As much as the title may want you to believe, we haven’t gone and reviewed a fancy hotel’s fairing, as much as we’d have enjoyed that. Basically, GastroMum Bernadette and GastroDad Jimmy (Russell’s side) visited us at the beginning of March for a weekend. As it happened, it was also Bernadette’s birthday on the same weekend. Obviously not wanting to miss a trick and not get a decent present from her emigrated son, the two booked a trip over and both of us got our thinking caps on for a nice birthday surprise.
Initially, the plan was to bring all four of us out for a nice afternoon tea in one of London’s most popular haunts. Then a little thing called “reality” set in, and we realised that we are not the billionaires we think we are, so had to scale it down a bit. But we didn’t mind. We relish a challenge…
We came to the conclusion that why spend double the money and drag ourselves to a swanky hotel, when we could recreate something similar, if a little homely and rough around the edges, in the surroundings of our little flat and customise our afternoon tea the way we wanted.
So for a special GastroGays Afternoon Tea we had on offer:
*A selection of handmade sandwiches including: Egg Mayo, Tuna & Mayo and Tuna & Cucumber- all on homemade bread, baked by Patrick the day before.
*Caramelised onion, mushroom and gorgonzola tarts.
*Homemade lemon curd tartlets.
*Cherry scones with loganberry jam and whipped cream.
*Pistachios & almond frangipane tartlets topped with raspberries and crushed pistachios.
*Taylors of Harrogate’s Finest Black Tea (…Yorkshire Tea obv.)
*Prosecco with raspberries
Luckily the entire surprise went to plan well, GastroMum was very surprised and happy with it all, and it was definitely more relaxed than in a fancier location than our East London flat.
Here are a couple of recipies which were used for our Afternoon Tea special.
Russell: These are a lovely treat which we both have enjoyed on a few other occasions. Patrick is far more into his savoury scones, whereas I’m more a fan of the sweet. Generally speaking, when it comes to scones we swear by Sam Stern’s recipe for Buttermilk Scones, which are featured in his book “Virgin to Veteran: How to Get Cooking with Confidence”. However in this instance, a specific recipe for Cherry scones doesn’t appear in any form within the array of cookbooks we own. I adapted Nigella Lawson’s famed ‘Lily’s Scones’ from “How to be a Domestic Goddness”, but made some changes. Most notably,that the scone mix was made a day ahead of baking, then cut and cooked just an hour before serving. But it is fine to make them all at once, if you must *sheds tear*…
- 500g Plain Flour
- 1 Teaspoon salt
- 2 teaspoons bicarbonate of soda
- 4 1/2 teaspoons cream of tartar
- 25g caster sugar
- 75g cold unsalted butter, diced.
- 1 teaspoon Vanilla Paste (optional)
- 300ml milk
- 75g glacé cherries, chopped into quarters.
- 1 large egg, beaten for egg wash.
If you are not resting them overnight, preheat the oven to 220°C. (Make sure you allow it to preheat properly, use the light as your indicator- it’s what its there for! The correct heat is so important in baking).
Weigh the flour, salt, bicarb and cream of tartar into a small bowl and sift it all together in one larger. Using your hands rub in the butter until it goes into a sandy rubble. If using Vanilla Paste add it now. It adds a slight sweetness and a nice subtle flavour, but can be a bit of a luxury and expense. Slowly add in the milk, stirring with a wooden spoon (or your hands if ya nasty).
Remove from the bowl and place on a floured surface and knead very gently to form a dough. Shape it into a somewhat rectangle, wrap in cling film and pop into the fridge until you are about to bake. Otherwise, ignore that wrapping instruction and continue on.
(We believe that by resting them overnight helps to thicken the batter, ensuring it is relaxed and the butter is nicely cooled. By treating it like pastry in that way, it ensures a nice rise and a crispier crumb).
Remove from the fridge and roll the dough out to about an inch or two. Try to keep the dough taller rather than rolled and flattened, as scones never rise to the occasion too much in the oven.
Get a scone cutter, we used a round one but a crinkle one is good too- it’s all about personal preference. The aim is to get about 12 scones from this but re-rolling is permitted for the last couple. Flour your baking tray and place them on it (don’t worry about putting them too far apart) and brush the tops with the eggwash for colour. Avoid letting it drip down the side too much, this inhibits the rise that will happen during baking. Put in the oven and cook for 15-20 minutes or until risen and golden – this will depend on how you cut them and how tall they are.
Serve them warm. If making them far in advance of visitors, you can always wrap them inside some foil, brush a few drops of water on top and put into a warm oven to reheat. We kept them in a fresh tea towel and served them inside it on the table.
We served them with loganberry jam and whipped cream, but are delicious if simply served with melted butter and drizzled with golden syrup.
Pistachio & almond frangipane tartlets
Patrick: These were inspired by a gorgeous little book we found reduced in Marks & Spencer one day called “Pastry” by Richard Bertinet. Russell bought it for the fact that there was a perfectly made Mille Fuille on the cover and he was hungry. But inside, there is an array of gorgeous treats which are styled and photographed in the most beautiful way. Richard’s recipe for Raspberry & pistachio tarts yield large ones which are made with a pistachio pastry and a creme patisserie. We wanted a simpler affair, in a way, by making a modern version of a Cherry Bakewell. I know pistachios are quite expensive, however we noticed Tesco selling a 100g bag of pistachio kernels for £1.49.
500g of sweet pastry made these 4 of these tartlets and 4 lemon curd ones, so roughly 250g of pastry. We did have a bit of frangipane left over too. Maybe enough for one extra tart…if we didn’t use all the pastry.
Ingredients (for 4 mini tartlets)
- 250g homemade sweet pastry (or shop bought shortcrust that is rolled out in icing sugar)
- 60g Pistachios Kernels (plus 40g blitzed on their own in a processor for decoration)
- 60g Ground Almonds
- 150g caster sugar
- 1 tablespoon Agave Syrup or honey (plus a bit for glazing)
- 200g butter, cut into cubes
- 1 teaspoon vanilla paste
- 1 large free-range egg
- raspberries, to serve
Pre-heat the oven to 180°C and begin to grease your tin(s).
Roll out the pastry to the thickness of a pound coin and cut into rounds that are bigger than the holes in the tin. Carefully ease the pastry into the tin, avoiding any breaks or air pockets. Don’t worry if you made them too small to come up the whole way- once it is greased they’ll easily be removed. Scrunch up some rounds of parchment paper and place it inside each shell, filling them with either baking beans, dried pasta or rice. Pop into the oven for 10 minutes, making sure they don’t over bake. They will be returning to the oven later on so the edges cannot catch (go brown). Remove the baking beans and leave to cool in the tin for a few. Carefully place them on a rack to cool down. These can easily be made a day in advance once they are kept in an airtight container.
If cooking all at the same time, keep the oven temperature stable until the pastry cools.
For the filling, place the pistachios into a food processor and pulse until they have been ground down. Obviously skip this step if opting to use the pre-ground version. Then add the ground almonds, sugar, agave syrup/honey, butter, vanilla paste and egg into a food processor. Pulse everything together until it is incorporated and becomes like a paste.
Put a desertspoon of the mixture into each of the pastry cups, ensuring it all stays within the walls of them. Place on a cold lined baking sheet into the oven and bake for about 10 minutes. If you notice the pastry beginning to brown too quickly, cover them loosely with some foil, as the filling needs to be cooked. It can be a teeny bit moist, and 15 minutes should be enough time.
Remove from the oven when the frangipane gets a slight brown caramelised layer on top. Leave to cool, then brush a blob of agave syrup or honey on top to act as a glue. Place a raspberry in the centre of each tartlet, then sprinkle a dusting of the remaining ground pistachios around it. These can be kept for a day or so, but only a monster could resist the draw of these delicate beauties.
Have you tried to perform an afternoon tea ceremony from home before? What did you make? Or do you feel the hotel-style grandure is worthy of the time and cost? Let us know in the comments below, on Twitter or on Facebook.