Sunday, April 30, 2017

Enjoying Tea Every Day

The daily ritual of making time for tea is one that is enjoyed by billions of individuals worldwide.  There is something absolutely soothing, centering and meditative about putting the kettle on the stovetop, choosing which teapot and teacups to use for the purpose, and carefully measuring out the tea leaves.  I would feel lost if I didn't have my cup of restorative tea in the afternoons.  For me, it is the perfect pick-me-up beverage.


Many cultures around the world consume this beverage throughout the day, and here at home, we are no different.  In the mornings I prefer to have a pot of coffee with my breakfast, but my husband is partial to several cups of tea first thing, each day.  In the afternoons, however, tea is the beverage of choice, and if I'm lucky, I lay out a little something sweet to go with it.  

In my opinion, it's a good idea to serve tea in smaller cups, rather than large breakfast cups or mugs, because it minimizes the chances of the last sips of tea becoming cold.  There is nothing worse than tea that's gone cold. Moreover, one can extend the tea hour if there is more than one pouring.  My cat, Lion, thinks that it's a good idea too, because he gets to sit on the lap for "tea breaks".  I'm not kidding when I say that the moment he hears the kettle being put on the burner, and the teapot and cups getting placed on the table, he readies himself nearby to jump onto the lap as soon as we sit down and pour.

Loose leaf or tea bags?  We use both.  It's not beneath this household to have some of our favorite teas in premeasured tea bags.  In fact, for breakfast, it's nice not to have to measure out something in the wee hours of the morning. They're also great when you feel like having just one cup.  Some of our favorite brands that come in premeasured tea bags are from Taylors of Harrogate (Scottish Breakfast, Yorkshire Gold, Irish Breakfast), Barry's Tea, and Harney & Sons.

For loose leaf tea, which is the preferred way to make tea in the afternoons, we like to source them from reliable purveyors of fine teas, such as the English Tea StoreWilliams-SonomaMariage Frères, and The Head Nut.


Over the years, I have photographed a few of our teas here on the blog, usually as part of another blog post.  I thought it would be a good idea, however, to gather a few of my favorite ones from years past, and dedicate an entire post to the art of enjoying tea every single day.

As I was scouring my photographic library (I have close to 50,000 photos from the time I started blogging!), I was immediately taken down memory lane to some really good times.  It made me a bit sad, however, to find beautiful photographs of my cat, Ms. Kitty, who is no longer with us.  I was so glad to have the memories captured on film though, because I can always look back and remember.


One thing that made me smile while picking and choosing my photos, was how often I used my drabware.  I suppose it's because I not only like the earth tone of drabware (photo above), but because I love the shapes of the teacups and how comfortable they feel in the hand.  If you have these in your home then you know exactly what I'm talking about.

Honey & Flavored Sugars
Tea served using Wedgwood Queen's Ware.

Certain teas are greatly enhanced with a bit of local honey straight from the honey pot.  Usually I will pair green teas with honey, because they are delicate, but every once in a while I will add it to a cup of black tea.


This hollowed out lemon that was turned into a honeypot was an idea from Martha Stewart.  It's such an unusually charming way of serving honey at the table.  Try it the next time you're expecting to serve tea for dessert.


Do you make flavored sugars at home?  You should if you bake a lot or drink tea on a regular basis.  A spoonful of lemon sugar is superb with Earl Grey, an Irish Breakfast, Assam, and even some chamomile tea.  


Lavender sugar is a natural with herbal teas.  You don't need a lot of it to sweeten and perfume a delicate white tea, some hibiscus-infused tea, and even a straight-from-the-garden tisane.  

Cakes & Madeleines

Madeleines were made for serving with tea.  These delicate cakes are perfect two-bite sweets that don't need much, other than a nice cup of tea.  If you're serving them for a tea, count on having at least 3 madeleines per person.  You'd be amazed at how quickly they disappear when you present them on a platter.


The nice thing about madeleines is that they are so easy to make.  The moment they come out of the oven, the little cakelets can be turned out and served in time to pour that first cup.  The fresher the madeleines, the better!


Whenever I have layered cakes at a birthday party or a special luncheon, I like to brew several pots of tea to serve with it.  Those delicate porcelain cups are made by the French company, Apilco.


Do you see what I mean about Lion enjoying tea time?  This was probably one of the funniest moments we've had while company was over.  As soon as we sat down to have our cake and tea, Lion jumped onto my husband's lap and demanded to be held like a baby over the shoulder.  Silly!


You can see what I mean about the teacup shape of our drabware.  During the holidays, steamed puddings are absolutely delicious with tea.  I need to make more of them this year.


If I'm serving tea to several people, I make sure to have plenty of teaspoons, linen napkins, teapots, sugar bowls and creamers nearby.  It's a good idea to have the tea strainer over a waste bowl near the teapot(s) as well.


These delicate sterling silver forks are just right for wedges of spicy bundt cake.  The teacups are vintage pieces of Wedgwood Queen's Ware from the 1950s.

Cookies

If I had my way, I would serve cookies with tea every single day.  It isn't always the case that I have cookies in my kitchen, but when I do, you can best believe that I serve them with our tea.  Like madeleines, they are not fussy sweets to nibble on.


The delicate flavor and rich color of this hibiscus-infused tea is greatly enhanced with the right teacup.  Iced sugar cookies, however small, are always welcomed with a cup of tea.


I do like my Fire King restaurant ware jadeite cups for tea, but I have yet to find the perfect teapot to go with my collection.  I suppose it wasn't de rigueur back in the 1940s and 50s to serve tea in jadeite, but I think it's perfectly fine these days.


I'm not one to bake and ice sugar cookies, and not eat them when I get the chance.  This  Easter tea from several springs ago was set with Wedgwood drabware, and some of my vintage silverware.  I like how the tinted sugar cookie dough looks on the fruit saucers.  


Woodland bird cookies on jadeite:  what's not to love?  Sencha tea from Japan is among my favorites.


To my friend that hasn't tried matcha tea but wants to:  do it!  Serve the matcha on white bone china teacups like I do.  This tea is phenomenal!


I'm showing this photo to prove that even when I'm in a rush and working (hence the cookie cutters and food coloring markers in the background), I still have to have some tea.  I'm thinking of getting a Fiestaware teapot to go with the jadeite.  What do you all think?


If I have a free afternoon with nothing on the agenda, then I pamper myself. Some homemade cookies, freshly picked berries from the garden, and a pot of tea is just the thing to relax.  That, and a good book.


Perusing cookbooks while having tea is one of my favorite pastimes.


Gilded drabware is probably what gets used the most.  There is something so soothing about the oatmeal hue and the bands of gleaming 22K gold.  How could I resist those broomstick sugar cookies and that tempting pumpkin?


Here are some gingersnaps served on Japanese lustreware from several years ago.  




For those of you who understand the joys of having a cup or two of tea every single day, cheers!  If you aren't one to drink much tea, but would like to try adding it to your routine, I highly encourage you to experiment with several varieties and brands until you find what you like. Once you begin to discover the pleasures of having tea every day, you will find yourself looking forward to it.  It will become an essential part of the day that will nourish, sooth and center you.

Enjoy your tea every day.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Le 7 Torri Fiano di Avellino 2015

If you're in search of a good white wine to have this spring, look to this Southern Italian white by Le 7 Torri.  Made from the Fiano grapes in Campania and Basilicata, but also in certain areas of Sicily, Fiano di Avellino is an interesting varietal that is worth trying.

Its distinctively strong, yellow color hints at the honeyed and flower notes that are evident in this full-bodied wine.  Moreover, there is a slight tropical fruit flavor to the delicious Fiano, which makes it perfect to pair with many seafood and chicken dishes.  Think smoked salmon canapés, poached halibut, or even a nice piece of red snapper.  I'm even going to go so far as to suggest to pair the wine with Ina Garten's Mustard-Roasted Fish Recipe.  That recipe is delicious!



Don't forget pasta dishes, such as linguine with clams or even garlic and olive oil pasta.  Tasty!  Enjoy a chilled glass or two of Le 7 Torri this week.

Cheers!

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Emoji Sugar Cookies

Emojis, those ubiquitous symbols that many of us use in our day to day messages to one another via phone, seem to be easily adaptable to cookie designs.  My niece and nephew recently asked me to make them some emoji sugar cookies for a special celebration of theirs, and being the uncle that I am, how could I refuse their request?  Through fits of the giggles and some laughs, they told me not to forget the brown "you know what" emojis.  Yes, you know exactly what I'm referring to!


OK, now I'm laughing as I write this, because you have to understand that I wasn't 100% sure I was even going to post these on the blog.  Emojis on Good Things by David?  Well.....why not?


Batch after batch of my sugar cookie dough and royal icing recipe were made a day before I began icing the cookies.  

FYI:  I love the new grid pattern on Reynold's parchment paper!  It makes cutting so much easier.


For the poop emojis, I used a Foose cupcake cookie cutter.  Working along the edges of my rolled cookie dough, I cut out only the icing tops of the cupcakes, and used a paring knife to give them a wavy shape at the base.  Working in this manner, I didn't have to cut out the entire cupcake shape.  Easy!


In order to make the layers of the poopies look like the emojis, brown royal icing was used in stages.  I outlined and flooded alternating layers as shown using a #4 piping tip, letting them dry before the next icing.


The rounds were outlined and flooded with a bright yellow royal icing and were left to dry before continuing.  This icing goes very quickly if you use a large #5 piping tip.  You can see the brown emojis with that layered effect.  


Heart shaped eyes were outlined and flooded in red using a #1 piping tip, and then a black mouth was added to the bottoms.  Done!


The kissy, winky-eyed emojis were piped with a #1 piping tip.  The heart-shaped candies were glued onto the cookies with a dot of royal icing.  I loved these!


This face made me think of a Hollywood Royalty actress from way back when. After I posted this photo on social media, I could not stop laughing at the responses from some of my friends.

All of the emoji sugar cookies face accents were added on top of the dried bases.  Whether I was piping large white eyes on the poopie cookies, or black mouths with red tongues on the other faces, it was easy to do this on the dried bases.  I highly recommend using either a #1 or #2 (don't laugh!) piping tip for the eyes, mouths and other accents.


For this large batch of cookies, I decided to stick with less than ten emoji faces. The cookies were meant to be party favors, so I placed each one in a cellophane bag of the appropriate size, and instead of tying them with ribbons, I sealed them with emoji stickers.  


You can see how each of these cellophane bags were sealed shut.  Sheets of emoji stickers can be found at many party supply stores or discount stores. Don't forget to add one or two to the the fronts of the bags as well.



Happy face, kissy face, heart-eye face, tongue-out face, annoyed face and even poopie face emoji cookies are easy to make, because the dozens you see here don't require that many shades of royal icing.  Plan ahead and give yourself a day or two to make them.  I think the most important thing is to let the bases dry completely before adding the rest of the accents.  This way you avoid color bleeding on the yellow faces.  

If you plan on making these for a kid's birthday party or to hand them out to coworkers, friends, etc., don't forget to make the poop emojis.  Even they are cute and guaranteed to produce a giggle.  

A very sweet Happy Birthday to my little ones!!  


Uncle loves you very much!

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Easter Bunny Sugar Cookies

For me, Easter evokes some of the best memories from childhood.  Weeks prior to it, probably around Ash Wednesday, mom would make it her duty to blow out eggs and save them for us so that we could dye them a few days prior to Easter.  Using one of those Paas kits from the local Woolworth's, we would set out bowls of boiling vinegar water and drop those food-coloring tablets in them.  Depending on what we wanted our eggs to look like, my brothers and I would give the eggs a quick dunk for light shades or let them steep in the mixture for minutes in order for them to take on a deeper hue.


As much as I would like to dye Easter eggs these days, I find it so much more rewarding to color sugar cookies in the shapes of eggs, bunnies and other images, so that I can hand them out to friends, family and neighbors.  

Over the years, I have gathered quite a nice collection of Easter cookie cutters, some of which are collectibles and others which are not.  I've even given them their own dedicated storage tins in my Cookie Cutter Pantry.

For this year's Easter cookies it was all about bunnies and little eggs.  A friend from Washington D.C. wanted some very specific bunnies for his holiday weekend, and others simply wanted "Easter bunnies" without any particular designs in mind.

Note:  the bunny cookie cutters that I used for this project came from Copper Gifts.  The large Bunny in Egg designed by SweetDaniB is perfect for making exquisite cookies meant for Easter baskets, while the Rabbit Cookie with Fluffy Body and the Big Bunny Rabbit Cookie Cutter are just right for treats meant to be placed in cellophane bags.



Dozens of sugar cookies flecked with lots of citrus zest were rolled, cut and baked a day prior to icing, and then it was a matter of tinting some delicious royal icing in pastel shades.


If you wish to use sanding sugars and pearl candy embellishments, put them near your workstation in small containers.  This way you can easily sprinkle them over cookies with small spoons, or place them in specific areas with some tweezers.


Easter and pastel colors go hand in hand.  They're the kinds of hues that make me happy if I'm decorating cookies.  For this batch I used a very light sky-blue, a soft kelly-green (this almost reminds me of jadeite), a pale lemon-yellow, an earthy taupe and of course, a very sweet, pale pink.  I like to stand my pastry bags in glasses or tumblers whenever I'm working with royal icing.


An overview of my workstation shows you how I like to keep everything within reach.  It's an efficient way of decorating cookies.

On a cake turntable I outlined and flooded the small eggs with royal icing, and I placed one pearl candy in the middle of each egg.  While the icing was still wet, I took a fine paint brush and speckled each egg with a bit of sparkly disco dust to give it some sheen.  It works just like glitter, except that you don't need much to make a cookie look exceptional.

I like using American-made disco dust from Sunflower Sugar Art.  For these cookies I sprinkled their Super White.  Get a small container of this because you're going to find so many great uses for it!


The bunnies were treated exactly the same way.  Small pearl candies in various colors were used for eyes.


You can see what I mean when I say that a little disco dust goes a long way.  The eggs sparkle!


My friend's taupe-colored bunny rabbits were placed in high-quality cellophane bags, and were tied with mint-green satin ribbons.

All of the taupe bunnies were enhanced with beaded borders.  I think the bunnies look especially cute with their hind legs and forequarters piped as they are here.


Half of the bunnies were iced facing one direction and half were iced facing the opposite direction.  It's good to have a bit of variety!

If you plan on having treats like this for your Easter egg hunt, place the wrapped cookies on wire racks, platters or trays so that guests can help themselves.


These cellophane wrapped, pastel-colored bunnies were given one tiny egg.  This flock is ready for Easter baskets.


For two special friends of mine, I decorated the large bunnies hatching out of cracked eggs.  As much as I like the classic Martha by Mail cookie cutter, I think that this particular cookie cutter designed by Sweet Dani B. is absolutely adorable!  The cookies don't need much to make them unique.


Luke is getting the blue-egged bunny, and his sister Samantha is getting the pink-egged bunny.  These are perfect for their Easter baskets!


For an Easter gathering, 
cookies can be placed on large platters such as these. 


I hope many of you cookie decorators out there are already in the midst of making your Easter cookies.  If you haven't started, gather the necessary ingredients and begin the moment you have a little bit of time.  All you really need is a handful of colors of royal icing, some candy embellishments, and that glittery disco dust that I talked about.  

Make them colorful and whimsical this Easter.  If you're like me, you're going to want to keep at least one bunny and one tiny egg for yourself.  

Happy Easter!