Spring has sprung, with daffodils nodding in the frosty air and trees starting to bud out. So it seemed apt to celebrate with another tea party!
Once again, our tiny tea party with just one friend featured all-vegetarian recipes, since said friend is a vegetarian. And also because chicken salad, while delicious, seems lazy when you're looking for something new and interesting to try.
This one featured recipes from a new cookbook acquisition, The Lunch Box and Every Kind of Sandwich by Florence Brobeck. My edition was published in 1949, although I believe the original was published sometime in the 1930s.
It's also a bright orange library binding without the original dust jacket. So no pretty cover to show off this time!
Unlike last time, my ambitious list didn't go QUITE as planned. Adapting historic recipes can be like that.
1940s Spring Tea Party Menu
Open-Faced Radish and Butter Sandwiches on White
Open-Faced Cucumber and Cream Cheese Sandwiches on Rye
Blue Cheese, Pecan, and Celery Sandwiches on Whole Grain
1940s Whole Wheat Honey Quick Loaf
1940s "Plain Buns" with Butter and Jam
Fresh Sugared Strawberries
Strawberry Lazy Daisy Cake
Tea with Cream and Sugar
Radish and butter sandwiches just scream spring to me, and they're very easy to put together. To make things extra fancy, cut sliced bakery bread (not the squishy kind from the bread aisle - hit the bakery and get peasant, sourdough, brioche, or in a pinch, French or Italian bread) with a cookie or biscuit cutter into rounds. Spread with soft butter, top with thinly sliced radishes, and a sprinkling of salt (I used pink Himalayan). The salt is what makes the radishes look wet, but adds a nice flavor.
Open-faced cucumber sandwiches are equally easy. Make a cream cheese spread with softened cream cheese (15 seconds in the microwave does the trick), and thinly sliced scallions and dried dill. You can use jarred garlic or minced sweet onion instead of scallions. Spread it on any kind of rye bread. Top with English (a.k.a. seedless - even though they're not - or burpless) cucumbers. If you're hungry, top with another slice of bread spread with the cream cheese mixture, otherwise serve open-faced (which is prettier and more Scandinavian). If you're going really fancy, use fresh dill in the cream cheese and top each sandwich with a sprig of fresh dill.
The little square sandwiches were a mashup of two recipes from the The Lunch Box - "Roquefort Cheese and Celery" and "Pecan and Celery" fillings.
I decided to mash them up - literally - into one, slightly more interesting filling. I mixed a quarter pound of very soft blue cheese with about a cup each of diced pecans and finely minced celery, with a splash of Worcestershire sauce. It was a curious mixture. Next time I would probably add cream cheese to temper the blue cheese a little, and maybe add some scallions and/or smoked paprika. But otherwise it was quite nice on squares of thinly sliced whole grain bakery bread.
Half the fun of tea sandwiches is the fun and dainty shapes you create. I always find it easier to slice the bread first, and then fill, but some people do it the other way around.
Whole Wheat Honey Quick Loaf
When one encounters a recipe entitled "Honey Bread," one expects it to taste of, well, honey. Instead, the spicing of this little quick bread leaves the impression of gingerbread more than honey. Curiously, the recipe also contains no fat. I was skeptical, but aside from an accidental overbaking (which I think dried it out), it turned out fairly decently, if scarcely tasting of honey.
I followed this recipe pretty much to the letter. It makes a tall loaf with a springy crumb - not at all the crumbly, moist, cake-like texture we come to associate with most quick breads today. Much more like true bread texture than cake. Here's the original recipe:
2 cups flour (I used white whole wheat)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup milk
1/2 cup liquid honey
Sift the flour and measure it; then sift three times with the dry ingredients (or if you're lazy, just whisk everything together). Beat the egg with the milk, and stir this into the dry ingredients alternately with the honey. Beat and pour into a greased loaf pan.
Bake in a moderate oven (350 degrees F.) about forty-five minutes or until done.
Tip out of the pan and cool on a rack. Serve with salted butter, honey butter, and/or jam.
1940s "Plain Buns"
This recipe is deceptive. The title, "Plain Buns" is not accurate - flavored with lemon zest and currants (I used golden raisins), the flavor was surprisingly strong and delicious. Designed to be used with cake yeast, all I had was rapid rise yeast, so I think they got a little overproofed. I'm going to try making them with active dry yeast again, so I won't comment too much on what I did, and just give you the original recipe:
1 cup scalded milk
1 tablespoon sugar
1 yeast cake
1 cup flour
2/3 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup butter or margarine
1 tablespoon lard or shortening
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 lemon, grated rind
1 cup seedless raisins or currants (I used golden raisins)
2 or more cups flour
1 egg yolk
Scald the milk, add the sugar to it and, when it has cooled to lukewarm, add the yeast cake broken into small pieces. Cover this and let it stand twenty minutes. Then stir in one cup of sifted flour mixed with the salt. Cover and let this rise until light. Work the butter and lard together until creamy, add gradually the sugar, then the lemon rind. Combine with the first mixture, add the sifted flour (about one and one-half cups) to make a stiff sponge. Beat it well. Cover and let it rise again. Then add chopped raisins or currants and enough more sifted flour to make a soft dough. Cover and let rise again. Then pull off pieces and shape into large rolls. Arrange on a greased baking sheet one inch apart, cover them, and let rise again. Then brush them over with egg yolk, diluted with one teaspoon of water.
Bake in a moderately hot oven (375 degrees F.) twenty minutes. This makes twenty to twenty-four buns.
Obviously I didn't let rapid rise yeast go through fours separate rises! But I think it still overproofed a bit. I also forgot the egg wash! Which meant the buns looked a bit more like rocks. But they sure tasted good, and that's what mattered. If you enjoy the citrusy flavor of hot crossed buns, you'll love these.
Strawberry Lazy Daisy Cake & Walnut Tassies
I've made Strawberry Lazy Daisy Cake before, but this time I was somehow out of coconut, so I used chopped pecans for the topping as chopped nuts are the other traditional topping ingredient. Not QUITE as good as the coconut, but still yummy.
Sadly for you, I did not make the walnut tassies (my friend did), and thus cannot share the recipe. However, she, like I did, had to make some substitutions! For Walnut Tassies are supposed to be Pecan Tassies, but my friend was out of pecans, so walnuts it was. The original recipe is supposed to be like tiny pecan pies, but tiny walnut pies were equally good.
One of the primary joys of tea parties, of course, is in the dishes. I've got my vintage Fire King Azurite Charm teacups and saucers, with newly acquired luncheon plates, some milk glass compotes with sugared strawberries in them, milk glass D ring mugs for cocoa, and assortment of vintage servingware in springy shades, on a vintage floral tablecloth. With tulips in the middle, of course.
If you missed the last spring tea party, you can check it out here, with a promise of more to come!
Have you had a tea party recently? What favorite food did you feature? Tell us in the comments!
The Food Historian blog is supported by patrons on Patreon! Patrons help keep blog posts like this one free and available to the public. Join us for awesome members-only content like free digitized cookbooks from my personal collection, e-newsletter, and even snail mail from time to time!
Sarah Wassberg Johnson has an MA in Public History from the University at Albany and studies early 20th century food history.