WEDDING season is fast approaching and I'm sure some of you out there have been elected to host a wedding shower.
As a veteran of a few showers myself, I can tell you that nothing disappears faster from a buffet table than classic English tea sandwiches.
Although they do take some time to make, once you know a few "tricks of the trade" the process isn't at all difficult. Enlist a couple of friends to help and have a sandwich-making marathon the day before the shower; if you have a glass of wine and some "nibblies" available for your helpers it can be really fun. Here are a few basics:
- At least one week before the shower order long loaves of sandwich bread from your local bakery or supermarket, if they have an in-house bakery. Ask them to cut the loaves horizontally (along the length of the loaf) into thin slices.
- An assortment of white and whole wheat loaves is preferable - please, no coloured bread! Discard the top, bottom and end slices (the crusts) or use for making breadcrumbs. Each loaf will make about 40 small sandwiches, so judge how much bread to order accordingly.
- The morning of your sandwich-making day, put out butter and cream cheese you plan to use for your sandwiches to let it soften. Nothing is worse than trying to spread hard butter on soft bread.
- Have plastic storage bins on hand to store the sandwiches, as well as plastic wrap.
- Once you've filled your sandwiches wrap them securely in plastic wrap and store them inside the plastic storage bins. Don't cut up the sandwiches until just before you plan to serve them or they will dry out. Leave the side crusts on the bread slices when making all sandwiches except roll-ups; cut them off when you're cutting the sandwiches up and that way you'll get neat edges.
- Useful tools: a rolling pin, several sandwich spreaders (wide-bladed knives for spreading butter etc.), a very sharp serrated bread knife for slicing the sandwiches.
- No matter what kind of sandwich you're making, always spread butter or cream cheese on the bread first before adding mayonnaise or filling. That way the sandwiches won't get soggy.
- Taste the fillings before making your sandwiches and add salt and pepper to taste.
- Decorate your serving platters with small bunches of grapes and thin lemon wedges for the seafood sandwiches. Place a bowl of pickles or olives in the centre.
ROLLED PINWHEEL SANDWICHES
Basic preparation: Trim the remaining side crusts off the bread slices; with a rolling pin roll the trimmed slices until they are slightly flattened (this makes them much easier to roll up). Cut the long slices of bread into two equal halves (from short side to short side, not along the length) - this also makes it easier to roll. Spread the mayonnaise or spread generously and evenly over the bread, right to the edges; lay the filling item along one long edge of the bread, then roll up the bread firmly around the filling.
Once you have filled and rolled the sandwiches, wrap them snugly in plastic wrap. Slice into ½-inch rounds to serve.
SPREADS AND FILLINGS FOR ROLLED SANDWICHES
- Mayonnaise or cream cheese with cooked fresh asparagus spears (add a little grated lemon zest to the mayonnaise if you wish).
- Mayonnaise mixed with finely grated sharp cheddar cheese and pickled gherkins. - Cream cheese topped with thinly sliced ham, dill pickle spears.
- Chive cream cheese topped with thinly sliced smoked salmon, seeded, peeled cucumber spears.
- Peanut butter and jelly (no centre filling); these are a must if children will be attending!
By finger sandwiches I mean any shape you choose to cut out of the filled bread slices - narrow rectangles, squares or triangles. Remember, don't trim the side crusts off the bread for these ones until you cut them up to serve, that way you get neater edges. Spread the filling right out to the edges. Try making some double-decker ones using one type of bread for the top and bottom and another type for the centre slice (ie white, filling, brown, filling, white). You can use the same filling between both halves or two different ones that compliment each other. And make some open-face sandwiches as well, they look especially pretty on the serving platter; garnish the tops with little parsley or dill sprigs, tiny lemon wedges (for seafood sandwiches), sliced olives or gherkins. The less chunky fillings are also suitable for rolling inside soft flour tortillas; cut the rolls into slices or bias-cut pieces.
Here are some filling ideas that are a bit different; you can still make some plain tuna and egg salad sandwiches Don't make your fillings too moist or the sandwiches will be hard to cut.
- Curried Chicken Salad: Mix chopped cooked chicken (buy a rotisserie chicken to speed things up) with mayonnaise, curry powder, chopped cilantro and mango chutney. Spread on buttered bread.
- Seafood: Mix together canned crab meat, fresh baby shrimp and finely chopped green onion with a small amount each of mayonnaise and Heinz Chili Sauce. Spread bread slices with softened cream cheese before filling.
- Pimento Cheese: Mix together grated sharp cheddar cheese, chopped pimentos (find them in small jars in the pickle section), chopped toasted pecans, mayonnaise and a dash of Tabasco. Spread on buttered bread.
- Artichoke Cheese: Mix together softened cream cheese with well-drained chopped canned artichoke hearts, freshly grated Parmesan cheese, chopped green onion and a little lemon juice. Spread on buttered bread.
- Creamy Veggie: Mix softened cream cheese with chopped seeded and peeled cucumber, chopped red bell pepper, grated carrot and chopped green onion. Stir in a little mayonnaise and some chopped parsley, and a little minced garlic if you wish. Add some freshly ground black pepper. Spread on buttered bread.
- Roast Beef & Blue: Mix softened plain cream cheese with crumbled Stilton; spread on buttered bread and top with thinly sliced rare roast beef.
- Hawaiian: Mix softened cream cheese with a little icing sugar, chopped roasted macadamia nuts and well-drained crushed pineapple. If necessary add a bit of milk or cream to make easier to spread. Spread on buttered bread (this filling is good for rolled sandwiches too).
- Holiday Turkey: Mix a little canned cranberry sauce with softened cream cheese. Spread on bread and top with thinly sliced roast turkey.
- Mexican Chicken: Mix mayonnaise with a bit of salsa, chopped cilantro and grated cheddar cheese. Spread on buttered bread and top with thinly sliced chicken (or you can stir chopped cooked chicken in with the mayonnaise mixture).