24 November 2016

Afternoon Tea Party Tips - Le Creuset Giveaway - 3-Tier Stand

Afternoon Tea Party Tips - Le Creuset Giveaway - 3-Tier Stand / delightfulrepast.com

Great gift idea! A 3-tier stand is a stylish way to serve hors d'oeuvres at your next party, though of course it is tailor-made for afternoon tea. 

Afternoon tea, the classic British-style afternoon tea, is something I enjoy as often as I can, at home or at a friend's home, at a posh hotel or a cozy tearoom. 

My first posh hotel afternoon tea was at the Empress, now the Fairmont Empress, in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada. It was only fitting, since I had heard so much about it from my mother and grandmother who had emigrated from England to Victoria (then eventually to the US). And, of course, we had tea at home. Tea has been my beverage of choice since the age of two. 

I give afternoon teas for my friends and have "converted" many to tea over the years. I've had smaller and larger teas, but most often have four to six people, sometimes indoors and sometimes in the garden in the gazebo. I make two or three different tea sandwiches; scones with clotted cream, lemon curd and raspberry or strawberry jam; shortbread and other sweets. 

The good thing is, nearly all the work is done in advance, so you have time for a bit of a lie-down before putting on your tea frock and greeting your guests. And, if you are new to giving afternoon teas, do keep it simple the first few times. Here’s all you need to know!

Afternoon Tea Party Tips - Le Creuset Giveaway - 3-Tier Stand / www.delightfulrepast.com

How to Throw an Afternoon Tea Party 

1 The three courses, the three S's of tea—sandwiches, scones, and sweets—can be extravagant or simple. Indoors, I usually have guests serve themselves at the tea table and sit round the living room. Outdoors, we sit at the table in the gazebo and have a sideboard for the things that won’t fit on the table. 

The afternoon tea pictured here was what I call a Table Tea in the corner of my kitchen. Did you notice that beautiful red Le Creuset 3-Tier Stand (available in 8 colors)? A 3-tier stand is just the thing for afternoon tea. Sandwiches on the bottom, scones in the middle and sweets on top makes sense to me because I like to eat more sandwiches and fewer sweets.

Afternoon Tea Party Tips - Le Creuset Giveaway - 3-Tier Stand / www.delightfulrepast.com

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2 Invite your guests to dress for the occasion. It will add to the ambience. For the ladies, this means dresses, gloves (removed before eating, of course) and even hats, if they have them. For the gentlemen, the male equivalent (though I usually don't ask anything more than long trousers and polo shirts of the men!). 

My friends and I always create somewhat of a sensation when we go out to tea in our tea attire. We like to think we bring up the tone of the place!

3 Since afternoon tea is a brief occasion, anywhere from one and a half to two hours or so, be sure to put the word “precisely” in front of the time on the invitation (as in “precisely three o’clock”). And, please, don’t call it “high tea,” which is the informal main evening meal sometimes called a “meat tea.” 

Afternoon Tea Party Tips - Le Creuset Giveaway - 3-Tier Stand / www.delightfulrepast.com

4 To make a proper pot of black tea, just before a kettle of freshly drawn water comes to the boil, warm the teapot with hot water, empty it, add one teaspoon of tea leaves for each 8 ounces of water. Immediately pour in the freshly boiling water, let it stand for 5 minutes, stir, and then strain into cups. If you prefer to use a tea ball, be sure it is large enough to allow the tea leaves to unfurl. Serve with sugar or sugar cubes, thin slices (not wedges) of lemon and a small pitcher of milk (never cream).

You'll want to experiment with tea amounts and steeping times, shorter or longer by a minute or two, with each new tea you try to get just the brew you like. 

Afternoon Tea Party Tips - Le Creuset Giveaway - 3-Tier Stand / www.delightfulrepast.com

5 Make one to three kinds of tiny, crustless sandwiches (six to eight total per person), and cover them properly* before refrigerating for a couple of hours until serving time. You might also include savory tartlets, mini quiches or mini meat pies

You'll see the method in the directions for my tea sandwich recipes.

Since this tea was just a "simple" Table Tea in my kitchen, I made just two kinds of sandwiches: Almond Chicken and Egg and Dill Tea Sandwiches

Afternoon Tea Party Tips - Le Creuset Giveaway - 3-Tier Stand / www.delightfulrepast.com

6 Scones, another afternoon tea essential, can also be made ahead; just reheat at the last moment. Homemade are vastly superior to store-bought and so easy to make. Serve with raspberry or strawberry jam, lemon curd and clotted cream

Afternoon Tea Party Tips - Le Creuset Giveaway - 3-Tier Stand / www.delightfulrepast.com

I nearly always cut my scones into wedges because that's the shape my mother and grandmother made. And if you read the recipe, you'll find another good reason. 

7 Make or buy a selection of dainty sweet treats, perhaps three of the following: shortbread or other biscuits (cookies), miniature cream puffs, mini muffins, petits fours and pecan tartlets. 

In addition to my homemade fruitcake, I served Walker's Shortbread and mini eclairs that I bought for the occasion. 

Update 12/01/16: The giveaway is now closed

Afternoon Tea Party Tips - Le Creuset Giveaway - 3-Tier Stand / www.delightfulrepast.com

Le Creuset 3-Tier Stand Giveaway

This giveaway is open to US residents* 18 years of age or older. Leave a comment below (one entry per person) that includes what you want to serve on the 3-tier stand. Please include your email address in the body of your comment. Must enter by 11:59 p.m. Eastern time Wednesday November 30.

*If you are outside the US but would like to have this sent to someone in the US (you would have to send them a gift card separately on your own), go ahead and enter!

Bonus entry: If you are on Twitter, you may have one bonus entry by following Le Creuset on Twitter and Delightful Repast on Twitter. Leave a second comment below with your Twitter name. (Must include Twitter name!) 

Winner will be chosen by random drawing and be announced here in the comments before noon Eastern time on Thursday December 1. If I don't hear back from the winner of the random drawing by noon Eastern time Sunday December 4, another drawing will be held and a new winner selected from the original entrants (those who commented before the giveaway deadline).

Disclosure: Le Creuset provided a 3-tier stand for review purposes and one for the giveaway. I received no compensation. The views expressed here are entirely my own. I always tell my readers what I really think!

17 November 2016

Fruitcake - Christmas Cake - Wedding Cake

Fruitcake - Christmas Cake - Traditional English Wedding Cake / www.delightfulrepast.com

Fruitcake is just called fruitcake all year round in the US, but in the UK at this time of year it's also called Christmas cake. If it's made on what is called Stir-Up Sunday (20 November this year), as some have the tradition, it has just over a month to mature (or ripen) before the holiday.

I'm posting my recipe now for those who observe that tradition, but I love fruitcake year round and am as likely to make it at the height of summer as now. And when I say fruitcake, I mean proper fruitcake, not those horrible shop-bought things that double as doorstops, filled with cheap sugary "fruits" that glow in the dark!

If you think you don't like fruitcake, you've probably never had a good one!

I go easy on the spices -- it's not a spice cake, after all -- and use a combination of organic dried fruits and nuts. It's quite a process (but not a lot of work really) -- soaking the fruits, making the cake, feeding it each week and then icing the cake in marzipan and royal icing; but I skip that last step. If I want to get fancy, I'll brush on some warm apricot jam and arrange sliced almonds or pecan halves over the top.

When I was a teenager, my mother and I (we developed the recipe together) would make huge batches of this in assorted sizes. Such fun! There is only one store-bought fruitcake (in the US anyway) that I like: the DeLuxe® Fruitcake from Collin Street Bakery in Corsicana, Texas. (And, no, they didn't pay me to say that; but if they wanted to send me a fruitcake, I wouldn't turn it down!)

It's a bit late now, but I can't think why I didn't have fruitcake as the top tier of our wedding cake. It was once the traditional wedding cake in the UK and a tradition I would have happily carried on.

Since fruitcake is so rich, it is cut into quite small pieces. And you may have noticed how difficult it can be to handle very thin wedges of cake. I've found the easiest way to serve the cake is to cut a 2-inch circle out of the middle and then cut 28 (about 28) 3/4-inch-thick (2 cm) slices from the ring.

I used the Ateco Stainless Steel 2x3-Inch Round Form to cut the 2-inch circle, then later thought, why not just put it in the middle of my pan and hold it steady as I put in the batter? You could turn any pan into a ring mould!

How about you? Are you a fruitcake fan? If not, I bet you would be if you made this one! Other winter traditions you might want to try: Eggnog and Mince Pies.

Fruitcake - Christmas Cake - Traditional English Wedding Cake / www.delightfulrepast.com
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(Makes one 7-inch/18cm cake)

The Fruit 

3/4 packed cup* (3.75 ounces/106 grams) dark raisins or currants
3/4 packed cup* (3.75 ounces/106 grams) sultanas (golden raisins) or diced dried papaya
3/4 packed cup* (3.75 ounces/106 grams) dried cherries or cranberries
3/4 packed cup* (3.75 ounces/106 grams) diced dried pineapple or apricots 

*OR 1 cup (5 ounces/142 grams) each of three dried fruits -- I used currants, cherries and pineapple for this one 

1/2 packed cup (3.75 ounces/106 grams) moist pitted prunes, diced 
1 medium organic or unsprayed and unwaxed orange for zest and juice (about 2 fluid ounces/59 ml)
1/2 medium organic or unsprayed and unwaxed lemon for zest and juice (about 1.5 fluid ounces/44 ml)
1/4 cup (2 fluid ounces/59 ml) brandy 

The Cake 

1 dip-and-sweep cup (5 ounces/142 grams) unbleached all-purpose flour
1/4 firmly packed cup (1 ounce/28 grams) almond flour (finely ground almonds)

1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1/4 teaspoon mace or nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon salt 
2 cups (8 ounces/227 grams) coarsely chopped pecans
1/2 cup (4 ounces/ 113 grams) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/3 packed cup (2.33 ounces/66 grams) dark brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs (large eggs US are medium eggs UK) 

Fruitcake - Christmas Cake - Traditional English Wedding Cake / www.delightfulrepast.com

1 About 12 to 24 hours before mixing cake, stir together fruit, zest, juice and brandy in a 1.5-quart bowl. Cover tightly and let stand for about 12 to 24 hours.

2 Prepare baking tin. Butter the inside of 7-inch/18cm springform pan (about 2.75 inches/7cm deep). Line the bottom with a circle of parchment paper; butter the parchment. Set the tin on a quarter sheet pan for baking.

Note: By way of experimenting, I also in one case wrapped the tin in a double layer of parchment that extends above the tin and tied it with string. The idea is to prevent over-cooking during the long bake, but I don't think it was necessary. Another idea I tried with one cake was to put a pan of hot water in the oven with the cake. Again, I don't know that it is at all necessary. I think putting the springform pan on a heavy-duty quarter sheet pan for baking is all you need to do. 

3 Preheat oven to 275F/135C/Gas1. In 1-quart bowl, whisk together flour, almond flour, ground spices and salt. Stir in chopped nuts. 

4 In bowl of stand mixer or in a 2-quart bowl with electric mixer or big spoon, cream together softened butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add vanilla extract and eggs, one at a time; mix well. 

5 By hand, stir in flour mixture, followed by the soaked fruits. This recipe makes about 5 cups of batter. Scrape batter into prepared baking tin, pack it in firmly and smooth the top. 

6 Bake on the baking sheet for 2 1/2 hours, then test. If toothpick inserted in center does not come out clean, check it every 10 minutes. I aim for 200 to 210F/93 to 99C on instant-read thermometer. 

Fruitcake - Christmas Cake - Traditional English Wedding Cake

7 When it is done, take the tin from the baking sheet and place it on a wire rack to cool for 20 minutes. Remove cake from the tin and continue cooling until it is completely cool. The cake is 2 inches high and weighs about 2 pounds 14 ounces (2.875 pounds/1.3 kg). 

8 When completely cool, use a toothpick or fine skewer to prick holes all over the top of the cake about an inch apart. Sprinkle 1 1/2 tablespoons of brandy evenly over the top of the cake. Wrap in parchment and foil; store at room temperature in tightly covered container. Take out and "feed" or "doctor" with 1 tablespoon of brandy once a week. Keep for at least 4 weeks before using to allow the flavour to develop.

10 November 2016

Make-Ahead Turkey Gravy and Broth

Make-Ahead Turkey Gravy and Broth / www.delightfulrepast.com

Making the turkey gravy ahead of time is something I've been doing for decades. Once you try it, you'll never go back to doing the last-minute rush ever again. 

You know what I'm talking about. The potatoes are mashed at the last minute, the dinner rolls are heated at the last minute, so many things to see to. By the time you sit down at the table, you're red-faced, frizzy-haired, overheated and generally just done for! 

I would suggest setting aside a day to do this right away. Get it done well in advance. You'll have enough broth for stuffing/dressing as well as gravy. Just freeze both until a day or two before you need them. If you make it just three days ahead, just refrigerate it. 

(You can make the Cranberry Sauce two days ahead. Try it! You'll never go back to canned!)

Though it's made with just 2 pounds of turkey, the gravy tastes wonderful. But, if you want added flavor or want to increase the amount of gravy, when you take your turkey out of the pan on the big day, combine the pan drippings (minus the fat) and make-ahead gravy for added oomph.

On the matter of broth: I'm a huge fan of store-bought organic free-range low-sodium chicken broth, but NOT for anything to do with a turkey dinner. You MUST make turkey broth, whether this way or with the neck, etc, on the day you roast the turkey. You know I don't like to be dogmatic, but chicken broth is no substitute!

Do you like to make things ahead or do it all on the day?

Make-Ahead Turkey Gravy and Broth / www.delightfulrepast.com

Make-Ahead Turkey Gravy

(Makes about 4 cups)

The Turkey

2 turkey drumsticks* (about 2 pounds/0.91 kg total)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
1 tablespoon dry sherry plus enough water to make 1/2 cup (4 fluid ounces/118 ml)

* Other parts might work, too, but I've only ever used drumsticks as they are more readily available where I shop.

The Broth

1 medium onion, peeled and halved
2 medium carrots, cut into 3-inch pieces
4 medium celery stalks, cut into 3-inch pieces
Handful of fresh parsley
1 bay leaf
1/2 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
2 1/2 quarts (80 fluid ounces/2.36 litres) water

The Gravy

1/3 dip-and-sweep cup (1.67 ounces/47 grams) unbleached all-purpose flour
4 cups (32 fluid ounces/946 ml) of The Broth

1 Preheat oven to 400F/205C/Gas6. Lightly oil a heavy-duty quarter sheet pan. Pat the drumsticks dry and place them in the prepared pan. Sprinkle all sides with salt and pepper. Roast for 60 to 70 minutes. Sixty minutes would probably be enough, but I like to get maximum brown bits in the roasting pan. Just be sure you don't let it burn. Burned bits are not good!

2 Transfer the drumsticks to a 5-quart pot (I use a Le Creuset 5.5-quart round French oven); set aside for the moment.

3 Place the roasting pan on the stove and pour in the liquid a little at a time, stirring and scraping up the browned bits. When pan is completely deglazed, pour the liquid into a jar, bowl or 1-cup glass measure; refrigerate. You'll see from the photo that I ended up with about 1/4 cup of fat, which is perfect!

Make-Ahead Turkey Gravy and Broth / www.delightfulrepast.com

4 Add vegetables and seasonings to the pot, along with water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer with lid slightly ajar for 4 hours, checking liquid level after second and third hours and adding more water only if needed.

Make-Ahead Turkey Gravy and Broth / www.delightfulrepast.com

5 Strain the broth into a 2-quart glass measure. You will have 6 to 8 cups of broth.

6 Transfer your refrigerated pan drippings to a 2-quart saucepan and begin heating. Add flour to pan drippings and cook, whisking or stirring constantly, for 2 minutes.

7 Add about 1/2 cup of the stock and whisk briskly until very smooth, then add remaining broth. Bring to a boil, whisking frequently, until the gravy thickens, 5 to 10 minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning.

8 Leave the gravy as is or strain into a 4-cup glass measure. Pour it into a 6-cup glass freezer container. Let cool a bit at room temperature, refrigerate until cold, then freeze until the day before you want to serve it.

9 The day before you want to use it, transfer the gravy from freezer to refrigerator. Reheat the thawed gravy.

Disclosure: Some posts contain links to my affiliate account at Amazon. If you purchase something from Amazon through one of my links, I receive a small commission, at no additional cost to you, which I use toward the expenses of running this blog. Thanks for supporting Delightful Repast when you shop at Amazon!

03 November 2016

Grow Your Blog Traffic - Why I Don't Worry About It (Much)

Grow Your Blog Traffic (and Indian Pudding) /www.delightfulrepast.com
What does this photo have to do with Grow Your Blog Traffic? Absolutely nothing! But this is a food blog and the time of year to be pointing you to my Indian Pudding - Pilgrim Comfort Food post in case you're looking for a change of pace for your autumn celebrations.

I just read that people share more than 27,000,000 pieces of content every day. So I can understand why so many bloggers are trying to learn how to get more eyes on their blogs. "Grow Your Blog Traffic" bloggers make up a huge niche in the blogosphere. Wonder if there are more of them than there are food bloggers?

Oh, BTW, here's the link to the Indian Pudding. 

Would I love to be a "successful" food blogger with a huge audience? Of course! But I don't usually think about that. If I did, I'd have to pay attention to things I'd rather not. Things like posting frequency and timing, stats, SEO, email lists, paid promotions on social media platforms, what recipes are "trending."

If you are a blogger who is doing all these things, please don't think I'm criticizing you. I'm just envious of your mad technical skills! 

Posting Frequency and Timing

Posting more than once a week is not going to happen. Being a freelance writer (print and web), working with clients and having a life, makes the requisite three times a week (according to many sources) impossible. And, it is said, there are certain days of the week and times of day that are better than others. (Sorry you caught me yawning!)


Oh my. Unique pageviews versus pageviews, traffic sources, I can't even tell you all the stuff that can be tracked, should one be inclined to track them. I am not inclined. I'd be more inclined to sit and do algebra and calculus all afternoon, which might be Mr Delightful's idea of a good time, but definitely not mine.

Grow Your Blog Traffic (and Pumpkin Swirl Cheesecake) / www.delightfulrepast.com
Pumpkin Swirl Cheesecake - Slow Cooker Method
(but you can bake it in the oven if you like)


I know it means search engine optimization, but beyond that, well, it's beyond me. I just write what I write. I try to write a blog post that will inform and, sometimes, entertain my readers or a recipe that is original, appealing and clearly written so cooks at any skill level can make a success of it. I don't give a thought to such things as keywords and rankings.

But I just happened to read an interesting thing on the subject of SEO: 

Whenever you visit a blog you should make a point to leave it from another page. Something about "juice." If you just visit the first page you come to, it won't help the blog's SEO; but if you click to another page of the blog before you leave, it will. 

So I'm trying to do this for all the bloggers I visit and, of course, would appreciate it if my visitors would do the same because, well, I need all the help I can get, right?! 

(I read that somewhere on The Blogger's Lifestyle.)

Email Lists

I keep reading about the importance of growing an email list. Can't tell you how or why because I haven't done it. 

Paid Promotions on Social Media Platforms

Okay, I am on Twitter and, more recently, Pinterest; but I'm not on Facebook, Instagram, Yummly, Google+ or any of the other such things that seem to just keep on coming. And paid promotions on them? Uh uh. Not for me. 

Grow Your Blog Traffic (and Lemon Cupcakes) / www.delightfulrepast.com

Research What Recipes/Subjects Are Trending

Maybe it's just me, but I don't care what recipes/subjects are trending. I eat what I like and cook what I like, and that's what I'm going to write about for my readers. Call something "trendy" ... 

... and I'll go out of my way to avoid it. When I write a travel review or product review, it's of a place or thing I like and feel good about recommending to my readers; I don't care if it's "in" or "out."


The conclusion of the matter, all things having been considered, is this: I'm hopeless, not high-tech, so help me out. If you are on Facebook, Google+, Pinterest, Twitter or any other social media and you like what you read here at Delightful Repast, share it. I'll try to reciprocate in some way.

And please leave a comment. I'd love to hear what all my smart readers have to say about all this. If you are a blogger, what is your Number One blogging tip? Or the one thing you just can't be bothered with?

Oh, and click on another page before leaving!

Grow Your Blog Traffic - Why I Don't Worry About It (Much) / www.delightfulrepast.com
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