Jane de Graaff, I Ate It All
I\’m having a really tough time not squealing with giddy excitement. And I\’ll be honest and say that I\’m generally not prone to fits of girlish glee- for fear of blowing my cover as an independent and formidable feminist.
Still- when the Australian Women\’s Weekly â€˜High Tea\’ recipe book came my way- I could literally feel my sleek black outfit morphing into a frilly apron, lace collar and bustled skirt.
Lets face it; no matter how thoroughly modern a girl is& we all still love a good traditional High Tea. I just can\’t help it, the mere mention of it provokes visions of steaming pots of Earl Grey, tiered cake plates and tiny silver tongs for the sugar bowl, and within seconds I come over all goose pimples and fluttering eyelids.
Happily â€˜High Tea\’ gives me more than enough reason to break out the fine china.
It\’s a beautiful book- full of pink hued still-life shots of delicate finger sandwiches, abundant piles of scones dripping sexily with jam and cream and shell shaped Madelines. There are pastries, cream buns, delicate and ladylike iced confections and frilly doilies galore- all reclining gracefully and languidly on patterned tablecloths and casually strewn rose petals.
It\’s pretty. It\’s pastel. It\’s perfect.
It\’s my new secret shame.
Though displayed jauntily on the coffee table, I can\’t say I\’m trying very hard to hide it.
The sweet and the savoury are both covered in these divine pages- because High Tea isn\’t just about sugar. A whole chapter is dedicated to the art of the High Tea sandwich– from pinwheel to triangle and finger. It\’s a nice reminder that you can venture beyond cucumber.
But sweets do take up most of the book- and with the variety of delights on offer, you\’ll hardly be complaining. There are simple recipes for lavender shortbread, to more complex mocha puffs and macaroons (think choux pastry and meringue style delicates), so you\’ll feel your lips twitching with anticipation.
Sprinkled in amongst the mouth-watering recipes and pictures are proverbs, witticisms and quotes pertaining to that noble pastime of afternoon tea, beginning with the very apt;
“There are few hours in life more agreeable than the hour dedicated to the ceremony known as afternoon tea.”
-Henry James, The Portrait of a Lady
Every recipe is covered by the famous AWW triple test, assuring that as long as you pay attention to the recipe, you are fairly assured of a baking success. And with comprehensive extra instructions and images in the back for the truly tricky bits, you\’re bound to get it right. There\’s a conversion chart that\’s easy to follow and a glossary if you come across any unfamiliar baking terms.
Still, never one to trust just a pretty picture- I simply could not resist trying my hand at the famous macaroon (pg. 68). I\’m a complete sucker for these pretty little candy-sweet buttons of whipped sugar and egg. When they\’re fresh and made with skill the outer shell just melts away like whizz-fizz in your mouth, revealing the nougaty delights of the filling within. The test was to see if my home job would match up the delights that I just can\’t walk past at the patisserie.
After an initial try where (thinking I knew better than the AWW triple test& I know- very silly) I failed to follow some pretty clear instructions. What resulted were chocolate macaroon shells that tasted delicious but were stuck fast to their baking paper and lacked the perfect button shape that I find so endearing.
Lesson learned (trust the triple test instructions Jane!), round two gave me perfect pink shells filled with a milk chocolate ganache& and success has certainly never been this sweet.
The only thing this beautiful book lacks is a little High Tea history or context. There is also no information on tea drinking itself, a glaring omission.
Perhaps this extra information and history would have cramped and crowded such a beautiful little recipe book too much? Perhaps that information constitutes a whole book of its own? Whatever the case, if you\’re hoping for a bit of High Tea insight, best look it up elsewhere.
Still, there\’s more than enough inspiration in these sumptuous pages to insight copious quantities of girlie gasps and flushed faces- and with the overwhelming number of delightful recipes and serving ideas& perhaps the only context that High Tea needs is this one& I\’m serving it.
Available now:Â Random House RRP$32.95