Afternoon Tea at the Kensington Close Hotel

A few weeks ago, my friend and former uni housemate Eboni came to visit me for a few days as she’s moving from Iowa to Paris to work as an au-pair for a year! As she had never been to London, we tried to squeeze in a few stereotypically British experiences, including proper afternoon tea (I am happy to report that she’s also now officially a fan of fish and chips and addicted to the Great British Bake-Off).

We decided to opt for the Kensington Close Hotel as it offers a pretty good deal when you book online (£12.00 per person) and is quite convenient location-wise when you’re about and about doing touristy things anyway.

The interior isn’t quite as nice and stylish as the Ampersand Hotel, but you get to sit in an area near the bar with lots of comfy chairs and tables, and it felt fairly relaxed and quiet when we were there.

We ordered our tea and five minutes later were presented with two teapots and lots and lots of food! First up were the sandwiches, which were really classic looking finger sandwiches on white and wheat bread – starting out with an egg salad filling that was almost surprisingly good (I feel like egg can be a bit hit and miss sometimes, but these were great), ham with mustard, cucumber and cream cheese and finally smoked salmon. All found our approval.

Moving on to the scones, we got a very classic looking plain scone, a massive octagon shaped one with raisins and a sort of tear shaped scone with chocolate (and possibly hazelnut?) pieces in it. They were all three really tasty though we both only got through about a quarter of the raisin one as it was huge and we were getting dangerously full at that point.

Finally, we managed to battle our way through the sweets – a little cream & fruit tartlet, a chocolate eclair and a piece of carrot cake. My favorite was probably the carrot cake – not too dense, really tasty frosting and I loved the crunch on top. The tartlet was also really nice and tasted a lot more interesting than I suspected at first glance.

All in all I think the Kensington Close offers a really good deal – the price really only showed in that everything was maybe slightly less dainty and refined, and the tea selection isn’t huge and only includes tea bags – though you do get change your tea throughout if you want! But other than that I think the value is amazing – you get a whole lot of tasty food for a fantastic price while still having the quintessential British afternoon tea experience.

Sunday Moment #31

•  Blackcurrant & Vanilla fruit infusion from Twinings
•  Booklet from the amazing £5 Spanish wine testing (which I went to with workmates on Thursday)
•  Cinema ticket for Rush (which I saw with my old flatmate Anne who was visiting this weekend for an interview)
•  Card from Tom’s Kitchen at Somerset House (where we went for a slightly posh brunch on Saturday)
•  Map of the British Library (where we went for an exhibition on children’s book illustrations)

Afternoon Tea for Two: Mini Banoffee Pies

Welcome to the last afternoon tea for two recipe – and unlike the sticky toffee cupcakes that were a wee tricky, this is probably the easiest and quickest one! These (rather adorable) mini banoffee pies are also great for making ahead, as you can make the crust and caramel the day before you need them, and then you just need to assemble everything before you want to serve them/eat them all by yourself. If your caramel has cooled down, just pop it in the microwave for a few seconds to get it back to a nice spreadable consistency.

Mini Banoffee Pies
(adapted from this recipe from A Recipe for Aperture.)

For the crust
1 digestive (or about 12g graham crackers)
6g (1 1/4 tsp) butter or margarine, melted

For the caramel
10g (2 tsp) salted butter
10g (2 1/2 tsp) brown sugar
2 tbsp sweetened condensed milk

For assembling
2 slices of banana
A bit of whipped cream

1. Preheat your oven to 190°C. Pop your digestive into a plastic bag and smash it with a rolling pin or heavy objects of your choice to fine crumbs. Mix with the melted butter. Press firmly into two greased indents of a mini muffin tray. Bake for five minutes. Chill until firm.*
2. To make the caramel, melt butter in a small pot. Add brown sugar and stir until dissolved and the mixture is smooth (30 seconds to a minute). Add sweetened condensed milk. Bring to a low simmer and stir until golden and thick, about a minute. Set aside.
3. To assemble, fill each mini pie shell with caramel. Top with a banana slice and a bit of whipped cream each.

* I put a little circle of round baking paper at the bottom as well to help get the crust out of the tin more easily.

Sunday Moment #30

•  Mandarin Orange Spice from Celestial Seasonings
•  Get-rid-of-the-leftover-carrots Cake
•  The Great Gatsby (which I got as a birthday present and which I just finished reading)
• E-ticket for a free gig in east London featuring Gossling and India Borne (which I went to with my friend Alan on Wednesday)

Afternoon Tea for Two: Sticky Toffee Pudding Cupcakes

Bit off a break in the Afternoon Tea for Two series – the last few weeks have been a tad busy for me – I do, however, still have two more recipes I wanted to share! Sticky toffee pudding is probably one of my favourite classic British desserts, so I wanted to make a tea treat version that features all the components – not only the cake part, but also the caramel syrup and custard it’s often served with. So there’s a date cupcake that soaked in maple syrup for extra stickiness, a caramel filling in the cake and some custard frosting on top. This is probably the longest recipe out of the series, but also probably my favourite one, so definitely worth the extra effort if you ask me.

Sticky Toffee Pudding Cupcakes
(Cupcakes based on this recipe from Oh She Glows, caramel adapted from this recipe.)

For the cupcakes
2 tbsp + 1 tsp milk
20g (1/8 cup) dates, chopped
5g (1 tsp) butter
7g (1 1/2 tsp) brown sugar
15g (1 tbsp) flour
1/8 tsp of baking powder
1/2 tsp chopped nuts
pinch of cinnamon
pinch of salt
1 tsp maple syrup

For the caramel
5g (1 tsp) butter
5g (1 1/4 tsp) brown sugar
1 tbsp sweetened condensed milk

For the custard frosting
3g (1 tsp) custard powder
3g (1 tsp) sugar
2-3 tbsp milk
5g (1 tsp) butter
1/4 tsp icing sugar

To make the cupcakes:
1. Heat milk in a small bowl. Add chopped dates and microwave for 20 seconds. Stir well.
2. Whisk butter and sugar until creamy. Add milk and dates and stir to combine.
3. In a separate bowl, mix flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and nuts. Add to the wet ingredients and mix until just combined. Fill into two greased indents of a mini muffin tray.
4. Bake for 15 minutes. Once they are out of the oven but still warm, poke small holes into the top of the cakes with a skewer or toothpick. Pour about half a teaspoon maple syrup over each cake. Let cool completely.

To make the caramel:
1. Melt the butter in a small saucepan. Add brown sugar and stir until mostly dissolved and smooth. (About 30 seconds to a minute.)
2. Add sweetened condensed milk and stir over a gentle simmer until golden brown in colour and thickened, about a minute. Remove from heat and pour into a small container.

To make the custard frosting:
1. Make a fairly thick custard out of the custard powder, sugar and milk. (Since it’s such a small amount of custard, I find mixing it together and microwaving it for 30-50 seconds the easiest.) Let cool completely.
2. Cream butter and icing sugar together until fluffy. Stir custard until smooth. Add the custard to the butter and whisk until incorporated.

To assemble:
1. Scoop a small hole out of the top of the cupcakes. Fill with the caramel. Fill the custard frosting into a piping bag and pipe a small swirl on top.

Sunday Moment #29

•  Cinnamon, apple & raisin black tea from Twinings
•  Homemade apple crumble tart
•  A little package of Brown’s Afternoon Blend (that I got from Brown’s hotel when I went there for Afternoon Tea with my parents on my birthday and it was amazing)
•  Bag from Ladurée in Covent Garden (because my mum was super nice and bough me a whole bunch of macarons and they were really, really good)

Foodie Pen Pals: September 2013

My second month of Foodie Pen Pals came around, and while I got to post a parcel to Cara (who send me something last time), a box full of fun things arrived on my doorstep from the lovely Pennie Roberts! Here’s what was in it:

A package of birds eye chillies… and an onion from her allotment! (Which was double cool because I was going to make fajitas the day the package arrived and had ran out of onions. Thanks, Pennie!)

A packaged of spiced Indian masala tea (my chai comparing project is really taking off!) and a package of coconut milk powder. Quite excited about the coconut milk powder since I have a few recipes with coconut milk bookmarked but never have any around when I want to make them!

And the best for last: since Pennie runs a great gluten-free bakery in Derbyshire, I got this wonderful rich chocolate cake as well! Doesn’t get much better than having a cake send to you. Yes, it was gone quite quickly and yes, it was really really good. (Check out her bakery website here!)

Thanks for a great parcel, Pennie!

Sunday Moment #27

•  Chocca-Roo-Brew from Joe’s Tea Co
•  Tiny black tea and raspberry cookies
•  ’The Stag and Hen Weekend’ by Mike Gayle (which I read this week)
•  In the background: the very autumnal weather we’ve been having (since we apparently went straight from August to November)

Afternoon Tea for Two: Victoria Sponge Slices

I think a Victoria sponge cake is about as British as it gets with cake – so much that my work lunch buddy even labeled it ‘boring’ when I mentioned that my friend Mark requested one as his birthday cake two years ago. It’s a pretty straight forward affair really – two round sponges, sandwiched together with jam and something creamy (I’ve used whipped cream before as well) and dusted with a bit of icing sugar.

But it’s still tasty – I don’t think anyone turned a slice down when we had this at Mark’s post-hangover birthday coffee. This small scale version is a bit different in that it doesn’t use eggs in the sponge (because I hate having half an egg left over) and is presented as sandwich style slices rather than a round cake. I also stuffed some fresh berries into the jam (because tasty!), but it still works just as well without them.

Victoria Sponge Slices
(Sponge based on this recipe.)

For the sponge
25g (9 1/2 tsp) flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
35g (5 1/2 tsp) condensed milk
10g (2 tsp) butter, melted
Drop of almond or vanilla extract
3 tsp water

For the buttercream
10g (2tsp) butter
15g (1 1/2 tbsp + a tsp) icing sugar

For the jam layer
10g (1 tbsp) jam
4-5 raspberries

Make the sponge:
1. Preheat oven to 180°C. In a bowl, mix flour and baking powder.
2. Add condensed milk, melted butter, almond extract and water to the flour mix. Beat well.
3. Pour dough into a greased and floured mini loaf pan (mine is 14.5×7.5cm or 5 3/4×3 in).
4. Bake for 15 minutes until golden and springy to the touch.
5. Leave the cake in the pan for about a minute, then remove and let it cool on a wire rack.

Make the buttercream:
1. Beat the butter until creamy. Slowly beat in icing sugar.

Make the jam layer:
1. Heat jam in microwave for a few seconds and stir.
2. Roughly squash the raspberries and mix into the jam.

To assemble:
1. Trim your sponge into a neat rectangle. Cut it in half vertically, then cut each slice in half horizontally as well.
2. Spread the buttercream onto the two bottom pieces of cake. Top with jam-raspberry mixture.
3. Top with the two left over sponge slices. Dust with icing sugar.