Wednesday March 23, 2011

Virtual Tea Party

Despite my great love for tea, I’ve never attended a tea party. Or, at least, not in the pinkies out, tea & scones sort of way. As part of my studies in Tokyo, I spent days in my school’s traditional tea room, learning about tea ceremony. I even attended an hours long chaji, 茶事, in full furisode kimono.

I’ve scribbled notes during tea seminars at the CIA and taken classes on the teas of India and Sri Lanka at Essencha. Nevertheless, delivering special orders of scones, pastries, and tea cookies to a client marks the closest I’ve come to a Western style tea party. Sigh. Always a bridesmaid.

At least I can always steal a few scones to console myself.

peaches and cream scones

Recently, Kelly Confidential had the idea to host a virtual tea party to raise money for the Ovarian Cancer Research Fund. In honor of that, Food Buzz challenged all Featured Publishers to come up with our best tea party recipes.

Having never attended any sort of tea party, even a virtual one seemed like fun. But, the real incentive came from Foodbuzz. For every Featured Publisher that “attends,” they’ll donate $50 to the Ovarian Cancer Research Fund. With attendance defined as submitting a tea-worthy recipe and linking to the Ovarian Cancer Research Fund in a blog post, how could I not participate?

I struggled to narrow myself down to one recipe, but in the end, I couldn’t. There are two kinds of tea drinkers in the world: those who like tea with chocolate, and those who like tea with fruit. And those who can’t decide. Okay, three kinds.

So for the first group, I’d say cocoa nib Florentines would make a perfect tea party treat. In my house, they’ve become a cookie jar staple. Mr. BraveTart has even squirreled away a stash of Florentines at work for secret eating with his afternoon tea. Their mellow, honeyed sweetness offsets a deep chocolate hit from the combined powers of cocoa powder, cocoa nibs, and dark chocolate.

Sweet enough to balance out a cup of black tea, but not so sweet that the milk-and-sugar crowd couldn’t enjoy one with their cuppa. (Speaking of cuppa, we shot these scones at our favorite tea house, cuppa: a tea café.) The thinness of Florentines also makes them perfect candidates for sandwiching with salty caramel or ganache. Exactly the kind of “tea sandwich” I could get behind. Who needs cucumbers?

chocolate florentine

But I couldn’t possibly have a tea party without making up a batch of quick scones, the quintessential tea party nibble. As a famously terrible hostess, I would want to make something super low-key so I could focus on running around the house in an panic, compulsively straightening the spines of books on shelves, unwrapping these ridiculously cute hand soaps for my guest bath, folding the top sheet of toilet paper into an epic work of art, and otherwise squandering my time with nervous fretting.

Since these scones come together with absolutely minimal effort (one bowl, rolling pin optional), I definitely have enough time to get the house ready and won’t find myself stuck in the kitchen all day. The scones can take on the flavor of just about anything you can think to mix into the dough, from diced fruit, fresh or dried, to nuts or toffee.

If you’ve read BraveTart very much, you’ll have definitely figured out how passionate I feel about local, in season produce (see: my manifesto) so my next statement may shock you. Scones make a great vehicle for out-of-season fruit.

In this case: peaches. In season, their tender, juice-packed flesh works disastrously in scones. The dough gets sloppy and wet from the juice and the chunks of peach virtually dissolve during baking. Quite simply, I find good peaches too delicious to squander in scones. I’d rather eat one out of hand or make it into something glorious like ice cream or a simple fruit tart.

Ironically, a hard, dry, out of season peach works perfectly. Its firm flesh holds up to baking and it doesn’t have any juice to speak of, so the dough remains intact. The chunks of peach caramelize ever so slightly in the oven, becoming sweeter and more fragrant, better than they would ever taste eaten raw.

peach scones and black tea

I look forward to seeing everyone’s tea party post and recipes, and learning just how much money Foodbuzz will raise through this event. If you’d like to help raise money for the Ovarian Cancer Research Fund visit Kelly Confidential for details on a quick and easy way to contribute without spending a dime. Of course if you’d like to spend a dime (or, ideally, a little more) visit the Ovarian Cancer Research Fund Donation Page and make a direct donation.

If you’ve already committed to your own charitable causes for the year, you can still enjoy the tea party vibe and just make up some Cocoa Nib Florentines or Quick Scones. Or something else altogether. What are you favorite tea party treats?

posted byStellaand filed under:  Cakes  Chocolate  Cookies  Fruit  Sideshow Photos

18 comments and counting

Mar 23, 2011 · 11:09 AM

You writing is as elegant as a Mississippi tea party, which I have helped prepare for and never attended on many occasions;your suggestions far exceed the reality I have seen

 · deadly · 

Mar 23, 2011 · 11:33 AM

Love the virtual tea party idea. I wish there was a way to virtually send the tea party treats around so everyone could get a little taste! Your cookies and scones look delicious. Really enjoyed reading this post!

 · Linds ·

Mar 23, 2011 · 11:36 AM

My favorite teatime combo? Genmaicha and sliced apple, of course!

 · Mallowsota · 

Mar 23, 2011 ·  6:10 PM

Ooh those florentines look interesting! I need to give those a try.

 · Elyse @The Cultural Dish ·

Mar 23, 2011 ·  7:58 PM

I love how pretty those peaches are on the scone!

 · Julie @ Willow Bird Baking ·

Mar 24, 2011 · 11:37 AM

@Deadly, I have so much trouble believing that! But thank you, sir.

@Linds, me too! Too bad scones have such a brief shelf life…

@Mallowsota, let’s call it a date!

@Elyse, seriously, the Florentines may be one of my favorite recipes of all time. I’m clearly biased, but I think you should give them a try.

@Julie, thank you. The credit should go to Rosco and his dreamy photography.


Mar 24, 2011 ·  1:26 PM

would love to join your delicious tea party looks wonderful

 · torviewtoronto ·

Mar 25, 2011 · 12:08 PM

It’s so important to have a go-to recipe like this one for scones! Thanks for the delicious recipe!

 · Colleen @ What's Baking in the Barbershop?! ·

Mar 26, 2011 · 10:45 AM

@torviewtoronto, thanks!

@Colleen, you’re welcome. Hope you give it a shot sometime.


Mar 30, 2011 ·  2:12 AM

i haven’t eaten a scone in possibly forever! with luck and this recipe, that might just change!

 · Hannah - bake five ·

Mar 31, 2011 ·  5:36 PM

Oh hurray, I hope you do!


Apr 05, 2011 · 10:37 PM

I own seven tea pots and a certain Jessi is supposed to be coming northwards this summer sometime. Is there a tea and nesting party in our future?
Molly has to get her first nest in sometime!

 · JenRa · 

Apr 06, 2011 · 11:22 AM

Tea and nesting sound like a dream to my overworked soul. Yes! We must raise Molly up right!


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