Our longtime travel partner in London, Carolyn Robb (Prince Charles and Princess Diana’s former executive chef), shared with us her collection of afternoon tea recipes for the holiday season – and they are a delight:
She writes: “This collection of afternoon tea recipes for the festive season includes old favourites and new treats. Afternoon tea is a wonderful excuse for indulging, at the best of times, but at Christmastime there is even more reason than usual to allow yourself some special treats. Some of these recipes can be used to create lovely handmade edible gifts.”
White Chocolate, Cranberry, Apricot & Pistachio Christmas Tiffin
This is a wonderfully quick ‘melt-and-mix’ recipe. The tart cranberries and apricots contrast beautifully with the sweetness of the white chocolate, the ginger biscuits are delightfully crunchy and the pistachios add a splash of colour. It can also be made with dark chocolate and alternatively, dried fruit and nuts can be used. Tiffin makes a lovely gift, presented in a box or an eco-cellophane bag tied with festive ribbon.
Makes 16 small squares (it is very rich, so a small square is usually enough!)
- 250g white chocolate, melted
- 100g unsalted butter
- 2 tablespoons golden syrup or honey
- 100g ginger biscuits, crushed
- 60g unsweetened dried cranberries
- 60g soft dried apricots, sliced
- 60g pistachios
- 100g white chocolate for decoration – melted
- Melt the chocolate and the butter together, either in a microwave or in a bowl suspended over boiling water. White chocolate burns very easily, so melt over a low heat and keep it well stirred. Lastly mix in the golden syrup or honey.
- Add the fruit and nuts (reserving a couple of handfuls to sprinkle on the top) and crushed biscuits. Mix well and press into an 8-inch (20cm) baking tray lined with baking paper or a non-stick silicon liner.
- Chill in the refrigerator for an hour. Spread half of the chocolate over the top of the tiffin and sprinkle with the remaining fruit and nuts and then drizzle the rest of the white chocolate over the top. Leave to set for a further 20 minutes before cutting into squares.
- Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.
Spiced Christmas Shortbread
These wonderful shortbread cookies flavoured with cinnamon and pecans can be cut into festive shapes and using short lengths of brightly coloured ribbon they can be hung on the Christmas tree or they can simply be cut into traditional fingers. I have used heart, star and bell cookie cutters but you can use whatever shapes you have. Children love these too, I usually replace the nuts with chocolate chips for little people and cut them into tiny shapes.
Makes approximately 24 large cookies
- 150g unsalted butter
- 60g confectioner’s sugar
- 225g cake flour
- 2 tablespoons cornstarch
- 1 ½ teaspoons cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 30g pecans chopped
- 3 tablespoons superfine sugar mixed with 1 teaspoon cinnamon to sprinkle onto the cookies after baking
- Place the butter and sugar into a medium bowl and using an electric mixer beat until pale and creamy. Add the flour, cornstarch, cinnamon, vanilla and pecans and beat until just combined, then bring together by hand, to form a smooth dough. Chill for 30 minutes.
- Preheat the oven to 160’C (325’F). Line 2 large baking sheets with non-stick baking paper or silicone liners. Roll out the dough between 2 sheets of non-stick baking paper, to a thickness of 3mm (1/4 inch). Cut out as many shapes as possible and using a small pointed knife make a small hole at the top of each cookie (for threading ribbon through, once they are cooked). and transfer them to the baking sheets, allowing a little space between them for spreading. Re-roll the dough and repeat until it has all been used.
- Bake for 10 – 12 minutes (less time for smaller cookies). Remove from the oven when they are a delicate golden colour. Sprinkle with cinnamon sugar while still hot. Leave to cool before transferring to a wire rack. Thread ribbon through the small hole, once cookies are completely cold. Store in an airtight container for up to 10 days.
Traditional Christmas Log
My mother’s ‘Christmas Log’ is one of my earliest memories of the festive season! It is a chocolate roulade (‘Swiss Roll’) which is filled with whipped cream, coated in unctuous chocolate ganache and dusted with confectioner’s sugar, making it resemble a snow-covered log. Ours always had a wonderful little robin perched on a piece of holly, on the log. I still have the same robin and he still makes his annual appearance. I do hope that my daughters will hold this Christmas tradition as dearly in their hearts as I do!
For the chocolate sponge:
- 4 large free-range eggs
- 100g superfine sugar
- 65g cake flour
- ½ teaspoon baking powder
- 40g cocoa powder
For the chocolate ganache topping:
- 300ml heavy cream
- 300g dark chocolate, broken into small pieces
For the filling:
- 300ml heavy cream, whipped
- Confectioner’s sugar for dusting
- Sprigs of fresh holly
- Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/Gas 6. Line a 33x23cm (13x9inch) baking tray with non-stick baking paper.
- Whisk the eggs and sugar together in a large bowl using an electric hand whisk. Continue until the mixture is pale in colour, light and frothy. Sift the flour, baking powder and cocoa powder into the bowl and using a metal spoon carefully fold the dry ingredients into the egg mixture.
- Pour the mixture into the lined tin and spread lightly and evenly.
- Bake on the middle shelf of the oven for 8–10 minutes, or until well risen and firm to the touch. Place a piece of baking paper that is bigger than the Swiss roll tin onto the work surface. Sprinkle generously with superfine sugar and then carefully turn the cake out onto the sugared paper. Gently peel the paper off the bottom of the cake and trim the short edges.
- Starting from the long edge, begin to tightly roll up the sponge with the paper inside. Leave to cool completely (still rolled up in the baking paper.)
- While the cake is cooling, make the chocolate ganache. Heat the cream gently in a pan; do not simmer or boil. Remove from the heat and add the chocolate, stirring until it is melted. Cool to room temperature.
- Uncurl the cold Swiss roll and remove the paper. Spread the whipped cream on top, and re-roll tightly. Cut a quarter of the cake off from the end on the diagonal. Transfer the large piece of cake to a serving plate and angle the cut end in to the middle of the large cake to create a branch.
- Use a palette knife to spread the ganache onto the ‘log’, creating the rough texture of the bark with either the knife or a fork.
- Dust with confectioner’s sugar and garnish with fresh holly and a little robin if you have one! Keeps for up to 2 days, store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
Mini Mince Pies
These are a great British Christmas tradition. We are told that for every mince pie that you eat during the festive season you will have a happy month the following year; so most people would try to eat at least a dozen! I always make miniature ones, that way its easier to ensure that you do get a full twelve happy months. ‘Fruit mincemeat’ is a combination of dried fruit, fresh apple, spices, usually some alcohol and vegetable shortening (although originally it would have contained suet.) It is available online: https://www.britishfoodshop.com/products/wilkin-and-sons-tiptree-mincemeat-312g. Alternatively, you can substitute your favourite jam or lemon curd for a less traditional Christmas pie!
For the pastry
- 175g plain flour
- 75g cold butter, diced
- 25g confectioner’s sugar, plus extra for dusting
- Finely grated zest of 1 orange
- 1 medium free-range egg, beaten
For the filling
- 250g good-quality ready-made fruit mincemeat
- Preheat the oven to 200C/400’F. Place a 12-hole mini muffin tin in the refrigerator to chill.
- For the pastry, pulse the flour and butter in a food processor until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.
- Add the confectioner’s sugar and grate the orange zest directly into the food processor bowl, then add the beaten egg and pulse again until the ingredients just come together. Bring the dough together by hand and then wrap it in greaseproof paper and chill in the fridge for 10-15 minutes.
- When the pastry has rested, unwrap it and roll it out between two sheets of baking paper to a thickness of 2mm.
- Stamp 12 rounds from the pastry using an 8cm/3in fluted pastry cutter. Also cut out 12 smaller rounds or hearts or stars to go on top of each mince pie. Carefully press the pastry into the cups of the muffin pan and place a teaspoon of mincemeat into each pastry shell. Top each one with one of the small pastry shapes.
- Bake for 12-15minutes, until delicately golden on the top. Sprinkle with a little superfine sugar as soon as they come out of the oven. Serve warm with a dollop of cream or brandy butter.
- Wishing you many happy months in 2022 and beyond!
Simple Gingerbread Christmas Trees
This contemporary design is simple to assemble and these ‘trees’ make a lovely table decoration for a festive afternoon tea. They are made from regular gingerbread dough and also chocolate gingerbread dough and are stuck together with chocolate icing. Any left-over scraps of dough can be used for gingerbread people or simple little Christmas biscuits.
Makes 2 small and 2 large trees
Basic gingerbread dough:
- 60g unsalted butter
- 45g soft light brown sugar
- 110g golden syrup or honey
- 190g cake flour
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- 2 teaspoons ground ginger
Chocolate Gingerbread dough
- As above but instead of 190g cake flour use 160g cake flour with 30g cocoa powder
- Place the butter and sugar into the bowl of a food processor and process until creamy. Add remaining ingredients and process further until the dough starts to come together. Tip into a bowl and bring together by hand.
- Repeat the above process for the chocolate dough. Leave both to chill in the refrigerator for 15 minutes.
- Using paper or thin card draw up and cut out 2 templates. The small triangle should be 17cm tall and have a base measurement of 8cm and the large one should be 22cm tall and have a base of 9cm.
- Roll out the ginger dough between 2 sheets of lightly floured non-stick baking paper to a thickness of 2-3mm. Cut out 3 small and 3 large triangles and 2 stars, for the top. Place the triangles of dough onto a baking tray lined with a non-stick silicone liner and chill for a further 15 minutes. Repeat with the chocolate dough.
- While chilling the dough, preheat the oven to 140’C (275’F). Bake for 20 – 25 minutes, until dry to the touch. Allow to cool completely on the baking trays.
- Make some chocolate icing by beating together 150g confectioner’s sugar, 15g cocoa powder and approximately 1 tablespoon of boiling water. Spoon the icing into a piping bag with a plain 5mm nozzle.
- Trim the sides of the triangles if needed. Pipe the icing onto each of the long edges and assemble by pressing 3 matching sides together to form a tall ‘pyramid’. Allow to stand for 20 – 30 minutes until set and then attach a star to the top of each tree. Dust with confectioner’s sugar of required.
- These keep for several days if stored in an airtight container.
these were awesome thanks for sharing
Thank you for the recipe’s, they look great!
Happy Holidays! Can’t wait to travel again!
What wonderful recipes. I wish the entire Tauck team a joyous holiday, Merry Christmas to all, and happy travels for 2022!
Thanks for these wonderful English recipes, can’t wait to try one or two of them.
Thanks for the lovely article on tea time. The whole idea of having such an elegant tea time truly lifts our spirits! I hope that soon we can join you on another wonderful trip! Merry Christmas! Happy New Year! May we be on the road again in 2022.
What a wonderful piece to post at Christmas time. Many memories fir so many. For me, it was the Christmas our family spent in London,
Staying at The Stafford Hotel, a small but very exclusive hotel. Many wonderful London moments.
Thank you for this posting.
Thank you for the delicious looking recipes! can’t wait to try to make them! Merry Christmas to Tack. My daughter and I still hope to travel with you in the future.
Taking your trip eastbound on the Danube in June 2022.
A nice batch of recipes. Thank you and please advise where I may drive to someone’s house who is making each. 😉
THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR ALL YOU DO THROUGHOUT THE YEAR.
Love the recipes. Great idea. Thanks so much.
Love touring with your company!! Thanks for the great recipes….
Thank you so much for the recipes. We will diffidently try a couple. Looking forward to traveling with you. The old plans went sides ways the last two years. Let’s all hope that changes!
Love the recipes
Wow, I didn’t expect to see so many mouth-watering recipes. Thank you.
Wish I Had some one to make them for me. Merry Christmas Scottie