It’s tea time again at the Victorianachronists! Sunday was a beautiful day – the sun was out, the garden was in bloom – it was a perfect day for tea outdoors. To go with our tea, I made some delicious (Mostly) Healthy Apple Cookie Butter Bran Muffins. I used the Bran Muffin recipe from my Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook and added the delicious combination of apples and Trader Joe’s Speculoos Cookie Butter. Have you had this stuff? It’s incredible.
These muffins turned out really well, and they’re pretty healthy overall. No white sugar, no butter, and very little oil. In fact, I accidentally left out the tablespoon of cooking oil in the recipe, and I didn’t miss it at all. I prepared the batter as directed in the cookbook except that I chopped up an apple and folded it in instead of using the raisins in the recipe. I also used whole wheat flour instead of white.
I filled each muffin cup about halfway and added about a teaspoon of cookie butter into the center of each muffin cup. I warmed the cookie butter in the microwave to make it a little easier to spoon onto the muffins.
After adding the cookie butter, I added the rest of the batter on top.
After baking for the prescribed time, the muffins came out gooey and delicious.
I am my toughest critic when it comes to cooking, and I have definitely tried a few things that did not turn out so well (see our Sacher Torte post), but I was really pleased with these muffins. The apple/cookie butter combination is so good that it’s hard to go wrong when you put the two together. When we ran out of muffins, and I told Heather it was time for her to go home, she got so upset that she spilled her tea on herself in despair. The evidence is on the ground.
God, we’re sophisticated. Until next time!
We here at the Vicky A’s love nothing more than a charming tea shop filled with delightful foods and delicious teas. Well, dear Reader, look no further than Miss Minerva’s Tea Shop in historic downtown Culpeper VA. They have an incredible assortment of delicious teas (more than 50 varieties!), from rooibos to tisane, and serve a full menu of delicious afternoon/full tea food items. I especially adore that they serve “Wee Tea” or “Tween Tea” for their younger customers. Get them started early!!
(All photos are taken from their website and are completely representative of the food and atmosphere.)
You can also order their teas by the quarter, half, and full pound. In a Tea Tuesday in the near future, I will review my personal favorite of their teas, the Cream Earl Grey. It is a must-have in my household and we start to get nervous when we approach the half-pound or below mark. They also sell tea paraphernalia like tea infusers, tea spoons, jams, and antique tea cups and pots in their gift shop. Pots and cups and other antique curiosities for sale can be found all over the tea room, so I usually find myself walking out with at least one or two things each time I go. Anyone who enjoys good tea will tell you that the collecting of tea items is just as addictive as the tea itself!
We usually take Tea for Two, which on their menu is their full English tea for two people. They present it on a triple-tiered server with sandwiches on the bottom, scones usually in the middle, with other savouries like puff pastries and veggies on crostini, and desserts on the top, including cookies, cake, and truffles. They also have a cranberry chicken salad served on a croissant that is to die for. All the food and tea is seriously delicious and I usually find myself craving it on sunny weekends when you’re looking for that extra shot of happiness to top off the perfect day.
Another wonderful aspect of the shop is the room in the back filled with hats, gloves, scarves and costume jewelry for people to borrow if they want to be appropriately dressed for the occasion. Many times I’ve seen a family and their children rush to the costume room and emerge wearing gigantic feathered hats and a string of too-long pearls in order to be “ready” for tea! Everyone should dress like a queen for tea!
If you are in VA in the near future by yourself or with family and have a craving for afternoon tea, do stop by Miss Minerva’s. It’ll be the highlight of your day and you’ll be more than happy to skip dinner for the night.
This Saturday, the Vicky A Girls had a tea party — a rainbow tea party. A rainbow theme seemed like the perfect way to honor St. Patrick’s Day, Easter, and Spring all at the same time. Plus, who doesn’t love eating colorful food? Here’s what was on our menu:
- Rainbow Lemonade
- Confetti Cake Batter Scones
- Rainbow Macarons
- Tea Sandwiches on Rainbow Bread
- Fruit Salad
- Cadbury Chocolate Easter Eggs
Next, the rainbow bread! I used a recipe I found here on The Artistic Farmer. I followed her recipe pretty much exactly and it turned out to be spectacular. Look at those colors! I was so pleased with how this turned out – it was almost too pretty to eat. Plus, the recipe makes two loaves, so my husband and I had rainbow sandwiches all week at work. Cool for me, embarrassing for husband.
Once you have rainbow bread, what can you do but make rainbow tea sandwiches? I made chicken salad and cucumber sandwiches with sprouts and avocado and then cut them in halves. I didn’t want to take the crust off the bread like typical finger sandwiches because the crust was too good!
Next comes the scones! We did a whole post on scone-making a while back so I used our basic recipe, which is really Alton Brown’s recipe, but made a few additions. To make them cake batter scones, I left out a half cup of flour and subbed in a half cup of Pillsbury Funfetti cake batter. Since packaged cake batter already has baking powder, salt, and sugar in it, I reduced those ingredient quantities by kind of arbitrary amounts – I used my judgment. I knocked the sugar down by a good bit to keep the scones from being too sweet, and I knocked the baking powder and salt down by just a skosh. Plus, I mixed in a ton of extra rainbow sprinkles.
The texture came out right despite the addition of the cake batter, which I was pleased with, but the cake batter flavor was pretty subtle. Next time I might try to add a bit more. I mixed some powdered sugar, vanilla, and milk together to create a glaze to make them a bit sweeter and spread that on top. Scones done! Time to set the table and wait for the guests.
Heather brought fruit salad and another guest brought the macarons, which tasted fantastic and were a beautiful color blue.
Plus, Heather brought these which were awesomely perfect for the occasion.
Once all the food arrived, it was time for the best part – piling the goodies on the three-tier tray! Drool…
But before we can eat we have to choose our tea, and that can be a tough decision when faced with this array of choices:
All in all, it was a delightful repast.
Bonus tea party tip: Real ladies take a little whiskey with their tea.
It’s a gloomy March day here at the Vicky A’s, filled with fog and snow and general dreariness. What could cure such a day? Tea, of course. (You had to ask?)
For a day like this, I personally like to break out the big guns: a sturdy, strong black tea, like an Earl Grey or something with a bit of punch. I have a Cream Earl Grey that cures most ills (which I will review in a later post) but for a day like today, my choice is Fortnum and Mason’s Smoky Earl Grey.
As stated on Fortnum’s website, it’s Earl Grey with a touch of Gunpowder and Lapsang Souchong teas blended in. Their description is as follows: “Created in response to a request from the Palace for a smokier Earl Grey, this unique blend combines traditional bergamot with a touch of Lapsang and Gunpowder tea, combining the best qualities of all three.”
As a lover of all strong teas (well, almost all; we’ll talk about the Lapsang another time), I have to agree that it’s an incredible blend. Thanks to the supersmokey quality of the Lapsang (from F&M’s description: “to give [the Lapsang Souchong] its unmistakable flavour, the plucked leaves are withered over pine fires, pan-dried and rolled and placed in bamboo baskets and smoked over smouldering pinewood fires.”), and the somewhat more subtle smoke of the Gunpowder tea, this is not for the faint of heart or palate but definitely good for a day like today, when nothing else will do. The recognizable comforting flavor of the Earl Grey is enhanced by the unusual earthiness of the multiple layers of smoke and envelopes you in an aroma that recalls the strength and comfort of a roaring fire. I’m not sure I was as in love with it the first time I tried it as I am now but the more I sipped it, the more I liked it and appreciated its complexity. This, of course, only encourages me to more tea-related derring-do!
If interested, I highly recommend ordering directly from the F&M’s site; their teas are utter magic and I have found I can’t be without them for very long. Since we’re not in London often enough to restock in person, we order online and are always amazed at how quickly it ships. The quality of the tea itself is worth the UK shipping price.
As for this particular tea, F&Ms suggests that you brew it 3-5 minutes and take it with a little milk or with a slice of lemon or orange on the side. I prefer all my teas straight with no additives so I get the full, unadulterated flavor but perhaps one day I’ll see what this whole “adding milk to tea” bit is all about. Cheers!
The Vicky A girls like drinking tea, and what is a tea party without scones? It’s a boring tea party, that’s what it is. Scones can be tricky to make, so here the Vicky A girls give you some fool-proof techniques to make perfect scones every time.
Wait, crap, the recipe says 375 degrees.
Ok, get a grip, this is why we wear steel-toed boots in the kitchen. Because of the knives. On to the ingredients.
Note the “off-brand” nature of many of the ingredients. Vicky is a thrifty lady. You will also need some other ingredients not pictured here, but those are secret. Also, drink some tea at this point. You’re doing a great job (Just kidding about the secret ingredients).
Phew, tastes so good. Ok, one of the classic rookie mistakes in baking is the ole’ baking powder vs baking soda switcheroo. Do NOT use baking soda.
Now we’re ready to go! When you are baking, it is important to use a recipe. Make sure your recipe is written clearly and legibly. See also our post on handwriting.
When the Vicky A girls make scones, we like to use Alton Brown’s recipe, which you can find here. It is reliable and easily adaptable for any type of scone – fresh or dried fruit, nuts, chocolate chips, you name it. So start by getting that recipe and decide on the flavoring for your scones (our favorites include dried cranberries, dried blueberries or the strawberries you will see here). Next, combine your dry ingredients. In baking, measurements need to be precise to get the expected results, so level off your dry ingredients with a knife before adding to the bowl.
Next, cut in the fat. You can use butter, shortening, or margarine. You can even use half of each. Alton uses half butter and half shortening, so that’s what we do. We also do not have a pastry cutter, and using your hands is easier and more fun anyway, so just get in there with that manicure!
In a smaller bowl, combine the wet ingredients. Alton’s recipe calls for milk and an egg.
Turn the dough out onto a HEAVILY floured surface. Don’t be shy – just dump the whole bag out. You’re going to need it.
Flatten the mound and fold it in half a couple of times. Don’t knead it, just fold it and flatten it back out. Your hands should look something like this.
Bake them until they are golden brown. Watch them carefully – burned scones are not delicious.
Finally! Now it’s time to enjoy your scones. The Vicky A girls like ours with jam and clotted cream – the proper way, of course. These are some of the brands we prefer (now is NOT the time to use off-brand products!), but you may have your own faves.
And finally, eat your scones! With tea, of course.