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The new Diamond Jubilee Salon at Fortnum & Mason

Welcome to another Tea Tuesday.  The weather is always a safe topic to discuss when having tea, and this week we are experiencing the unsettled weather of Spring, shifting from cool to warm and then back to cool again, sometimes all within the same day.  Dressing in layers for another few weeks is likely a smart choice for those of us living in northern climes.  We are generally thankful that we have not been directly impacted by the severe weather conditions in other parts of Canada and the US.

Tea Time Ritual Recap

Another topic of polite conversation is to inform late comers about they have missed.  The weekly installment of Tea Tuesday was inspired by Christine, a follower who lives in France, who was curious about English tea traditions. Whether you take tea for pleasure, or for business as a rising business star entertaining clients, a little knowledge goes a long way.

What Sort of Tea Drinker Are You?

In case you missed it last week, if you aren’t sure what sort of tea drinker you are then you are in luck.  Online Stores, Inc. and The English Tea Store Blog have created quizzes to help you decide.

What to Serve at Tea

I offer a new recipe each week, so check out and bookmark Online Guide to Afternoon Tea to keep up to date.  Here is a sample of what we have prepared:

Downton Abbey Meets the Olympics:  Twenty Twelve

London is making final preparations to host the Summer Olympics.  While there are efforts to encourage the English to stay at home this summer and enjoy everything  the UK has to offer,  I can identify with the need to flee. Canada has hosted three Olympic games (Montreal, Calgary and Vancouver), and I have managed to escape all three cities long before the Opening Ceremonies.

Having lived in cities which hosted the Olympics, I can attest that you really do suffer host fatigue, with unending stories about preparations for years in advance of the big event.  I do find the BBC mockumentary series Twenty Twelve very familiar in content, but it takes a delightful tongue in cheek look behind the scenes of Olympic planning.  It definitely has a Dilbert flavor which is makes it more fun if not sadly true.  One of the stars is Downton Abbey’s Hugh Bonneville.  You may think that Hugh  might not be suited to a comedic role, but he has impeccable timing as a straight man.  When you think about it, his role really isn’t dissimilar to his role on Downton Abbey.  As Ian Fletcher,  he is leader with chaos all around him and in the end is not much in control of anything.  Doesn’t sound much different than his role as Robert Crawley dominated by all the women in his life.

You can find many of the episodes on You Tube.  The first episode of the series which features the Olympic countdown clock.  Oddly enough you will recall that the real Olympic clock stopped shortly after it was started.  In Vancouver the clock was vandalized not long after it was launched, so I suppose it is generally a tough job being an Olympic clock, and perhaps a tougher time explaining what it is you actually do.

Titanic Party Award Winner 1:  Susan Edwards

Titanic tribute

I mentioned last week I had two book prizes to give to the best Titanic hosted parties.  The winners would receive a copy of the new book Wentworth Hall which I recently reviewed.   This book is being graciously given away courtesy of publisher Simon & Schuster.

Susan Edwards

Our first winner is Susan Edwards from Aiken, South Carolina.  She was quite fortunate to have much warmer weather than what was experienced on Titanic and held her dinner outside party.  A whiz with a Cricut machine, most of her decorations were hand made.

It would appear from her pictures that everyone got into the spirit of the event, some coming in period costume, others brought their own life jackets.  Susan is also a blogger and provided a write up about the event.

Congratulations, Susan on a job well done.  Stay tuned for our the announcement of our second winner later this week.

Classic Never Fail Shortbread

Lovely crispy shortbread

We haven’t added any biscuits to our tea tray yet, so I thought time to include one.  Shortbread is an easy tea treat to make and if you don’t have your own family recipe to fall back on, here is a great one inspired by Tea at Fortnum & Mason.  This book was a gift from my Twitter friend Ellen who I have written about previously. She bought the book while having tea at this famous London teahouse earlier this year.

Rice flour is the secret ingredient which gives the shortbread a nice crisp texture.  Take care not to overwork the dough, otherwise the butter will become greasy and will give an oily finish to the biscuit.  Otherwise this is a never fail recipe, unless of course you aren’t watching the oven, which is what happened to our group of food writers who got the chance to cook on an AGA Cooker.

Makes 14 fingers

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • 1/3 cup caster sugar*; plus extra to sprinkle
  • 1 cup plain flour, sifted
  • 1/2 cup rice flour

Method

  1. Preheat  the oven to 300 F
  2. Lightly butter a 9″ square pan
  3. Cream the butter and sugar together in a large bowl.  Add the flour and rice flour and use a wooden spoon to work all the ingredients together to make a paste.  Knead lightly.
  4. Press the mixture into the tin, using the back of a spoon to smooth down the surface.  Use a table knife to draw a line down the middle vertically, then mark six lines across horizontally to make 14 fingers. Prick each one with a fork.
  5. Bake for about 30 minutes, then remove from the oven and mark again.  Return to the oven and continue to bake for 30 minutes until the mixture is set.
  6. Mark into the 14 fingers again then sprinkle with a light dusting of sugar.  Cool in  the tin for about 30 minutes, the fingers should snap right off without cutting again.  Carefully remove them from the pan.
  7. Finish cooling the shortbread on a wire rack then store in an airtight container for up to three days.

*caster sugar is a super fine sugar.  If you don’t have any, you can make your own by putting sugar in a blender or food processor.

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