melted butter
1 tsp. vanilla
3/4 cup sugar
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 cup milk
Melt the chocolate with the butter in a small saucepan over low heat and add the vanilla.
In a mixing bowl, teat the egg until light and lemon colored. Add the sugar and beat until fluffy.
Combine the flour with the salt and baking powder. Add this, alternately with the milk, to the egg mixture. Then add the chocolate mixture and stir just enough to blend.
Place this batter in a greased steamed pudding mold and secure cover (or a bowl or a one-pound coffee can covered with aluminum foil secured with a string or rubber band). Steam over simmering water in a covered kettle for 1 1/2 hours.
* If you run out of baking chocolate, or don't have any, you can substitute 3 Tablespoons cocoa and 1 Tablespoon of butter for each square of chocolate.
Serve with Hard Sauce:
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1/2 cup (stick) butter, softened
2 Tbl. brandy (or vanilla extract)
Combine all ingredients in small bowl; stir to blend well. (Can be made 4 days ahead). Cover and refrigerate. Bring to room temperature before serving.
|Combining the dry ingredients|
|Melting the chocolate|
|Pouring the egg mixture into the dry ingredients|
|Mixing all the ingredients together|
|Anywhere goodies are being made|
Master Calvin is sure to be!
|Pouring the batter into the pudding mold|
|Putting the pudding into a kettle on the|
|The pudding is done! We let it cool for|
10 minutes before turning it onto a plate
|The pudding slid right out of the mold|
|Our Sunday tea awaits us|