Afternoon Tea: Organizing Your Time

Up to two weeks before is the best time to begin the baking and freezing process.  Sit down with your menu and write two separate shopping lists: one for the baked goods you will produce in the weeks before, and one for the fillings that will be made in the days before. The Cheese Biscuits, Orange Bread, and puffs all hold up beautifully throughout the freezing and defrosting process.  If you’re a novice baker, prepare the Orange Bread first.  The instant gratification as your senses are rewarded by the sight and aroma of this lovely loaf will propel you forward, leaving your mixer in full view and ready for the next round of baking.  I prefer to do all of my baking on the same day if time allows – each recipe should only require about forty-five to sixty minutes of active through clean-up time.

To freeze each of your creations: Allow them to cool completely on wire racks.  For the Orange bread, wrap tightly in plastic followed by a coat of tin foil as well.  Be certain to seal completely. The Cheese biscuits and puffs can be stored in freezer-sealed bags.  Transfer them, bagged, onto a wire rack to keep them flat and undamaged.

To defrost: Crack open the bags; loosen the plastic and foil on the breads, and allow to return to room temperature.  If there is lingering moisture from the freezing/defrosting process, place goods in a low temp oven of 275 degrees for a few minutes (no longer than five).  Be sure to watch them carefully as you don’t want them to dry out.

Three days before prepare the Ginger-Apple Butter, Wasabi Aioli, and Curried Mayonnaise.

Two days before prepare the Ham Salad as well as the Lemon Pound Cake.  The salad goes in the fridge, as always, tightly covered.  Your Lemon cake also goes into the fridge once it has cooled completely and the icing is set.  Give this a nice coat of plastic wrap as well.

The day before you will prep the watercress, rinsing, drying, and removing the tough stems.  Wrap in a paper towel and store in the fridge.  Save a few nice sprigs for garnish.

Prepare the shrimp and combine with the curried mayonnaise.

You may slice the strawberries today, again saving a few intact ones for garnish, but wait until tomorrow before sprinkling with the sugar.  This part may be done up to three hours before your party.

Defrost the baked goods as previously directed.

Prepare the scones and once cooled, store at room temp in an airtight container.

The day of is show time.  It is best to organize yourself in advance to prepare the sandwiches in an assembly line fashion.  While not necessary, it is a whole lot more fun to have a partner at this point.  One of you can slice the breads, biscuits, and puffs (a glass of wine in hand makes this even more pleasurable) while the other slathers them with the assorted spreads.  You will need a good serrated bread knife to cut the biscuits, etc.

I get out my largest cookie sheets and lay out the cut halves – crumbs contained, saving sweeping/cleanup time.

Once everything is assembled, cover each platter with a damp towel followed by a layer of plastic wrap.  This keeps the breads moist.  Refrigerate all up to three hours before.

And don’t forget to add the sugar to the sliced strawberries!

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