I have wanted to get my paws on ‘Afternoon Tea at Home’ since its publication back in February, so I'm thrilled to finally have a copy, especially after enjoying Will Torrent’s previous book, ‘Chocolate At Home’, so much.
Afternoon Tea At Home begins with a short introduction and a summary on the subject of afternoon tea. The first section ‘Afternoon Tea Essentials’ provides recipes to fulfil all of your condiment needs; of course you could always buy your jams and compotes but should the fancy take you, recipes include: ‘Jams and Jellies’ (‘Strawberry and Champagne’, ‘Cherry and Kirsch’), various curds (‘The Dorchester Lemon Curd’, ‘Lime and Yuzu Curd’, ‘Chocolate and Espresso Curd’) as well as ‘Cherry Compote’ and ‘Chocolate and Hazelnut Spread’.
In the second chapter, ’Classic Afternoon Tea’ you will find traditional recipes, such as ‘Smoked Salmon Sandwiches with Whipped Cream Cheese’, ‘Roast Beef Sandwiches’, ‘Classic’ and (The Ritz London) ‘Fruited’ scones, and ‘Victoria Sponge with Strawberry Jam and Vanilla Buttercream’. Predictable as they may first appear, even some of these more common morsels have an added twist - the cucumber sandwiches come with a yuzu and chive butter.
The following four chapters are divided by the seasons, so you'll find ‘Spring Selection’, ‘Summer Sensation’, ‘Fall Delights’ and ‘Winter Celebration’, while the final chapter covers all of those extra recipes for ‘Something Special’. At the very back of the book there is also a selection of fourteen menus for various occasions, and a list of resources for both the U.K. and U.S.
The recipes are all written in an accessible and comprehensive way (mostly) sticking to regular kitchen cupboard ingredients (with the odd use of yuzu, vodka or freeze dried raspberries thrown in). As you may have guessed, this isn't a book for vegans or those on a gluten free diet... Or any kind of diet for that matter, it unapologetically includes cream, butter, flour and sugar throughout.
I am a sucker for an afternoon tea, I think it satisfies my indecisive nature by giving me a little bit of everything. Needless to say, the idea of being able to have an afternoon tea at home is very appealing, and there isn't much in here that I wouldn't sample, (I'd probably only avoid the Chicken Liver Parfait with Thyme and Onion Confit - even if they do look incredibly pretty).
When it comes to eating, I think we've all been guilty of rushing through our sandwiches in order to get to the sweet things, and this could have easily turned into one of those books where the sandwiches are an afterthought, but happily, it doesn't feel like that at all. Torrent has given just as much attention to detail to the savoury items as he has the sweet, leaving me just as excited about ‘Pulled Ham Hock Sandwiches with Piccalilli Mayonnaise', ‘Pastrami and Emmental Open Sandwich with Thousand Island Coleslaw on Brown Rye’, and ‘Beetroot Cured Salmon with Horseradish Crème Fraîche on Rye', as I am about ‘Apple Crumble and Custard Tartlets’.
One of the things I sometimes find with baking books, is that they can be a bit generic; it can be hard to be negative about them as they are often coated in very pleasing, indulgent, saliva inducing photography, but even so it can still leave you feeling uninspired. In ‘Afternoon Tea at Home’ however, I am titillated. Sure the pages are still festooned with fabulous photos (by Matt Russell) but what I'm actually impressed by is the variety of recipes included; a multitude of skills, textures and exciting flavours are all catered for.
I personally would feel intimidated if tasked to produce an afternoon tea, it seems complicated to create so many different components, so it is nice that I can choose from more intricate recipes with multiple stages, such as ‘Chocolate and Peanut Butter Délices’ if I'm feeling brave, or something more simple like ‘Mom's Sour Cherry Cake’, if I'm not. Although I may lack the confidence to produce a full afternoon tea just yet, I do have a list of things I'm hoping to try, including: ‘Blueberry and Buttermilk Scones with Honeycomb Butter’ (Torrent says that these are a breakfast favourite of his – I think that sounds like a good idea), ‘Triple Chocolate Cookies’ and ‘Nans’ Welsh Cakes’ (I've been looking for a new recipe to try, and I like that you are given advice on freezing them).
I love that whenever I pick this book up, I know that I will always find something that I want to make, whether it be a sandwich, cake, tartlet, biscuit, scone, trifle, panna cotta or posset, they are all just a page turn away; if the saying ‘variety is the spice of life’ had to be illustrated via the medium of a baking book, I think it would be this one.
Photography by Matt Russell © Ryland Peters & Small
See Will Torrent demonstrating some of the recipes from the book in these two videos: