Welcome to our blog....here we will share all our afternoon tea adventures with you...the good, the bad and the wonderful!

Wednesday, 20 January 2021

It's Pretzel time!

 Hello there!

Happy new year....is it too late to say that now?? Don't know about you, but can't believe we're mid way through January already! 

Anyway, here in the UK we are still in lockdown. Staying home is still not that much - missing friends, family and loved ones. There is only so much baking you can do yourself....so I've been looking at the different sweet treats that can be delivered to me at home. We need to provide our own moments of joy and for me these can definitely lie in cake and biscuits! There are so many companies now offering their sweet treats via the post, I thought it was about time I indulged a little.

I found PostBox Pretzels on Instagram, they came highly recommended and I thought the concept was quite different. Basically they make crunchy pretzel sandwiches, covered in chocolate stuffed with yummy centres. Better still....they post them to you!


They offer a selection of flavours including Honeycomb, caramel crisp, s’more, chocolate orange & The Nutty One.  You can either pick specific flavours to make up a box or opt for one of their selection boxes. When picking your own, you can also select your favourite chocolate coating, giving you even more variety.

I opted for the surprise selection to cut out the anxiety of picking from one of the fabulous flavours listed on the website (what if I regret my choice??). The box includes four fresh pretzel sandwiches, with the option to add a personalised message if you are sending as a gift.

Delivery was fast and no need to worry about being home for when your pretzels arrive (although that's not really an issue in the current situation for many of us), as the box fits perfectly through a letterbox. I can confirm that the box makes a very pleasant thud as it hits the floor!


I really liked the packaging, which helped the pretzels arrive safely. If you get the surprise box everything is labelled so you know what to expect when picking your first pretzel to try. As you can see I had the S'mores, Honeycomb Crunch, Chocolate Orange and Caramel Crisp. When I ordered a box for my sister she got a different selection, so you really never know what you'll get when ordering a surprise box! I also love the toppings, don't they look delicious?

I loved the combination of crunchy pretzel and the various softer fillings. I can confirm that the Chocolate Orange was my favourite, which features an orange infused ganache in the middle of the two sourdough pretzels. Mine was coated in a milk chocolate and it was so delicious! Coming in close second place was the S'mores one....in the middle was marshmallow, ganache and salted caramel...such a great combination. Again it was topped in milk chocolate and covered with mini marshmallows. I did also really enjoy the caramel crisp, which was coated in dark chocolate and included a generous serving of gooey caramel in the middle. The honeycomb crisp was a little too sweet for me, but that was personal taste rather than anything else. I'm not a huge fan of white chocolate.



There were four pretzel sandwiches in my box...and I somehow managed to make them last four days. They were a lovely afternoon treat with a mug of steaming hot coffee!

As mentioned, I also sent a box to my sister. She also loved them, her favourites were the smores and chocolate orange ones. 

If you want to find out more about Postbox Pretzels pop by their website. 

Thank you for popping by today, we hope to see you again soon!

Rachel xxx

Monday, 10 August 2020

Time for.....lots of Cupcakes from Bakehouse!

Hello there,

Welcome back to Tea With Me and Friends.....home to all things sweet and delicious! We hope you are keeping safe and well wherever you are in the world. These are difficult times, but I hope these sweet treats will at least make you smile (and maybe even drool a little - you have been warned!). 

During the pandemic lockdown (which is easing slowly in England as I write this) I did a lot of home baking, but there were times when I also wanted a treat....a tasty treat baked by someone else. Sometimes there is nothing better than a delicious piece of cake that you haven't made yourself and living alone made that a bit difficult! I was lucky enough to discover Bakehouse, a local baker from Aldershot in Hampshire, via a Facebook recommendation, who offered all kinds of cakes and treats delivered to your door. A dream come true!

When lockdown struck, Ellie started a weekly BakeDrop menu of cupcakes, loaf cakes and biscuits which could be delivered or collected either on a Monday or Friday. The team also offer an afternoon tea menu, which can be delivered or collected on other days but needs to be pre-booked. The BakeDrop menu changes each week and includes a variety of bakes. I've ordered from Bakehouse several times now and wanted to share my experience and support this fabulous local business.

                                                   

Let's start with some of the treats from the BakeDrop menu...each week there will be two varieties of cupcakes, a loaf cake, a tray bake, cookies and some kind of savoury treat. Some weeks you can also buy cake cups too, which are amazing! The choice is really varied each week and you'll be hard pressed not to find something you like! You can order via Facebook or Instagram, its really easy....you just tell the team what you want, pay and then wait! You can opt to collect or they will deliver up to 6 miles from head quarters. 

You've already seen some of the wonderful cupcakes that I have tried over the last couple of months at the top of this article. Flavours offered have included chocolate, carrot cake, strawberry and cream (delicious vanilla sponge filled with strawberry jam), red velvet, mint choc chip, Biscoff biscuit (which comes with a chunk of biscuit), chocolate orange, salted caramel, custard cream, lemon, key lime pie, cinnamon caramel, coffee & walnut (which is a personal favourite) and gin and tonic! I bet you're drooling just reading that selection!

Each cupcake I have tried has been light and flavoursome, topped with a generous helping of butter icing. I really enjoyed the coffee and walnut that I tried recently (great coffee flavour and chucks of walnut), but to be honest there hasn't been a cupcake that I haven't enjoyed yet! The flavours are always well balanced and taste exactly how you think they should. The cakes last quite well too...although who wants to make your cupcakes last....you want to gobble them all up...or at least I do!

I was also impressed with the cake cup that I tried, which was jaffa cake flavour and included a combination of orange sponge, chocolate orange frosting, chocolate sauce, fresh cream and chunks of jaffa cake! Blooming amazing...all that jammed into one cup to enjoy with a spoon! Cake cups don't appear every week, but when they do they are always great combinations such as jammie dodger, millionaire shortbread, red velvet or chocolate peanut m&ms. The cake cup I tried was well thought through, with flavours and textures blending well - a real treat!

I haven't ordered any traybakes, cookies or loaf cakes yet, mainly because the cupcakes are always at the top of the menu and I usually get seduced by something amazing straight away! But if you make it further down the menu and are tempted by the bigger treats you could try lemon drizzle loaf cake, bakewell slice, white chocolate coconut cookies, ginger cake, Oreo cheesecake bar, chocolate raspberry brownie or choc chip cookies to name just a few! Next time I order I think I need to try something other than a cupcake!!

The menu also usually includes sausage rolls, some kind of pinwheel or pastry twist or cheese roll. My favourite is the sausage rolls, which are stuffed full of meat and rolled in flaky pastry - they really are lovely and again last well for a nice weekend treat if you order for a Friday delivery.

As well as all of this deliciousness available on a weekly basis you can also order afternoon teas - if you are lucky Ellie sometimes has spares which she makes into boxes that you can add to a Friday delivery. These are always advertised on Facebook or Instagram and are worth looking out for. Otherwise you need to get organised and order in advance. 

I got lucky one Friday night and got myself a spare box for one....

         

Afternoon tea boxes include finger sandwiches (with not a controversial crust in sight) with traditional fillings, scones with tubs of clotted cream and jam, fruit kebabs (so we can pretend to be healthy), a cupcake (as this was a spare I didn't have a cupcake this time), usually a chocolate honeycomb ganache pot or a raspberry jelly pot (as you can see I got both of these - the chocolate ganache is outrageous....so rich and creamy!). There are also luxury options, vegan options and gluten free options plus a children's version of each variety. Oh and there is a tea and coffee selection included! 

Its the perfect afternoon tea in a little white box! Everything was fresh and well packaged up, so the sandwiches didn't get soggy or stale and nothing leaked during the delivery.

I can confirm that the scones passed the taste test - not at all claggy, but light in texture. The perfect vessel for enjoying cream and jam! 

On top of all this, Ellie is really lovely and its a pleasure to order scrummy cakes from her. Communication is great and payment really easy. If you happen to be in the Aldershot / Farnham area in Surrey and are in need of cake (I'm sure this is a common problem for more people than just me!) then I would recommend taking a look at Bakehouse. 

Just to note that this is in no way a paid ad, I have paid for all the treats I have enjoyed from Bakehouse myself and just wanted to share them with you. For more information pop by the Bakehouse Facebook page. 

Do you have a favourite local baker who has been keeping you in cake during lockdown...if so we'd love to hear all about them - leave us a comment!

Thank you for popping by today,

Rachel 

Sunday, 26 July 2020

Time for Tea....at The Ritz London - a post Covid-19 lockdown adventure!

Hello there,

We hope you're all keeping safe and well in these challenging times. Covid-19 has certainly changed the world we knew at the beginning of 2020, as we've all had to press pause on life in order to slow the spread. In England we are slowly emerging from a lockdown state - taking our first tentative steps towards a normal existence. There are so many things I've missed and I have wondered what life would be like after lockdown - would we enjoy the things we did before with social distancing and face coverings in place. 

As I'm writing this, in England we are now being encouraged to start doing the things we enjoyed before....we just have to make sure we take the appropriate precautions and are sensible about what we do.  Shops and restaurants are starting to open up again, we can go and have our hair cut (if you can get an appointment) and non-essential travel on public transport is permitted again. Lorna and I were invited to be guests at The Ritz in London in their reopening week, after three months of being closed to the public. The Ritz are offering afternoon tea initially (their other restaurants will open in the following weeks). There are temperature checks on the way in, social distancing inside (and therefore less seats available) and the staff are all wearing facial coverings - we wondered whether any of these measures would have an impact on the afternoon tea experience.

We headed into London wearing our face masks, although we didn't travel on the tube we both felt ok about travelling on the trains. Generally people followed social distancing and kept their masks on while on the train. London itself was much quieter than we had ever experienced before, but I'll admit that people weren't so good at keeping the distance on the main streets - this is when it's good to know your way around the quieter back streets.

On arrival at The Ritz hand sanitiser was available and we greeted by a member of staff who took our temperatures - on passing this test we were allowed into the main hotel and shown to our seats in the legendary Palm Court. Tables were arranged further apart from each other than normal and all staff had face masks on, the distance meant we felt comfortable in taking our face masks off. From this point the afternoon tea experience felt pretty normal, its amazing how quickly you get used to people wearing masks as they ask for your tea preference and dietary requirements. 

The afternoon tea stand is elegant, containing a selection of finger sandwiches and patisserie treats. We are told that scones, cream and jam will be brought out later. 


The sandwich selection was very traditional, but varied, it included:

Ham and mustard
Cheese and chutney
Cucumber and cream cheese
Chicken and tarragon mayonnaise
Smoked salmon
Egg salad on a Brioche roll

The sandwiches were dainty - the perfect nibbling size, with no crust in sight! The bread was fresh, fillings well balanced and choice varied. My favourite was the cheese and chutney, which came on a tomato bread but the egg salad was a strong contender as well, the egg was paired with chopped shallots and watercress and served on a brioche roll.

         

We were offered additional sandwiches and then the warm scones were served, along with clotted cream and strawberry preserve. We had both plain and fruited scones....


As you can see the fruited scones were packed full of sultanas....nothing worse than a fruit scone where you have to search for the fruit! The scones were light and fluffy in texture, the perfect base for the clotted cream and strawberry preserve.

We made our way to the top of the cake stand to find three delicacies each ....


Each one was a good size and looked beautiful (almost too good to eat!). After so many treats already it was a relief that there were only three sweet items to sample. Possibly a bizarre thing for a cake lover to say, but there is nothing worse than being overwhelmed when you get to the cakes after enjoying sandwiches and scones.

The pastry items were all well executed, with flavours well balanced.

       

Our selection included a chocolate mousse so light it just disappeared as you ate it, a beautiful cheesecake with blueberries and the caramel puff of wonderment! The flavours worked well in each pastry, but also complimented each other as you enjoyed this course of afternoon tea. 

And just when we thought it was all over we were offered cake from the cake trolley, both Lorna and I opted for the Victoria sponge....


The sponge was light and lemony, complimented with strawberry preserve and fresh cream. It was probably one of the best Victoria Sponge's that I've had the pleasure of encountering!

Service throughout our whole experience was attentive and friendly, with waiters introducing themselves as they brought us the various courses. We didn't feel uncomfortable at any point, as the appropriate safety measures were adhered too, but didn't negatively impact our experience. 

I'd like to thank The Ritz for hosting us as their guests for this gifted experience. Please note that our guest status has not effected our thoughts on the afternoon tea and all opinions expressed are our own. 

If you are thinking about enjoying an afternoon tea, but are worried about safety measures I would encourage you to speak to the establishment where you would like to visit. Hotels, restaurants, cafes and tearooms are really looking forward to serving afternoon tea again and will no doubt be doing everything to try and make visits as comfortable as possible.

For more information about The Ritz London please visit their website. 

Thank you for popping by today - if you've had an afternoon tea experience we'd love to hear all about it. Please leave us a comment!

Rachel & Lorna

Saturday, 25 April 2020

Ruby The Cake Artist Brownie Slab

Hello there,

Welcome back to another sweet post from Tea With Me and Friends. I hope you are keeping well and staying safe during these challenging times.

Today I wanted to share with you one of the sweet treats that was sent to me for my solo Birthday celebrations....imagine my delight when I heard the post arrive on the big day and found this waiting for me on the doormat...(ok, my delight came once I'd actually opened the box, but you know what I mean!!)...


Yup, my lovely friend Sheree sent me a slab of birthday brownie through the post! 
What a lovely surprise!

The Brownies come from Ruby The Cake Artist, who usually makes wonderful celebration cakes, as well as offering a cake subscription service. At the moment the big cakes are unavailable, but Ruby is still offering the cake subscription, decorate your own biscuits and slabs of brownies with a weekly delivery.

The brownie was the perfect size to fit through the post box, came well packed and was delivered via Royal Mail. Even though it had quite a drop from my letterbox to the floor, it was still intact when I opened it. 

The brownie itself is deliciously gooey, smothered in chocolate and decorated with a birthday message and lots of sparkle that will make the birthday girl or boy smile...


The brownie might appear quite slim....it has to fit through your letter box remember....but its full of chocolatey flavour and I loved the extra layer of chocolate on the top. You can enjoy it on its own or with a dollop of ice cream.

It's also perfect with a cup of tea....


As well as this Birthday box, you can also send a brownie selection box which includes favours such as Jaffa cake (which sounds amazing) and raspberry and white chocolate. You can also opt to go vegan if you want to.

To find out more about Ruby The Cake Artist and the different sweet treat boxes available, pop by the Ruby The Cake Artist website

Thank you Sheree for this delicious treat, it certainly brightened my day!

Thank you for popping by today, I look forward to seeing you again soon,
Rachel

Monday, 20 April 2020

Lockdown Baking

Hey There,

How are you today? Looking for a guilt free cake fix? If so, you've found the right place - grab a cup of tea and read on....

Banana and peanut butter cookies

For me baking is more than the act of making a cake or batch of biscuits. Of course I love the finished product as much as the next person....there is something wonderful about a cup of tea and freshly baked goods....but I also love the process of baking.

The combining of different ingredients, the stirring and mixing, folding and beating. Following a recipe or making it up as you go along (shock horror...I do that sometimes!). The smells as your bakes rise in the oven and the sight of the finished cake or biscuit. I love it all - it soothes my soul and makes me happy. Sharing the bakes with others is also pretty good, the widening smile when someone sees your cakes and sigh as they bite into a piece....alright, I'm a bit of a cake feeder!

The Covid-19 pandemic has meant we're all staying at home to slow the spread and I know we've all been coping with the social distancing in different ways. Some people are learning new skills via the internet, some cleaning their cupboards and garages from top to bottom. Some are making their way through their "to read" book pile and others are watching the whole of Netfix! For me I'm part of the baking tribe that is sharing their bakes on social media, although I have to say I haven't made a single banana loaf (I manage to eat all my bananas before they go brown). 

Easter Sunday pancakes!

I've tried lots of new recipes, enjoying taking the time to read my recipe books to pick bakes that I have the ingredients for (no longer having the luxury of nipping to the shops for missing items). I've also enjoyed a virtual baking session with a friend via video call - she baked banana brownies and I made a coffee crumb cake, it was great fun and we both had cake to enjoy at the end.

Since I've been so busy baking I thought I would share what I've made and why I've upped my exercise levels!

The coffee crumb cake I mentioned above was really good, a lovey light vanilla sponge topped with a coffee and mixed spice flavoured crumb. The crumb has a streusel-like quality to it, giving the bake a pleasing combination of textures. I also enjoyed how well the mixed spice paired with the coffee flavour. The cake was nice served with a dollop of clotted cream and a hot drink! 


I've tried my hand at several different biscuit recipes recently and found that I really enjoy biscuit making. Most of my bakes previously would be in cake form or using very basic biscuit recipes, so I enjoyed learning new techniques. 

I've made some delicious Viennese butter biscuits, dipped in chocolate and slightly fiery ginger custard creams. The butter biscuits are a pipped biscuit and incredibly light and buttery. The custard creams were a completely new bake for me and I struggled a little with the biscuit dough. I'm glad I finished them though because they were delicious.

I also made a batch of crunchy ginger biscuits which I enjoyed with a cup of super sweet Dalgona coffee (I felt like I was in a coffee shop with this luxurious homemade coffee!).




I also made slightly bizarre millionaire shortbread....the reason they were a bit bizarre in the flavour department was because I had run out of normal milk chocolate for the topping and only had Cadburys limited edition Christmas gingerbread chocolate to melt! Slightly odd flavour to mix with the dreamy caramel, but I enjoyed them anyway! Millionaire shortbread always hits the spot with its combination of shortbread, caramel and chocolate.


I hope you've enjoyed taking a peek at my latest baking creations. As our government has announced that the lock down will last at least another three weeks I'm sure there will be lots more bakes to follow so watch this space! If you have any recipes you think I should try, leave me a message in the comments below!

Thank you for popping by today,
Rachel