Dessert Bar Favor Box

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We recently did a dessert bar for a rehearsal dinner, but what was new for us and fun, was that the dessert ‘doubled’ as a favor. By this, I mean that for each guest, a serving of every single dessert item was assembled and packaged in a box, ready to enjoy there or to take home for later. This would also be great for Picnics, Corporate Events, Welcome Gifts, and Thank yous. They are smaller than a gift basket but just as special. Recipients get to enjoy them at the time or can wait and enjoy later; either way- they don’t miss out!

Eloise'sPastries - dessert favor box2

The selection included 6 different items – 2 cookies, one 2-bite pie, one mini cheesecake, and a 2-bite brownie.

They were packaged in one of our new product boxes and customized with the couples wedding ribbon colors.

Eloise'sPastries-dessert favor box

A ‘Sweet Heart’ Treat

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DSC_0974 For a home-made sweet treat – our tip for Valentines Day is:

Pick up a large size heart shaped cutter from your local craft store and make rice krispie treat hearts. To do this make up the krispie treats and spread the warm mixture into a 9 x 13 pan lined with greased parchment paper- and leave an overhang (enough to grab it out). *Tip: You really want the parchment paper to make cleanup an absolute breeze and to get the treats out of the pan. Otherwise, you will be kicking yourself that you didn’t use as much as recommended.*

Set aside for at least 4 hours or overnight to cool.

For packaging, I suggest getting a little box or plastic plate and setting a doilie ontop – this is your presentation’s starting point. Using your heart shaped cutter, cut out the pieces and lift one by one onto the plated doile. *Tip: It might be helpful to have a spatula / knife to excavate the excess krispy  treats – to get enough ‘elbow’ room for lifting the first heart out with ease.* Sprinkle lightly with powdered sugar and artfully arrange a few raspberries or strawberry slices.  Voila! A sweet for your sweet! Enjoy! And Happy February!

August – Baking Tips

When my daughters were little and the summer break was just beginning to reach the end, I often found it was sometimes the hardest time to keep them busy and re-engage their minds. One of the ways I used to do this was by giving each of them one week in which they had to plan dinner for the week. That included grocery shopping (with myself, of course), taking the lead in meal preparation with supervision and help, as necessary, etc. It was quite an interesting insight into their personalities, as always, food is such a part of who you are, and what they chose certainly reflected that.

As they are MY children, dessert was always part of their meals; requiring much consideration, and it was a great way for me to teach them a lot of the basics in baking. (Though it has been constantly reinforced through out their lives, as I still get calls asking about this or that – much to my delight and occasional chagrin due to distance, when a wild disaster has occurred that needs salvaging).

Being inspired by the start of August and last few weeks of summer, I’ve decided to include in this blog some of my favorite baking tips that I think are essential to mastering the art of baking.

BakingBESTPoster

• Always make certain you have all of the necessary ingredients – Baking is not the place for random substitutions or “close enough.”

  • Always read all the way through a recipe before beginning
  • Clean as you go. This will help you immensely at the end.
  • Creaming’ means with an electric beater beating the butter and sugar together, until it is soft and looks like mayonnaise
  • For eggs and butter to come to room temperature: leave out overnight or when you leave for work/school in the morning & they’ll be ready for you when you get home later in the day
  • Keep your hands as clean as possible! Wash,wash wash (sometimes after every step, if it’s a particularly messy recipe) NOTE: Never dry your hands or wipe your hands on the same towel you use for drying clean pots, pans, utensils, etc. Keep clean- clean! Never clean raw egg up off a counter with anything other an a paper towel. Raw egg rinsed out of a wash cloth and then used to wipe something down can still transfer bacteria / salmonella.
  • Dry Measure & Liquid Measure
    • Glass Measures are for wet ingredients including frozen or canned pureed fruits or vegetables as well as sour cream, cottage cheese, & ricotta cheese.
    • Measuring cup sets = ¼ cup up to 2 cups are for dry ingredients and need to have the flour, sugar, etc. “Spooned” into them and then leveled
    • Measuring has to be exact for a terrific outcome
    • Measuring Spoons = ¼ teaspoon up to 2 Tablespoons are universal and used whenever a small amount of anything is specified
  • • Never measure ingredients over the mixing bowl (especially salt, baking powder, baking soda, flour), as you want a precise amount and not any extra!
  • • When measuring a sticky liquid (like honey or oil), lightly grease your glass measure first
  • *      When a recipe’s baking time is for example 20 – 30 minutes, Always set the timer for the *shortest baking time and check *. Never open the oven door ” to check” before the timer goes off, as it changes the oven temperature!

Happy Baking! And enjoy with limeade or your preferred ice drink and a nice nibble of something sweet this warm August.

High Tea Part II

Setting the Mood

Tea is all about being a break in the day, having a nosh in the afternoon to hold you over until dinner (which was about 8-9pm), but also a respite from the stress of the day. A break for the spirit, if you will, to renourish, and then, back in the fray! So to that end, you can not have a proper tea in the middle of chaos with things scattered everywhere, or for a perfect picture, one of my daughter’s room’ when they were unkempt teenagers. Clothes scattered everywhere, books tossed about in an organized manner only known to them, empty glasses held hostage from the kitchen… See? Not the relaxing, soul refreshing environment for a proper high tea.

Ambience
A clean, bright space, for me, is a wonderful way to have high tea. Clean, kept, the chairs empty, with pillows fluffled, just waiting for your guests to sit in. For some reason cheerful plants or fresh flowers always add to the feeling of tea. When I’m really awake I always think it’s fun to have a plant of lavender out when serving tea with lavender as an ingredient.

Music
Music, softly playing, is just another layer in high tea. Now the type of music is a bit key. Somehow rap does not qualify. I always suggest for tea picking music that is not highly lyrical; your mind often wonders listening to the lyrics instead of the conversation or the wanderings of your own mind ( at least for me). Some of my favorite choices: Enya, Keiko Matsu, Yanni, and Wynton Marsala. My advise: anything that lowers your blood pressure or heart rate!

Tea, Treats & Sweets

Etiquette
How to properly serve the tea.
Now that all your food is prepared, your scones are warm in the oven or wrapped in a towel, mini quiches are about to finish cooking in the oven, and the hour to serve tea has arrived. You have two routes you can go. If you wish and have many pots for hot water, brew the tea in each individually (which is how it is done in swanky High Teas), or you can be a little uncouth and use one pot of hot water and put tea bags in everyone’s cup and brew it there. Generally I choose the latter, as I don’t have a plethora of tea kettles, so just ensure there is an extra plate on the table for the tea bags when it is time to take them out; then remove the plate. However, like the food, having a selection of teas to choose from, in my opinion, rules the day. I always like to include a selection of offerings that are caffeinated and decaf, more fruity and sweet, or more earthy and herby. In the spirit of accommodating your guests, it’s wonderful to have the tea selection with descriptions on an individual menu card,which can double as your guests’ ‘tea favor’. Another tip: for those new to ‘tea drinking’ – young and old alike-, hot chocolate is a wonderful alternative offering (as coffee is simply not to be had).

When pouring the hot water, always pour for your guests, standing on their right side. All tea drinkers have their preference of what they like with their tea, ranging from warmed milk or cream, lemon or sugar, so having this range already prepared and on the table is an option, or serve these items on a round tray after the tea is poured; this makes your guests feel thought of and cared. And that is precisely what tea is about!

Now, all that is left is to sit back (well, sitting mostly straight), and enjoy! It’s a delightful time of conversation and friendship. Enjoy your cups of tea, perhaps trying a different tea with each course- whatever you choose. Enjoy the natural un-rushed pace of tea; it is one of life’s little luxuries and you’ll find you don’t have to leave home to find it!

High Tea (Part I)

High Tea Part I

Tomorrow my daughter and I are hosting a high tea for some of our friends. I decided to use this blog to give some thoughts about proper high teas. As a strong believer and lover of tea, this is one of the things I am most looking forward to once we have our storefront.

One of my favorite aspects of tea is that it can never be rushed and that it is done in such a way as to make you (each and everyone), feel special. Whether in the dressing of the table, the variety of selection or the fact that someone is serving you; what makes it special, particularly with today’s hectic schedules and societies general rush, is that someone takes the time to have it with you.

 Now here are some thoughts for you to consider when hosting your next tea: 

Presentation :  In the spirit of making you feel special, setting of the table is key. And there’s no reason to break the bank on it. Mismatch different coffee saucers you have and use them as plates (remember, everything is in small portions, with a variety of different choices). Or go to a thrift / antique store; often they have vintage, yet reasonably priced platters and plates.

The table is set

Need a table cloth? For my youngest daughter’s 5th birthday she had a ‘teddy & tea’ party; I took a solid plastic pink picnic table cloth that I bought at Walmart. Then to add the party theme I sponge painted white teddy bears around the border and down the middle. Viola; a custom table cloth 🙂 . Other times I have used some of my favorite (clean) dish towels and set them as runners down the center of the table, which works perfectly for having the pot of tea and small plates of treats. Other options which work well – a part from handed down or thrift store linen cloths – are quilts, or sheets tied at the legs with bows or simply cut fabric.

Try and anticipate what your guests will need. People often want milk or lemon, and or sugar with their tea. So, have a small pitcher of warm milk (you don’t want it curdling, as well as it blends better) all ready to go. Have the wedges of lemon sliced and strainer ready to catch those pesky seeds. If the lemon is not used toss it in a zip-top plastic bag and it will keep in the fridge for at least a few days. For a refreshing change drop one in your water glass as a way to give a zesty zip to it!

Now, you may be reading this and thinking I do not want to have to clean up all those extra dishes. Spare yourself; there are no shortcuts to a really good tea, and unfortunately conserving space in the dishwasher was not a priority for the British. So, my advice? Don’t think about it until it’s over. 🙂 Tea is well worth the effort and plastic is not an option!

The Food: As tea is the spirit of ‘feeling special’ and indulged, having a variety of tasty treats plays a direct part in producing the charm. As a rule of thumb, I stick to a minimum of threes. Three savory sandwiches or mini quiches  (and remember we’re talking small portions; nothing is served more than 2 bite size), one or two varieties of scones with topping options, and three sweet desserts- truffles don’t count.

The food, kept on a ‘buffett side table’ until each course was ready to be enjoyed!

Try to keep in mind the flavors used in your selection; remember, we’re not trying to give anyone indigestion. Portions are a mini, or two bite size, as tea is a nibbling affair and was designed to hold you over until dinner, which was served at 8pm or 9pm. Scones should always be served with a type of jam (traditionally a berry jam) and clotted cream, which is found at any reasonably good grocery store these days, usually where cut cheese is.  You can also add a lemon curd and orange marmalade if you would like to be truly authentic.

A Basket of Scones,

For the dessert sweets, try to think of what you want to pair with the tea being offered

. Everything eaten is to highlight the tea being drunk, so having a rich decadent brownie might not necessarily be the best choice, as it might overpower your taste buds for the tea. (Even then that depends on the recipe, supposing you have a dark and spice blended brownie it could be lovely).

Part II : The Tea itself , as well as Fashion, Music & Proper “Tea” Etiquette