This week my wife and I made a bunch of tea sandwiches and now I’m sharing recipes for the bread and ingredients. You should bookmark this post for your future dainty sandwich adventures. Let’s make tea sandwiches.
What the heck is a tea sandwich?
A tea sandwich is usually a small, delicate sandwich that could traditionally be served during afternoon tea or at other morning or early afternoon social gatherings. These are one or two-bite experiences that are usually sandwiched between thinly sliced bread with a variety of fillings, such as cucumber and cream cheese, smoked salmon and dill, or some sort of mayo-based salad. These finger sandwiches are often cut into small, bite-sized squares, triangles, or even circles and are meant to be enjoyed alongside a cup of tea or during social events like a bridal shower or brunch.
What are we doing here?
In this blog post, I’m writing about six different tea sandwiches that I have made from three different homemade bread options. Most of these sandwiches do not actually warrant a recipe, because they are mostly just a list of ingredients.
In the case where an ingredient might need a recipe to make it, I will be sharing those. One thing to remember is that the recipes for all three breads should make between 24 and 30 small-sized tea sandwiches.
This is my third suggested sandwich blog post from one of my patrons over on Patreon. Carrie Stuard suggested that I tackle tea sandwiches and she especially suggested that one of them would have fig jam, prosciutto, and maybe brie.
That combination is tea sandwich #2! Thanks again, Carrie!
You can either read all the way down the page, or you can click on this “Tea sandwich navigation” below to expose a jump pad for further exploration.
Three different bread options
Instead of one bread, this week, I made three. The first is what would be the most traditional, especially if you were having tea with the
Queen King. This is my simple soft white bread loaf recipe, and I sliced it thin for both tea sandwich applications that I made.
The second bread option is my mom’s angel biscuit recipe. This most definitely would not be served to you at afternoon tea in the United Kingdom, but this sort of biscuit sandwich is very prevalent at events like baby showers or wedding receptions or whenever finger sandwiches are required in the southeastern United States.
Bread option number three is a pumpernickel loaf that I have adjusted from a King Arthur Baking pumpernickel boule recipe. I baked and wrote about that bread in 2022 for my vegetarian club sandwich post. In this case, I wanted to bake it in a pan so that the bread sides would be square, and I adjusted the amount of the dough to make this happen. I get into the math a bit further down below in the content.
For two of these tea sandwiches, I used my recipe for simple, soft white bread. This is an easy-to-make loaf that works great to produce grilled cheese sandwiches, Texas toast, or even thin slices that can be used for simple but elegant tea sandwiches.
Since I needed to slice this bread thin, I baked it one day and waited to slice it until the next day. On the day that this loaf is baked, it will be extra soft, and since we’re not an industrial, factory bakery, using very little in the way of preservatives, the bread loaf will get a slight bit stiffer each day. So, if you need thin slices, bake your bread a day or so in advance of when you plan to slice it.
I typically use my straight-sided small Pullman loaf pan, but you can make this in a more traditional 4 x 8-inch pan as well. Just know that the regular 4 x 8-inch loaf pan will make a wider loaf that isn’t quite as tall. This won’t really matter if you’re cutting the slices into small squares or triangles though.
Here’s my soft potato bread loaf recipe that will be the main sandwiching component for the first two of my six tea sandwiches. You can just buy loaf bread at the store too but baking it yourself means you can much easier control the thickness of the slicing.
Cucumber tea sandwiches were probably invented in the UK for some sort of affair with a King or Queen. They typically consist of thinly sliced cucumbers, cream cheese or butter sandwiched between two thin slices of white bread with the crust removed. If you’ve never had a cucumber sandwich you might think it’s a bit strange, but it turns into a refreshing and simple but fulfilling sandwich experience.
My cucumber sandwich has homemade herby cream cheese and salted cucumber slices that lead to a rich tea sandwich that will leave you pretty satisfied after just one or two small squares. One big tip for this sandwich is to attempt to extract as much liquid out of the cucumber as possible by salting it in advance and then placing the salted cucumber slices on paper towels which will wick out some of the moisture.
Here’s my recipe for roasted garlic and herb cream cheese. I think the roasted garlic might be a bit overwhelming for this delicate sandwich and it’s an ingredient that you could easily remove (start with step 5 in the recipe and ignore the garlic) and the recipe will still be a good one. You can also just buy your favorite brand of flavored cream cheese at the store as well. Just try to remove it from the fridge an hour or so before making the sandwiches to let it soften up.
It was at this point that my wife told me these were too big, and they should be cut into smaller bite-sized squares. So, I made them again. Once again, my wife was correct.
Cucumber and herbed cream cheese tea sandwich assembly:
Ten minutes prior to sandwich assembly lay out all your cucumber slices on paper towels and very lightly salt the cucumbers, flip and lightly salt the second side as well. Add another paper towel to cover the top of the cucumbers and let them sit for 10 minutes to wick out some of the moisture.
After 10 minutes, attempt to dry the cucumbers off as much as possible and move them to a plate or bowl. Spread a thin layer of cream cheese on both slices of bread. Cover the cream cheese with one or two layers of sliced cucumbers and then top with the second slice of bread, cream cheese side down.
Prosciutto, brie, and fig jam are a well-known combination of complementary flavors and textures that work fantastically together. This is a sophisticated grouping of flavors that you can combine into a fancy tea sandwich.
Carrie: this one is for you!
This sandwich probably will be the most expensive of the six, so you will want to consider that before buying all the ingredients if you are making these for a crowd. This was a 3-ounce package of prosciutto, and it was enough for at least 12 two-bite sandwiches.
I decided to cut these sandwiches into small circles with a biscuit/cookie cutter just for fun. You do end up wasting a lot more bread with this technique (but you can eat the scraps or turn them into croutons). If you were hosting a fancy tea or brunch, you might want to choose squares or triangles instead since they end up with less waste.
I also cut the bread prior to making these tea sandwiches. Jam and brie will get stuck on your knife and if you tried to cut this sandwich after making it, you will end up with messy looking final sandwiches. So, I suggest that you cut the bread into the shapes you want and then make each sandwich one at a time.
The saltiness of the prosciutto works so well with the sweet fig jam and creamy brie. All three components really line up well to make a fantastic combination of flavors.
Fig jam, brie, and prosciutto tea sandwich assembly:
Cut your bread into the desired shapes with either a knife or a biscuit cutter. Spread a thin layer of fig jam on the bottom slice of bread. Top with a single piece of prosciutto and then a thin slice or spread of brie. Sandwich with the top slice of bread and continue until all your ingredients are used up.
This is not the kind of biscuit that you might find in England. These are very similar to the regular buttermilk biscuit recipe that I have shared before, but this recipe includes yeast which helps the biscuit be a bit lighter.
There is also added sugar in this biscuit recipe which leads to a sweeter, slightly different tasting biscuit than the one you might serve for breakfast alongside your scrambled eggs and bacon.
I rolled the biscuit dough out into 1/4-to-1/3-inch thickness and then cut them with a 2.5-inch biscuit cutter. My mom’s recipe says to use a 2-inch cutter and I would probably suggest that if you’re making sandwiches for a bunch of people.
Here’s my mom’s angel biscuit recipe. It’s fairly similar to other angel biscuit recipes out there, but I did take the time to convert it to grams to make it easier for me to make it again in the future.
This is a slight adjustment to my typical pimento cheese recipe by adding cayenne pepper powder and a few chopped-up pickled jalapenos.
I used a meat option known as jowl bacon in my attempts at this finger sandwich but I think regular bacon would work better. If you haven’t had it, jowl bacon is a bit too salty and it overwhelms the sandwich a little. It was good, but it just made everything a bit too salty. Use regular bacon here, it’s cheaper and works better in the ingredients pairing.
Here’s my spicy pimento cheese recipe that’s just a slight adjustment from my mom’s recipe.
Spicy pimento cheese and bacon biscuit assembly:
Slice each biscuit and spread a thin layer of pimento cheese to the bottom biscuit half. Top the pimento cheese with two small pieces of bacon and top with the upper half of the biscuit.
Country ham, also known as Virginia ham or Southern ham, is a type of ham that is traditionally produced in the southeastern United States. It is not the same as the ham that you can order from the deli at your grocery store. Country ham is a salt-cured and smoked ham that is typically fairly salty in flavor and a bit chewier than regular ham.
In eastern North Carolina, where I grew up, country ham is almost always on the menu of any restaurant that serves breakfast.
I hope to write about country ham again in the future and at that point, I will dig deeper into the ham and the red-eye gravy that often accompanies country ham in the south.
If you want to try country ham for yourself and you don’t live in the southeastern US, you will probably have to order it online. I usually order Dan’l Boone Inn country ham from Amazon. Each 3-ounce pack will make a couple of regular-sized biscuit sandwiches or 6 to 8 angel biscuit sandwiches.
If you’re planning to serve country ham and angel biscuits for a group, I suggest putting out an array of mustards so that your guests can choose their own adventure. Here’s my favorite honey mustard recipe which works great with salty country ham.
Country ham and honey mustard biscuit assembly:
If I were serving these for a crowd where there might be a buffet table, I would pre-slice each biscuit and add a small slice or two of country ham to each biscuit. Then I would provide a small assortment of different types of mustard and allow my guests to choose. Honey mustard, whole grain mustard, and even Dijon would be great options.
Pumpernickel is a dense, dark bread that is flavored strongly with rye flour. It typically has a chewier texture and isn’t quite as soft as a white bread slice. Because of its denser texture, pumpernickel works well as an open-faced base for sandwiches as well.
I adjusted this recipe from a larger recipe from King Arthur Baking. Their recipe is baked free form as a boule, and I needed this to work in my 4×8-inch loaf pan. I looked at the amount of dough that I typically put into my loaf pan for my white bread recipe (from up above) and did a little math to learn that it was roughly 2/3rds of the weight of King Arthur Baking’s pumpernickel boule. Then I simply multiplied each ingredient’s weight by 0.66 to come up with a working recipe for a 4 x 8-inch loaf pan.
Here’s my pumpernickel sandwich loaf recipe. I’m not sure if I would make it this way for a Reuben or another type of sandwich that required pumpernickel, but it’s perfect for tea sandwiches where you need to cut the crust off and have a fairly squared-off slice.
I also baked this in my small Pullman loaf pan, but it would again work fine in a normal 4 x 8-inch loaf pan.
My wife came up with the concept for both pumpernickel-based tea sandwiches. This pickled beets and goat cheese sandwich is her idea for turning the Parson’s vegetable club into a tiny version that is perfect for a one or two-bite experience. This sandwich has spreadable goat cheese, pickled beets and any sort of salad green like arugula or micro greens if you can find them. We considered tossing the green leaves into a vinaigrette, but you really don’t need to because the pickled beets have enough moisture for the sandwich.
Here’s my pickled beets recipe, but most grocery stores will have some that you can purchase instead.
Pickled beets and goat cheese tea sandwich assembly:
Spread goat cheese in a even layer on one slice of bread. Top with one layer of pickled beets and cover the beets with your salad greens. I used a blend of micro-greens, but chopped-up arugula would work great.
Smoked salmon, cream cheese, capers, and red onion are a very traditional combo of flavors. You can find something similar in a lot of bagel shops as their lox or smoked fish options. You may also see a similar combination in an open-faced sandwich or toast. These flavors work well on pumpernickel and the denser texture of the bread compliments the softer textures of the fish and cream cheese.
If you want to talk numbers, we bought 8 ounces of smoked salmon and turned it into six sandwiches which in turn were turned into 24 smaller sandwiches. So, you can stretch the salmon quite far in these sorts of tea sandwiches.
Here’s my wife’s pickled red onion recipe that works great in this application. You can use raw red onion as well, but the pickling process just brings a bit of extra zip to the sandwich.
This is another tea sandwich that you can make by building the sandwich with whole pieces of bread and then cutting them into shapes or you can cut the bread into smaller pieces and then build small sandwiches. It just depends on what you like or how you visually want the sandwiches to appear. You can see in the photos below that the first photo is tea sandwiches that were cut from one larger sandwich and the second photo is where I cut bread first and then spread on the cream cheese and added the other pieces to fit.
My wife thinks the first sandwich looks best and I like the appearance of the second sandwich, so this is all up to how you want to make them.
Smoked salmon and cream cheese tea sandwich assembly:
Spread a thin layer of cream cheese on both slices of bread. Top the cream cheese with one layer of smoked salmon. Cover the smoked salmon with some pickled red onion and a sprinkling of chopped capers. Close the sandwich and slice into small one or two-bite sandwiches.
Check back next week
We’re making something that most likely didn’t originate on the British Isles. Maybe it will be based on an upcoming movie release. Who knows!?
My patrons over on Patreon know. That’s who knows. Join to support the blog and get inside information about upcoming sandwiches.