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TEA PLANS

An Elegant Interlude

September 19, 1996|JULIANNE TANTUM

I learned to drink tea while studying in Ireland during college. We drank tea with breakfast, lunch and dinner, between classes and basically any other time we weren't doing research in the pubs. A tea kettle--often the electric type--was a fixture in every home, office and school.

The fancy foods that accompany a formal tea were not a regular part of our days. But we were aware of the British custom of afternoon tea, and it held a dash of intrigue.

Afternoon teas seem to be gaining in popularity here as people re-create the elegant setting for special occasions, receptions, showers and graduation parties. Orange County has a Victorian Tea Society, which educates the public on the traditions of afternoon tea by holding theme teas throughout the year.

In this menu, scones are baked with half and half instead of whipping cream for a lighter texture. Serve them with jam and classic clotted cream or creme fraiche. Tea sandwiches are usually made from thin slices of bread (day-old bread is easier to cut into shapes), spread with butter, flavored mayonnaise or cream cheese and topped with a filling.

The finale, an English trifle, comes from Jim Hutson, a family friend who perfected his version of this rich dessert over years of entertaining. Fresh strawberries, blackberries, peaches and kiwi are layered with pound cake and custard to create a festive dessert fit for any king or queen.

MENU

Tea

Cream Scones with Apricot Spread and Clotted Cream

Watercress and Cucumber Tea Sandwiches

Hutson Trifle

STAPLES

Flour

Baking Powder

Salt

Butter

Sugar

1 lemon

Vanilla extract

Milk

Eggs

1 (10-ounce) jar raspberry jam

Cornstarch

Powdered sugar

SHOPPING LIST

1 pint half and half

1/3 pound dried apricots

1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese

1 bunch watercress

1/2 cup walnuts

1 loaf white or wheat bread, thin-sliced

1 English cucumber

1 (10 3/4-ounce) frozen pound cake

1 bottle Madeira

1 pint-size basket each: strawberries, blueberries, blackberries

2 kiwi

2 peaches

1/2 pint whipping cream

2 ounces sliced almonds

GAME PLAN

Day before: Assemble trifle. Make apricot spread.

Morning of tea: Bake scones. Prepare sandwich filling and refrigerate.

Last Minute: Fill and slice sandwiches. Boil water for tea.

CREAM SCONES

2 cups flour

1 tablespoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

6 tablespoons butter, chilled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes

1/4 cup sugar

2/3 cup half and half

Combine flour, baking powder and salt in bowl. Cut in butter with pastry blender or 2 knives until mixture resembles coarse meal. Add sugar and toss to mix. Add half and half and stir with fork until soft dough forms. Gather into a ball.

Transfer dough to lightly floured work surface and press out to 1/2-inch thick. Cut out scones using 2-inch round cutter. Gather scraps, press out again and cut out rounds, repeating until all the dough is used. Bake on ungreased baking sheets at 425 degrees until lightly browned, 10 to 12 minutes. Cool on wire rack.

Makes 18 scones.

Each scone contains about:

24 calories; 1 mg sodium; 0 cholesterol; 0 fat; 6 grams carbohydrates; 0 protein; 0.20 gram fiber.

TEA SANDWICHES

1 (8-ounce package) cream cheese, room temperature

1 tablespoon milk

2 teaspoons lemon juice

1 bunch watercress, finely chopped

1/2 cup finely chopped walnuts

Salt

18 slices thin-sliced white or wheat bread, day-old

1 English cucumber, peeled and thinly sliced

Using food processor or blender, mix cream cheese with milk and lemon juice. Stir in watercress and walnuts. Add salt to taste.

Neatly slice off bread crusts with serrated knife. Spread watercress mixture on top of half of bread slices, place about 5 slices of cucumber on top, and cover with plain bread slice. Cut sandwiches into triangles or rectangles. Cover sandwiches with plastic wrap or a damp tea towel until ready to serve, because the bread dries out quickly.

Makes 36 sandwich quarters.

Each quarter contains about:

383 calories; 150 mg sodium; 207 mg cholesterol; 20 grams fat; 43 grams carbohydrates; 6 grams protein; 1.57 grams fiber.

HUTSON TRIFLE

1 (10 3/4-ounce) frozen pound cake

1/3 cup Madeira

1/2 cup raspberry jam

3 cups mixed berries (sliced strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, blueberries)

2 kiwi fruit, peeled and cut up

2 peaches, peeled, pitted and cut into chunks

2 cups milk

4 egg yolks

1/2 cup granulated sugar

2 teaspoons cornstarch

2 teaspoons plus 1/8 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 pint whipping cream, chilled

2 tablespoons powdered sugar

6 strawberries

1/4 cup sliced almonds, toasted

The initial presentation of the whole dessert is very important since trifle isn't as pretty once it has been dished up. Use a glass pedestal trifle dish or a 9-inch straight-sided glass bowl to show off the colorful layers and garnishes. Or prepare the trifle in individual glass goblets.

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