The trays of tea sandwiches in Adele Jensen’s Naperville kitchen looked like something Mrs. Patmore would have put together for a tea at Downton Abbey.
Jensen was putting the final touches on a garden party given in honor of the marriage of her dear friend Anne Hartnett to Jim Beasley.
“They are both widows, and this is their second marriage. We wanted to have something like a bridal shower, so we planned a garden party,” said Jensen, standing in her kitchen piling cut up fruit into a watermelon carved to look like a turtle. “The reception is at the Tortoise Club in Chicago. Her daughter and son-in-law own it, so I thought it would be fun to have a tortoise at the party.”
Jensen, who is in her 60s, is not a novice when it comes to throwing parties. She ran a catering business about 25 years ago before switching to a career as a Realtor with ReMax.
She knew what had to be done to get ready and set a time table for herself.
“I sent out invitations about three weeks ahead,” she said. “I did an evite this time. Then a week before, I made a list of everything I was going to make and everything I needed to get. I spent Friday shopping and made the sandwich toppings on Friday night.”
She also baked tea bread, three varieties of cookies and tarts on Friday.
On Saturday, her two granddaughters, Wrigley and Maxine, came to lend their assistance.
“They helped cut all of the bread into shapes, and we had a ball,” Jensen said.
She chose to use white, wheat and rye bread for the sandwich bases.
“It is best to use bread that is a few days old, because it holds the fillings better,” she explained. “I butter all of the bread, too, because it keeps the fillings from soaking into the bread and making it soggy.”
She made several different toppings for the sandwiches, including tarragon chicken salad with grapes, finely chopped shrimp in mayonnaise, ham salad and egg salad.
“Do you want my secret recipe for ham salad?” she asked with a grin. “It’s from Casey’s Food.”
The toppings were scooped on top of the breads, garnished and placed in boxes in the refrigerator Sunday. She also cut the fruit for the fruit salad tortoise Sunday but kept each fruit type in separate containers so the flavors didn’t mix. She waited to put the fruit together until a few hours before the event.
She also made scones with clotted cream and strawberry preserves for the party to recall a trip she made to England with Hartnett years ago. She cut the scones into flower shapes using a cookie cutter that once belonged to her grandmother. She whipped heavy cream until it became like butter to use as a substitute for clotted cream, which is not readily available in the United States.
Jensen said many of the special touches were easy. For example, she created a butter rose by simply running a table knife across a stick of butter and then molding the shavings into petals.
“It is best to take the butter out for about 15 minutes,” she explained. “If it is too cold, the butter just breaks. If it is too warm, it won’t scrape off correctly.”
Jensen relied upon help from several friends during the preparations. She put out a call for flowers and got several lovely bouquets from her friends’ yards which she placed on card tables arranged in her back yard lawn that looks out onto a small pond. She added even more color by using coleus clippings instead of greens in the arrangements. Matching tablecloths on the card tables created a very intentional look for the event.
“I try to have everything done at least an hour before the event so I can relax,” said Jensen.
She was almost ready with three hours to go.
“Everything does not have to be perfect,” Jensen. “Anne and I have been going to our children’s weddings for years, and now we are going to celebrate her wedding. The joy is not having a perfect party. The joy is being together and having fun to celebrate this lovely lady. We are all so happy for her, and a party is a way to share that happiness.”
Jensen shares her recipe for Bourbon Nut Bread as well as Honey Scones for others who might want to enjoy a garden party before summer slips away.Tags: food
Bourbon Nut Bread
8 eggs, separated
3 cups sugar, divided
1 pound butter
3 cups flour
1/2 cup bourbon
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 teaspoons almond extract
1 cup chopped pecans
Beat egg whites until soft peaks form. Gradually add 1 cup sugar and continue beating until stiff peaks form. Set aside.
In a separate bowl, cream butter with remaining 2 cups of sugar. Add egg yolks one at a time, beating well after adding each yolk. Add flour in thirds, alternating with bourbon. Add vanilla, almond and nuts. Gently fold in egg whites to this mixture.
Grease three 9-by-5-inch loaf pans. Divide mixture into pans. Bake at 350 degrees for about an hour or until done. Bread freezes well.
2 cups flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup cold unsalted butter
1/4 cup cold cream cheese
1 cup cream, plus more as needed
3 tablespoons honey
Combine flour, baking powder and salt in a bowl. Cut butter and cream cheese into small cubes. Add to flour mixture. Cut together using two forks or a pastry blender until coarse crumbs form.
In a separate bowl, mix together 1 cup cream and honey. Add to flour mixture while stirring until a moist mixture forms. Add 1 to 3 more tablespoons cream if mixture is too dry.
Turn mixture out onto a floured surface and roll to 3/4-inch thickness. Use a 3-inch cookie cutter to cut into shapes. Scraps can be re-rolled and cut once more.
Place scones on baking sheets lined with parchment paper. Brush scones lightly with cream and sprinkle with coarse sugar. Bake at 350 degrees for about 15 minutes or until golden brown.