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How to host a summer bridal tea

Posted: July 6, 2010 6:17 p.m.
Updated: July 7, 2010 4:55 a.m.

Merry Graham, of Newhall, prepares the bridal tea table for Valencia bride Jenni Blount.

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Maybe it was the thought of an orange hibiscus scone billowing with Devonshire cream or the opportunity to create savory tea sandwiches that inspired me to cater Jenni Blount’s bridal shower. Or it could have been the excuse to make eye-catching, mouth-watering berry good truffles, or simply that the maid-of-honor, my daughter, lives in Texas and couldn’t make the shower.

Whatever the motivating factor, I couldn’t miss the culinary opportunity to plan and prepare a tea party for yet another Santa Clarita Valley summer bride.

When I asked Jenni what she wanted at her tea party, she immediately replied, “Tea, hot tea!” I knew what that really meant: floral china teapots pouring endless cups of black currant tea into fragile teacups on saucers. You know, the frills that make us girls feel elegant.

As I inquired about her second request, her eyes turned as big as those saucers, and she exclaimed, “Chocolate, lots of chocolate and sweets.” And so, the tea party menu had begun!

How does one interpret “lots of chocolate?” My chocolate lineup included: bite-size raspberry chocolate upside-down cake, chocolate apricot thumbprints, fruity chocolate almond balls and chocolate molasses crinkles. Each dainty chocolate delight received its fair share of great reviews.

To my surprise, however, the starring chocolate at the shower was the homemade berry good truffle.

An experienced candy maker, I am not. I’m afraid of tempering chocolate and dipping a soft ball of confection into melting chocolate, then expecting it to come back beautiful.

I’m messy enough without dipping, so I had to find a merrier method.

For the chocolate outer shell, I totally cheated — store-bought hard-shell dipping chocolate for strawberries was a godsend. The creamy truffle center was easy as well.

The only trick is to chill the creamy center twice.

Feel free to experiment with different flavors of extract and jam or lemon curd.

Berry good truffles
8 oz. whipped cream cheese
3 1/2 cups powdered sugar, divided
1 tablespoon seedless raspberry jam
2 teaspoons raspberry extract or liqueur
1 cup chocolate chips
2 (8 oz each) cartons hard shell dipping chocolate shell (for strawberries)

Directions: In a medium bowl, with a large rubber spatula, thoroughly mix cream cheese, 2 cups powdered sugar, raspberry jam, and extract until smooth.

Place chocolate chips in a small bowl, microwave on two or medium power in one-minute intervals until melted (usually two minutes total). Mix melted chocolate with cream cheese and stir in 1-cup powdered sugar.
Cover and chill in freezer for 30 minutes.

Place chilled filling on work surface that has ½ cup powdered sugar spread about. Using an oiled tablespoon, scoop filling and place on powdered sugar. Roll 30 balls in powdered sugar; place on plate lined with wax paper and freeze for 30 minutes.

Place a large piece of wax paper on work surface. Heat one carton of dipping chocolate as directed on package and dollop (30) quarter-size circles of chocolate on the wax paper.

Remove balls from refrigerator, place one ball on each chocolate quarter. Heat second carton of chocolate, then spoon and smooth chocolate to cover entire ball.

After truffles have hardened, trim chocolate around edges with kitchen scissors. If desired, place truffles in mini muffin paper cups. Refrigerate until ready to serve. Truffles can be stored in refrigerator for up to two weeks. Makes 30 truffles.
A Merry Tip: The truffles center can be made a few days before the outer chocolate shell.

Scones are a must on every tea party menu. However, opinions vary on just what makes up a good scone. Is your favorite the cake-like scone with added sweetness, or do you seek a biscuit flavor and texture?

At my tea parties, I can’t serve just one type of scone because I love to explore new flavors. I created these orange scented hibiscus scones specifically for Jenni. This recipe is easy because you can form the scones ahead of time and freeze them.

The day of your tea party, just bake them up for a scone that’s crisp on the outside and moist on the inside.

Orange-scented hibiscus scones

3 cups self-rising flour
½ cup granulated sugar
¾ cup very cold unsalted butter cut in ¼-inch cubes
1 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon orange extract
fine zest from one medium orange
1 large egg
½ cup chopped dried
hibiscus plus 2 table-spoons for topping
2 cups powdered sugar
2 tablespoon fresh squeezed orange juice
1 egg mixed with 1 table spoon water

Directions: Heat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Coat a baking sheet with cooking spray.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour and sugar until well mixed. Add butter and mix until mixture resembles coarse crumbs.

In a small bowl, whisk buttermilk, extract, orange zest and egg until well mixed. Pour buttermilk mixture into dry mixture and beat until soft dough begins to form. Beat in hibiscus; do not over mix.

Transfer the dough to a lightly floured work surface. Knead dough, adding a little flour if necessary and divide in half. Form each half in a 2-inch wide x 12-inch long rectangle that is 1-inch deep.

Flour your knife, if necessary, and make crosswise cuts every 3-inches.

Cut each 3-inch rectangle diagonally to form 2 triangles.  Brush triangles with an egg wash.

Bake scones for 22 to 28 minutes, or until the tops are golden and the center comes out clean when tested with a toothpick.

Remove from the oven and let cool for 10 minutes. Spread glaze over scone and sprinkle top with chopped-dried hibiscus.

Makes 16 scones.
A merry tip: Dried hibiscus can be found in the Santa Clarita Valley at health or specialty food stores.
 
As much as we love scones, sweets and truffles, tea sandwiches are a must have for a finger foods menu.

Tea sandwiches don’t have to be time consuming — just purchase tomato-basil flavored cream cheese at your grocery store, spread it on your favorite bread, layer some fresh basil, brie, and sun dried tomatoes, and you are done.

Another favorite tea sandwich is chive and onion cream cheese on pumpernickel bread with smoked turkey and sweet red pepper. Flavor combinations are numerous. To make it a tea sandwich, just remove the crust from bread and cut into thirds or triangles.

If you enjoy throwing a curve ball at your tea party, then make my Andouille chicken sausage open face sandwich on corn muffin rounds. Don’t worry — the name takes longer to pronounce than the time it takes to make this raved-about sandwich.

Andouille chicken sausage open-face tea sandwich
1 (12 oz.) fully cooked, all-natural smoked Anouille chicken sausage
1/2 cup chopped celery
1 tablespoon chopped chives
3 tablespoons mayonnaise
5-6 cornmeal muffins cut in ¼-inch thick crosswise rounds
4 Persian cucumbers, thinly sliced
20 slivers of fresh sweet red pepper

Directions: In a food processor, mince chicken sausage until mixture resembles deviled ham. Add celery, chives, and mayonnaise; mix for 15 seconds. Spread mixture on cornbread rounds, top with cucumber slices and garnish with a red pepper slice.  Makes 20-24 open face sandwiches.
A merry tip: Cornbread muffins cut easier when partially frozen. Make the cornbread muffins days before the party and freeze them.

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