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Take a break from politics with a tea party

April 14, 2017

Cathie Campbell/For The Madera Tribune

Fill a traditional Brown Betty (or a nice bone china) teapot with your favorite tea and treat yourself and friends to a little party.

I must explain that, in this case, the words tea party have nothing to do with politics. I hope that isn’t a disappointment, but to me, a break from politics is a welcome and necessary event.


I love the idea of an old-fashioned get-together, sort of like how children have tea parties with their dolls and stuffed animals. (You may have fond memories of pretending to sip invisible tea.) One of my favorite possessions is a bone china teapot from England, but it rarely gets used these days. I think many of us should treat ourselves to a relaxing tea party, even if we just sit by ourselves for 20 minutes while we take a break.


For a great pot of tea, here are some basic guidelines on brewing, and by the way, if you don’t know what a crumpet is, now’s your chance to learn. I looked it up on Dictionary.com and had to laugh. A crumpet can be a “round, soft unsweetened bread resembling a muffin, cooked on a griddle or the like, and often toasted” … or “a sexually attractive woman.” Obviously, this column deals with the bread version. Oh, and lest I forget, maybe you can take a break from your Easter preparations to enjoy a spot of tea. I hope you all have a very nice Easter Sunday.


To prepare tea, bring fresh, cold water almost to a boil in a teakettle on the stove. Meanwhile, measure out the tea (1 teaspoon tea leaves or 1 tea bag per cup). Preheat the teapot by filling it with very hot water. Empty pot and place pre-measured tea leaves inside, then add water from the kettle. For black and oolong teas, let the water come to a full boil before pouring it into the teapot.

 

Recommended brewing times: black tea, 3 to 5 minutes; green tea, 1 to 3 minutes; for white and oolong tea, 2 to 5 minutes; for tea bags, follow directions or brew to taste.
 
English crumpets

 

3 tablespoons warm water (temperature according to yeast packet instructions) 
1 package active dry yeast 
1 teaspoon sugar 
1/2 cup milk 
4 tablespoons butter, divided 
1/2 teaspoon salt 
1 1/2 cup flour 
1 egg
 

  1. Combine water, yeast and sugar. Let stand until bubbly, about 5 minutes. Heat milk, 1 tablespoon of the butter and salt in a saucepan over low heat just until warm. Add to yeast mixture. Add 1 cup flour to yeast mixture and beat until smooth, about 2 minutes on medium speed of mixer. Beat in egg. Add remaining flour and beat until smooth. Cover batter with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour. Stir down batter and let rest for 5 minutes.

  2. Meanwhile, melt remaining butter in a saucepan over low heat. Skim off foam and discard milky solids from bottom of saucepan. Brush bottom of a skillet with melted butter. Brush insides of four crumpet rings or 3-inch round cookie cutters with butter and place rings in skillet.

  3. Heat skillet over medium heat. Spoon about 2 tablespoons batter into each ring. Cook until batter begins to bubble on top and is lightly browned on bottom, about 2 minutes. Remove rings. Turn English crumpets over. Cook until lightly browned on bottom and done in centers. Can be served warm or split and toasted before serving.

 
Pumpkin scones with berry butter


From the archives of Ladies’ Home Journal.

 

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup chilled butter
1 egg, beaten
1/2 cup canned pumpkin
1/3 cup milk
2 tablespoons dried cranberries or dried blueberries
1/2 cup boiling water
1/2 cup butter, softened
3 tablespoons powdered sugar
 

  1. Preheat oven to 400. In a mixing bowl combine flour, brown sugar, baking powder, pumpkin pie spice, baking soda, and salt. With a pastry blender cut in the 1/2 cup chilled butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Make a well in the center of dry mixture; set aside.

  2. In another bowl combine egg, pumpkin, and milk. Add egg mixture all at once to dry mixture. Using a fork, stir just until moistened. Turn out dough onto a lightly floured surface. Quickly knead dough by folding and pressing gently for 10 to 12 strokes or until nearly smooth. Pat dough into an 8-inch circle. Cut into 12 wedges.

  3. Place wedges 1 inch apart on an ungreased baking sheet. If desired, brush tops with additional milk. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes or until golden. Remove scones from baking sheet and cool on a wire rack for 5 minutes. Serve warm with Berry Butter. Makes 12 scones.

  4. For berry butter: In a small bowl combine dried cranberries or dried blueberries and boiling water. Let stand 10 minutes. Drain well and finely chop berries. Stir together the 1/2 cup butter, powdered sugar, and the cranberries or blueberries. Cover and let chill at least 1 hour before serving to allow flavors to blend. Makes 3/4 cup.

 
Lemon curd


3 large eggs
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon finely shredded lemon zest
3/4 cup sugar
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
 

  1. In a stainless steel bowl placed over a saucepan of simmering water, whisk together the eggs, sugar, and lemon juice until blended.  Cook, stirring constantly (to prevent it from curdling), until the mixture becomes thick (like sour cream or a hollandaise sauce). This will take approximately 10 minutes. Remove from heat and immediately pour through a fine strainer to remove any lumps.

  2. Cut the butter into small pieces and whisk into the mixture until the butter has melted.  Add the lemon zest and let cool.  The lemon curd will continue to thicken as it cools. Cover immediately (so a skin doesn’t form) and refrigerate for up to two weeks. Makes 1 1/2 cups.

  3. Note:  Room temperature lemons provide more juice.  After squeezing, strain the juice to remove any pulp.  Zest is the yellow, sweet-flavored outer rind of the lemon.  A zester or fine grater can be used to remove the rind.  Cold lemons are much easier to grate. Grate lemons just before using as the zest will lose moisture if it sits too long.

 
Mock Devonshire cream 1


Here are two ways of making mock Devonshire cream, if you can’t find the real thing.

 

8 ounces cream cheese
1/3 cup sour cream
2 tablespoons sugar
 

  1. Whip together; serve over scones or fresh fruit.

 
Mock Devonshire cream 2


3 ounces cream cheese, room temperature 
1 tablespoon sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt 
1 cup whipping cream
 

  1. Combine cream cheese, sugar and salt, and blend well. Stir in the whipping cream and beat until mixture is stiff. Store in the refrigerator and serve chilled.

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