Little Bites of Happiness
I wonder if the King and Queen of England pause for Afternoon Tea each day? And do they nibble on dainty tea sandwiches? Those who know the answers to such things say yes.
But Queen Elizabeth also had a sweet tooth. From the time she was a wee child, she ate a jam Penny sandwich each day made with strawberry preserves.
But Queen Camilla is a fan of the much-revered cucumber tea sandwich. At last, I have something in common with the Queen. 🙂
The Sum of Its Parts
The classic tea sandwich consists of a spread of herbed cream cheese and sliced cukes between thin slices of white bread. Be sure to use a fine textured sandwich bread, such as Pepperidge Farm Very Thin White to keep the royal tidbits tidy and tasty.
When I made some of the sandwiches last week, all I had on hand was sliced sourdough. I will do better next time.
Traditionally, the dainty finger foods are served without the bread crust. If you’re making these dainties for His Majesty, the sandwiches should be roundish rather than have any pointed edges. Historically, serving food with sharp edges was considered a sign of wanting to overthrow the monarch.
The Cuke of Choice
It’s best to use English cucumbers, those that are long and thin rather than the short, chubby ones. They’re available at Walmart and Target. Peel the cukes slightly for even more elegance.
The London Ritz serves the sandwich smeared with butter, rather than cream cheese. But some chefs prefer using butter on one slice and cream cheese on the other. If you want to fancify things, a bit of watercress adds yet another regal touch.
Get Your Tea Times Right
If you have a chance to take in a copycat, royal tea party, it will likely include little sandwiches, scones and cakes, which are eaten correctly in that order. Often these dainties are served on a three-tiered stand. I ate my fancy-fingered sandwiches for lunch and, sadly, absent the scones and cakes.
Americans sometimes confuse Afternoon Tea with High Tea, the latter served in the evening along with meat and vegetables. A morning respite called Elevenses is, as it’s name denotes, a morning teatime taken round 11 o’clock. This is something I could easily incorporate into my daily routine.
The London Ritz Book of Afternoon Tea is keen on the little cuke classic: “The cucumber sandwich is the aristocrat of the tea table! Cool, gracious, impeccable.”
Hmm. . . let me see . . . I think I have enough ingredients left to make a few more finger sandwiches. They’ll be perfect with my peppermint tea.
Cucumber Tea Sandwiches
- 1 large English cucumber (about 1 lb.), thinly sliced
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 1 (8 oz.) package cream cheese, softened
- 2 Tbs. mayonnaise
- 1 tsp. lemon zest
- 2 Tbs. chopped fresh dill
- 2 Tbs. chopped chives
- 8 slices firm sandwich bread (such as Pepperidge Farm Very Thin White)
In a medium bowl, toss the English cucumber slices with salt. Be sure the cucumber slices are thoroughly coated.
Spread the cucumber slices in an even layer on a kitchen towel. Roll it up and let stand to absorb the moisture from the cucumber.
In a medium bowl, stir together the cream cheese, mayonnaise, lemon zest. dill, and chives until smoothly combined.
Build the tea sandwiches, by placing four slices of bread on a cutting board and spread of about 1/4 cup of cream cheese mixture on each. (I use a bit less of the cream cheese spread.)
Unroll the towel with the cucumber slices and divide them between the four slices of bread, placing them evenly on the cream cheese. Place the remaining four slices of bread on top to make sandwiches, pressing down lightly.
If desired, slice off the crusts, then cut in half in triangles, or into four “fingers.” Serve immediately, or wrap tightly and refrigerate for up to 4 hours.