French Chic & Slim
5 o'Clock Tea with Anne Barone
A tranquil spot, a cup of tea, a book, and something to nibble. Afternoon tea is my favorite time of day. Please join me for Thé de 5 Heures.
image: Tea With Jane Austen, the book a gift with its accompanying card. Teacup and flowers also gifts from other friends.
Tea With Jane Austen
What could be more delightful than having tea with Jane Austen?
à lire / to read
Tea With Jane Austen: Recipes Inspired by her Novels and Letters by Pen Vogler
Those of us who have read (and reread) the author’s novels and who are also lovers of the custom of afternoon tea have, no doubt, noted those scenes when Jane Austen’s characters take tea. Food historian and author Pen Vogler has provided us with a recipe book so that we may take our tea accompanied by some of the same buns, cakes and pastries mentioned in Jane Austen’s novels. All the recipes are based on authentic recipes from the Regency era in which Jane Austen lived and set her novels.
Thankfully the recipes have been updated for modern cooks. Ingredients are available in our stores. But Pen Vogler also includes the original recipe on which the update is based — with its source and the date of that cookbook’s publication. The updated recipes are not difficult, and the book’s photos of the various buns, cakes and jams are delightful. The most delightful is certainly the marzipan hedgehog. Almost too cute to eat.
My one quibble with Tea With Jane Austen recipe book concerns salt. In several recipes, the author notes that the original recipe did not list any salt, but she added it in the updated version because when she tested the original, the taste was bland. Since Pen Vogler identifies herself as a food historian, I am surprised that she was not aware of the most likely reason those original recipes did not list salt.
In Jane Austen’s day, because there was no refrigeration, butter was regularly salted as a preservative — not only salted, but packed in salt after it was churned to preserve it for later use. In the recipes that the original did not list salt, butter is either an ingredient or butter would normally be spread on bun or cake when served. Since the butter was already salty, to add more salt might have spoiled the taste of the pastry.
One reason the French prefer unsalted butter is that they are suspicious that salted butter might not be fresh. Unsalted butter turns rancid much more quickly than salted. That rancid taste signals that it has been stored for a while.
le casse-croûte / the snack
Mr. Woodhouse's Apple Tart. Jane Austen was adept at defining her characters in a short scene. The scene in her novel Emma that has always seemed to me to define Emma’s father was the one in which Mr. Woodhouse is encouraging Miss Bates to eat the apple tart. That buttered apple tart recipe is one of the recipes in Tea With Jane Austen. I have not tried the recipe, but since its body depends on stiffly beaten egg whites — and my attempts at similar recipes have often been marred by collapse — I likely would substitute silken tofu for the stiff egg whites as insurance.
thé du jour / today’s tea Fortnum & Mason Afternoon Blend
Fortnum & Mason Afternoon Blend. I cannot describe this lovely tea blend better than Fortnum & Mason themselves:
A blend from the higher and lower regions of Ceylon delivering a light, refreshing flavour with real body. Of all Fortnum’s tea, this makes the best iced tea, staying perfectly clear when chilled, but is equally good served the traditional way with a splash of milk.
I particularly enjoyed the lovely Ceylon fragrance that wafted up from the cup of the brewed Afternoon Blend. That fragrance always signals to me a superior Ceylon. The 3-minute brewing time with fresh water (I used filtered) tasted perfect to me. Served in an English bone china cup seemed to bring out the elegance in the tea's flavor.
Fortnum & Mason adds to their definition of Afternoon Blend:
We’ve been serving Afternoon Tea for centuries, and this distinctive blend is an important part of that history. A wonderfully uplifting tea, it pairs beautifully with teatime essentials like scones, cakes and biscuits.
Fortnum & Mason has been in business since a half-century before Jane Austen was born. Not inconceivable that the author herself had the pleasure of drinking one of the company’s tea blends. Fortnum & Mason’s Afternoon Blend is definitely my choice to sip while browsing the recipes in Tea With Jane Austen. I would agree with F&M’s descriptive word “uplifting.”
la musique / the music
The Jane Austen Companion recorded by The Philharmonia Orchestral in 1996. About six years ago I bought this album of classical music selections by Bach, Boyce (3 selections) and the Haydns —both Johann and younger brother Michael — and other composers whose music Jane Austen herself might have listened. Music I often choose when I need calm and relaxation. The perfect music to accompany Tea With Jane Austen.