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Vicki Coulter, left, is served tea at a party given by her mother, Margaret McCulloch, center, and Barbara Mullins at a neighborhood tea party at McCulloch's home in Old Decatur.
Daily photo by Gary Cosby Jr.
Vicki Coulter, left, is served tea at a party given by her mother, Margaret McCulloch, center, and Barbara Mullins at a neighborhood tea party at McCulloch's home in Old Decatur.

A spot of tea
in Old Decatur

Neighborhood ladies enjoy
tasty treats at old-fashioned tea

By Patrice Stewart
pstewart@decaturdaily.com 340-2446

All the elements of an old-fashioned tea party were present: tasty delicacies on tiered tea trays, an assortment of teas, pretty teapots holding arrangements of pink and yellow roses, and ladies wearing hats.

Margaret McCulloch and Barbara Mullins decided to invite all their Old Decatur neighbors to tea, so they sent out teapot-shaped invitations to join them at the McCulloch home from 3 to 5 p.m.

Cucumber Sandwiches were a big hit at the traditional tea party, along with Calla Lily Tea Sandwiches and Olive Tea Sandwiches.
Daily photo by Gary Cosby Jr.
Cucumber Sandwiches were a big hit at the traditional tea party, along with Calla Lily Tea Sandwiches and Olive Tea Sandwiches.
So many neighbors responded they decided to pour tea on both April 19 and 20. After all, what better way to promote friendliness in the neighborhood than with a spot o' tea and sour cream scones served with lemon curd, apricot ginger and raspberry jam?

They had many more goodies, too. The delicate, flower-shaped Calla Lily Tea Sandwiches were a big hit, as were the White Cheddar and Olive Tea Sandwiches, Cucumber Sandwiches, Turkey and Cranberry Sandwiches, cheese straws and chicken salad with party crackers.

Several three-tiered tea trays also held goodies such as Lemon Poppy Seed Cookies, Amaretto Mousse in Chocolate-Dipped Tarts, toffee and 1-inch bites of chocolate brownies flavored with hazelnut, mint and more.

McCulloch's daughter, Vicki Coulter, who assisted, said her mother decided on two afternoons because her seating area is small "and she wanted to accommodate everyone comfortably." They set up several extra tables covered with lace-trimmed cloths to handle the continually changing sea of hat-wearing neighbors who dropped by.

Mullins gathered fresh mint, spearmint and orange mint to flavor the tea, along with lemon. Guests could choose from a variety of teas by Earl Grey, Bentley's and Twinings, which is celebrating its 300th year as the oldest tea shop in England. Chai tea from Sutton's of London was offered, along with green tea, orange spice afternoon tea, and flavors such as raspberry and peach.

McCulloch said she got the idea last fall when Tea Time magazine came to Old Decatur for a series of tea photos in three homes.

"I thought it would be a nice thing for the neighborhood," she said.

She gave Mullins, her neighbor, a subscription to Tea Time for Christmas, and they chose their recipes for sandwiches and goodies from various issues.

McCulloch said the secret to the Calla Lily Tea Sandwiches and other cut-out designs is to freeze the bread first. "It cuts better that way," she said, "and then I rolled it out with my rolling pin before spreading on the cheese mixture."

These ideas also would work well for a Mother's Day tea next week. Here are some of the recipes they used:

Lemon Poppy Seed Cookies

1 cup butter, softened

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar

3 large eggs

1/2 teaspoon lemon extract

2 cups all-purpose flour

2 cups quick-cooking oats

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon poppy seeds

1 tablespoon sesame seeds

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease baking sheet. In a large bowl and using an electric mixer, beat butter and sugars until fluffy. Beat in eggs and lemon extract.

In a medium bowl, combine flour, oats, soda and salt. Gradually beat flour mixture into butter mixture. Stir in poppy seeds and sesame seeds.

Drop batter by teaspoonfuls on baking sheet. Bake 8 to 10 minutes or until edges are lightly browned. Let cool on baking sheet 2 minutes.

Remove to wire racks to cool completely. Makes about 5 dozen.

Calla Lily Tea Sandwiches

1 5.2-ounce package garlic and herb-flavored Boursin cheese, softened

1 3-ounce package cream cheese, softened

1/4 cup finely chopped toasted walnuts

1/8 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper

1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper

48 slices white bread

Paprika

Garnish: 2 carrots, peeled, and green onions

In a small bowl, combine Boursin cheese, cream cheese, walnuts, cayenne pepper and pepper. Beat at medium speed with an electric mixer until creamy.

Using a 21/2-inch cutter, cut 48 rounds from bread. With a rolling pin, roll each bread round to 1/8-inch thickness. Spread each round with cheese mixture and roll up at one end to resemble an open calla lily.

Garnish with paprika and add slivers of carrot and green onion to resemble the stamen and center of the flower. Makes about 4 dozen.

Leaf-Shaped Turkey and Cranberry Sandwiches

4 ounces cream cheese, softened

1/4 cup finely chopped pecans

1/2 cup dried cranberries, chopped

8 slices turkey

16 slices whole wheat bread

In small bowl, combine cream cheese, pecans and dried cranberries.

Using a 3-inch maple leaf cutter, cut slices of turkey and bread, (Note: Bread has cleaner edges if cut frozen.)

Spread cream cheese mixture on bread. Layer with turkey. Top with additional slice of bread. Can be wrapped and refrigerated up to 4 hours prior to serving. Makes 8 servings.

Amaretto Mousse in Chocolate-Dipped Tarts

1 cup semi-sweet chocolate morsels

2 tablespoons heavy whipping cream

1 2.1-ounce package frozen mini phyllo shells, thawed

1 envelope unflavored gelatin

1/4 cup cold water

1/3 cup boiling water

2 cups heavy whipping cream

1/2 cup sugar

3 tablespoons Amaretto

Grated semi-sweet chocolate (optional)

In small heavy saucepan, combine chocolate morsels and 2 tablespoons whipping cream. Cook over low heat until chocolate is melted, stirring to combine. Dip top edges of phyllo shells into melted chocolate mixture. Refrigerate shells until chocolate hardens.

In small bowl, soften gelatin in 1/4 cup cold water; let stand 2 minutes. Add 1/3 cup boiling water, stirring until gelatin dissolves.

Using an electric mixer, beat 2 cups whipping cream until foamy; gradually add sugar, beating until soft peaks form. Gently stir in Amaretto. Add gelatin mixture, stirring gently. Cover and chill 2 hours.

To serve, pipe or spoon mousse evenly into prepared phyllo shells. Garnish with grated chocolate if desired. Makes 30 miniature tarts.

Bittersweet Chocolate Hazelnut Brownies

1/2 cup butter

4 1-ounce squares bittersweet chocolate

1 cup sugar

2 large eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

3/4 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 cup toasted, chopped hazelnuts

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In heavy saucepan, melt butter and chocolate over low heat, stirring to combine. Remove from heat and cool 5 minutes.

In medium bowl, combine chocolate butter mixture and sugar, stirring well. Stir in eggs, vanilla extract, flour and hazelnuts. Pour mixture into well-greased 8-inch pan. Bake 25 minutes. Let cool completely. Cut into small squares to serve. Makes 64 1-inch squares.

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