Tuesday, January 15, 2013

A Downton Moment

Yep. I'm a fan too. And can you blame me? I'm fascinated with the characters, and the lives they each lead. (And the clothes. LOVE the clothes!)

But it struck me, as I was watching a Downton Abbey scene with tea, that often the concept of Afternoon Tea might seem intimidating to the average Jane, or Jen, for that matter. And it doesn't have to be. I did a little quick research (alright, fine! I Googled it!) I wanted to see what a "typical" afternoon tea spread looked like. Some suggested sample tea menus I found from the early 1900's just might surprise you.

Suggested home tea menus for a week from: Cookery Illustrated and Household Managment, Elizabeth Craig [Odshams Press:London]
  • "Afternoon Tea: Brown Bread and Butter, Potted Salmon Sandwiches, Picklets Rock Cakes, Scotch Jam Sandwich. (p. 619)
  • "Afternoon Tea: Hot Buttered Toast, Mustard and Cress Sandwiches, French Biscuits, Maids of Honour, Dundee Cake. Note--If liked, spread hot toast with butter creamed with caster sugar and ground cinnamon to taste.
  • "Afternoon Tea: Milk Bread and Butter, Whitstable Sandwiches, Rice Buns, Ginger Snaps, Caramel Layer Cake. (p. 622)
  • "Afternoon Tea: Bloater Cream Sandwiches, White Bread and Butter, Lemon Cheese, Rice Biscuits, Meringues, Canadian Layer Cake. (p. 625)
As found on http://www.foodtimeline.org/teatime.html

The general rule was to provide light refreshment that could carry one through to dinner, but also not soil one's gloves.

What I see is: some sort of bread and butter, a light sandwich (crustless, I'm sure), a bun or biscuit and a cake.

Armed with this information, why not throw a Downton Abbey afternoon tea viewing party? Here's your menu and recipes:

A Downton Afternoon Tea
Cinnamon Toast Points
Refreshing Cucumber Sandwiches
Gregg's Pumpkin Bread
Easy Butter Tea Cakes
Suggested Tea
Any strong black tea that will stand up to milk and sugar

Cinnamon Toast Points

Mix 2 Tbsp granulated sugar with desired amount of cinnamon to your taste. Butter 4 pieces of toast. Sprinkle light, even layer of sugar mixture across buttered toast. Cut toasts diagonally to create 4 triangles per piece of toast. Serves 8.

Refreshing Cucumber Sandwiches


·         1 – (8 ounce) package cream cheese, softened

·         1 medium cucumber, peeled, and thinly sliced

·         1/2 teaspoon dried dill

·         8 white sandwich bread slices


1.      Spread cream cheese on each slice of bread

2.      Layer cucumber slices evenly on 4 slices of bread

3.      Sprinkle dill lightly on remaining 4 slices of bread

4.      Assemble sandwiches

5.      Cut crusts from bread, using serrated bread knife, discarding crusts.

6.      Cut sandwiches diagonally into quarters. Store cucumber sandwiches in an airtight container for up to 1 hour before serving.

Gregg’s Pumpkin Bread


·         3 cups sugar

·         1 cup vegetable oil

·         4 eggs

·         2/3 cup water

·         1 (15 oz) can pumpkin puree

·         2 tsp ground ginger

·         1 tsp ground allspice

·         1 tsp cinnamon

·         3 ½ cups all purpose flour

·         2 tsp baking soda

·         1 ½ tsp salt

·         ½ tsp baking powder


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease two 9x5 inch loaf pans.

In a large bowl, combine sugar, oil and eggs; beat until smooth. Add water and beat until well blended. Stir in pumpkin, ginger, allspice and cinnamon.

In medium bowl, combine flour, soda, salt, and baking powder. Add dry ingredients to pumpkin mixture and blend just until all ingredients are mixed. Divide batter between prepared pans.

Bake in preheated oven until toothpick comes out clean, about 1 hour.

Easy Butter Tea Cakes


·         1 1/2 cups sugar

·         1 cup butter, room temperature

·         2 eggs

·         2 3/4 cups flour

·         1 teaspoon baking soda

·         2 teaspoons cream of tartar

·         1/2 teaspoon salt


Combine the sugar and butter in a mixer bowl, beating until light and fluffy. Add the eggs 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. In another bowl, combine flour, baking soda, cream of tartar, and salt; add to creamed mixture and mix well. Shape cookie dough into small balls. Arrange on a cookie sheet. Press flat with the flat bottom of a glass. Bake at 350° for 10 minutes.

And, of course, remember a little pitcher of milk and a bowl of sugar cubes!