Tea Sandwiches!

If you haven’t noticed by now, I greatly enjoy Downton Abbey. In this week’s recap, I promised to tell you all about the finger sandwiches I took with me to the Downton viewing party I attended on Sunday. So here we are! These are perfect party foods, appetizers, and, of course, at tea.

You know what finger sandwiches, or tea sandwiches, are, right? They’re delicate, dainty, tiny sandwiches, usually only a bite or two, typically consumed with one’s afternoon tea, especially at a high tea. By nature, I am not very tiny, delicate, or dainty, so making these was a fun exercise in restraint and miniature.

Well, maybe not restraint. I made four different types of tea sandwiches: cucumber, egg salad, salmon, and watercress and goat cheese. None of these are particularly complicated, but precision counts in tea sandwiches! Let me explain.

To make all four of these sandwiches, take two big loaves of sandwich bread–one white, one pumpernickel or wheat, and slice off all of the crusts, so that each slice of bread is now an exact square. (If the only pumpernickel you could find is a boule, slice the crusts off so you get a 3:2 ratio rectangle.) You may want to omit the smaller slices at the beginning and end of your loaf.

Now, decide which filling you would like on which bread. Smoked salmon and pumpernickel go together incredibly well, and white bread and cucumber just seems like the epitome of the tea sandwich, but really, there are no wrong answers or flavors here. You’re going to use half a loaf for each sandwich.

How good are you at multi-tasking? You can deal with keeping an eye on something on the stove while you’re doing other things, right? Awesome. Okay, put six eggs in cold water in a pot on the stove (the water should come 1/2 inch over the tops of the eggs) and turn the heat up high. Once the water has come to a gentle boil, immediately cover and turn off the heat. Let sit for exactly 7 minutes, and then put the eggs into a bowl of ice water.

While you’re waiting for your egg water to boil, prep your cucumber. Run a fork down the sides of an unpeeled cucumer, scoring the skin. Now, if you’ve got a mandoline, high-five! Use the thinnest setting, and slice the heck out of your cucumber. Otherwise, using a very sharp knife, make the thinnest slices of cucumber you can. Throw the cucumber slices in a medium-sized bowl, and add one cup of water and one half cup of apple cider vinegar. Let them sit for half an hour or so.

While your eggs are still cooking and your cucumbers are pickling just the tiniest bit, bang out the easy sandwiches!

For the goat cheese and watercress, simply combine a diced 1/4 of a cup of watercress with 5.5 oz of chevre, or whatever vaguely similar size of goat cheese your store carries. If your goat cheese isn’t mixing properly, microwave it for 15-30 seconds, and try again. You can also do this for the cream cheese mentioned below. In all cases, we want things smooth and spreadable. Now, take whichever half-a-loaf you have dedicated to the watercress and chevre, and count out your slices–you need an even number! Spread the mixture on half of the slices (so, on a quarter of an entire loaf) making sure to evenly coat the bread all the way to the edges. Add the tops, so you’ve got several big ole sandwiches. Check the eggs! Are they boiling? If so, heat off, cover on, timer for seven minutes.

You have a decision to make next. What shape do you want your tea sandwiches to be? I went with tiny squares, because I wanted to make a delicious checkerboard, but long narrow sandwiches and triangles are also valid options. No matter which shape you ultimately decide on, each full-slice-sized square sandwich ought to make about 4 tea sandwiches, or 6 if your initial loaf of bread was more conducive to a rectangle.

Image from BitBoy on Flikr, via Wikipedia

Now, smoked salmon: another easy-peasy one! Take another half-a-loaf, cream cheese on both sides of the bread, and a decent-sized layer of smoked salmon on top of half of them. I sprinkled a bit of salt and vinegar on my smoked salmon before putting their tops on, and wished i’d remembered to buy capers like I’d planned. Slice these the same way you sliced the first ones, and boom! Halfway done! Look at you! Except not really, because egg salad.

Speaking of which, how are your eggs? Is your seven minutes up? If so, cold water, stat! And then you can stop worrying about the eggs.

Your cucumber slices, though! Have they been soaking for a half hour-ish? If so, take them out and lay them out on some paper towel, and pat them dry. We want a hint of vinegar, not an overpowering amount. You have another decision to make, as regards to the spread on the cucumber sandwiches. I used a fancy one I found on the internet, but I’m pretty sure all the other cucumber sandwiches I’ve ever had in my life were simply bread, butter, and cucumber. If you want to make a spread, though, mix 4 oz cream cheese with 2 tablespoons of mayonnaise, 1/4 teaspoon of garlic salt, and a big dash of Worcestershire sauce. Mix thoroughly, apply to bread, add on a healthy layer of cucumber. I may have gone so far as to cut some slices in half so they’d distribute more evenly. Add the tops, cut to the desired size, and done.

Egg salad time! Peel your eggs, and dice the bejeezus out of them. Dice’em really, really finely. Then, I added 1/3 of a cup of mayo, 2 incredibly-finely-diced celery stalks, 2 tablespoons diced fresh chives, and salt and pepper to taste. Take your final half a loaf, spread this on pretty thickly on half those slices, and top and cut. You’re all done!

Now, for presentation! I took a rectangular serving tray (alright, fine, it was a level of my cupcake carrier) and alternated the square sandwiches, making a checkerboard pattern with them, but your imagination’s your limit in this case! Make patterns, stack’em up high, whatever you please.

And speaking of “whatever you please,” these are only a few of the many kinds of tea sandwiches that are out there! Tomato, ham, chicken salad, cream cheese with walnuts or almonds–the possibilities are endless, as long as the sandwich is tiny, crustless, and not, well, overpoweringly flavorful! You want to be able to taste your wine tea, afterall!

Here’s the ingredient list:

Goat cheese and watercress:
5.5 oz goat cheese
1/4 cup diced watercress

Smoked Salmon:
4 oz smoked salmon
Cream cheese, to taste (I used about 3 oz?)

1 medium cucumber
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
4 oz cream cheese
2 Tbsp mayonnaise
1 dash Worcestershire
salt and pepper

Egg Salad:
6 eggs
1/3 cup mayonnaise
2 stalks celery
1/2 bunch chives
salt and pepper

2 large loaves of sandwich bread, one white, one pumpernickel or whole wheat

Make these on Sunday in time for Downton Abbey! Or for your next tea party!

By CherriSpryte

CherriSpryte wants you to know that The Great Pumpkin loves you.

21 replies on “Tea Sandwiches!”

ooohhh, I just thought of another tea sandwich variation that’s really nice – ‘coronation’ chicken. Coronation chicken was created in honour of Queen Elizabeth’s coronation in the early ’50s, and was pretty wildly exotic for the era (so it’s a a little anachronistic for the Downton Abbey era, but as the show is set at the end of the Raj its not excessively inappropriate). What follows is my own version, I make no claims as to its authenticity.

Basically, what you do is you take some cold cooked chicken (turkey or something would work too), mix it with mayonnaise and/or natural yoghurt to taste (I like 1/2 and 1/2), throw in some chopped celery if you like to taste, and then stir in a good-sized spoonful of curry powder or curry paste of a desired hotness (I use Madras). If you have it you could spread a little bit of chutney (my favourite is mango) on one side of the bread before assembling the sarnies. NOM.

Nice article! 2 suggestions for tea sandwich variations that might be enjoyable depending on your taste. 1 – combine the egg with the watercress – use cress instead of celery in the egg salad. Egg and cress = English total classic. Nom. Suggestion 2 – if you are so inclined, throw some Marmite on the cucumber sandwich. Seriously, sooooo good.

Thanks so much for the suggestions! I saw egg and cress several times when I was looking for recipes to use, but I really wanted to get some cheese in there somewhere, so I went with the goat cheese one instead. And the coronation chicken looks fantastic as well!

I’m a bit scared of Marmite, though.

I understand! Marmite is scary stuff if you haven’t been indoctrinated as a small child. But I have totally converted people who were repulsed by the mere concept of Marmite through the application of cucumber, avocado and Marmite sandwiches (I drizzle a little lemon juice or balsamic vinegar on the avocado part). The thing with Marmite is that people who aren’t brainwashed used to it try to use it the way they would use jam or another sweet spread – slathering it on thickly. The key to successful Marmite appreciation is to apply it in the thinnest possible layer to your bread or toast. It’s definitely a very specific and acquired taste tho!

There’s this Indian restaurant in Sunnyvale (Passage to India Bakery) that does a lunch buffet that includes your standard marvelous traditional Indian snack and lunch fare, plus sweet cakes and tea sandwiches! They have a cucumber sandwich that  will make you keel over. It’s an initially strange experience that actually totally makes sense: loading up your plate with samosas and pav bhaji and navratam korma, and then sort of offsetting the heavy spiced treats with these tiny delicate tea sandwiches. It’s a brilliant strategy, I tell you.

Weeee! This is fantastic. Tea sandwiches make me ridiculously giddy. It’s hard to be dainty when faced with a plate of them, though. The word “shoveling” comes to mind when I recall my last encounter…


I’m not down with calling them finger sandwiches though. It sounds rather gruesome and Hannibal Lecter-y.

I’m not entirely cool with calling them finger sandwiches, either, but I didn’t want people to think they were teatime-only? I think my aversion to the idea of “finger sandwiches” is the main reason I didn’t cut them into long, finger-like strips? I’m not sure.

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