Monday, 14 April 2008

English Tea, Bakewell tarts and chocolate muffins

I have just read an article from the BBC that a new guide states that in England afternoon tea is "enacted daily" apparently at 4:00 we all stop, get out the tea pot, delicate sandwiches and fruit cake!
I'm sure anyone who is English will find this amusing, as obviously the author of this guide has never been to England, or at least not in the last century. As an Englishman I would like to make it clear that this is nonsense, I and no one I have ever met does this. However last Saturday for the first time ever we had tea...A traditional English tea refers to a meal rather than the drink, although a proper tea pot is essential. It traditionally involves delicate finger food such as cucumber, salmon or ham sandwiches, small cakes often feature as do larger cakes such as Victoria sponge or a fruit cake. Scones are also very popular and are usually served with jam and clotted cream. Although very unusual in homes now, afternoon tea is still a feature in grand hotels such as The Ritz.

For our tea I made a Bakewell tart and chocolate muffins.

Bakewell tarts were invented in the town of Bakewell in Derbyshire. They are a similar to the original Bakewell pudding which differs slightly by having no ground almonds, it is more like a custard tart flavoured with almond extract. Although not the same, the tart is derived from the pudding.Whenever we pass through Bakewell I always pick one up from one of the bakeries that sells them. There are three such bakeries each with a secret "original recipe". The shops claim that the pudding was invented by accident in the 1860's when a nobleman visited the White Horse Inn and asked for a strawberry tart, the cook poured the eggs that were supposed to be in the base over the jam and Bakewell pudding was born. This probably isn't true but they're delicious anyway!
Real Bakewell tarts are very different to what you may have tried before, there is no icing and no cherry on top, the real thing is much nicer and I do recommend you try them, you can even buy a pudding by post from two of the the original shops!

The chocolate muffins I made aren't quite so traditional, they are more American style, I should have made little fairy cakes but, I was searching for recipes and these looked delicious. The batter is a bit different to regular sponge mix as it contains a lot of milk ( 1 cup for 12 muffins) They were really tasty and the leftovers had actually improved the next day. The icing is a simple chocolate buttercream.For our tea we also had cucumber sandwiches, ham and salmon open rolls, a Victoria sponge and a selection of bits and pieces such as crisps and olives.

Unfortunately I don't have the recipes to hand, I will post them next week, but here's a similar recipe for Bakewell tart, I used puff pastry for my version which I think is closer to the original.

5 comments: said...

I've really learned something today.
Thank you!

This is a great blog; I like your writing style and the photography. Keep up the hard work - it will pay off.

Mrs. W said...

Love the blog! And I wonder if you could discuss more about tea--I am frequently in arguements with people who refer to what you describe as tea in this post as "high tea." My understanding is that is incorrect--that "high tea" is really what we Americans would call "dinner."

Sam said...

Mrs. W Yes you're right, afternoon tea was traditionaly taken by the upper classes around 4:00 and was a light meal before a proper dinner later on.
The middle and lower classes would take High tea later in the evening and this was more substantial, it was the main evening meal. Apparently the name high tea comes from the high tables it was served on - Dinner tables.
Thanks for the comments, glad you like the Blog!!


Christina said...

Heh, I'll remember that about afternoon tea so I won't sound like an ignorant foreigner!

The tart looks very good, thanks for the recipe! It doesn't look like it needs any icing because it would just detract from the flavors already present.

Sam said...

Christina, I agree about the icing, it also makes it very sweet. For some reason it's what all the supermarkets sell, there normally individual and with a cherry on top. do you have these in America?

I'm totally ignorant about American food, i'm learning though!