The other day I had the most fun I’ve had in a while, some girlfriends and I went on an afternoon tea excursion to the historic Langham Huntington hotel in Pasadena. I could definitely get used to this…we spent a leisurely couple of hours sitting and chatting and being waited on hand and foot.
We started off with a Kir Royale, which is one of my favorite elegant cocktails — Crème de cassis topped off with champagne, and no, it wasn’t 5 o’clock yet!
Langham Hotels and Resorts is a British owned company, and so it makes perfect sense that they would institute the venerable old tradition of Afternoon Tea with Wedgwood at the Langham Huntington. It’s one of the more complete services I’ve experienced, with lots of interesting choices of tea, (I chose the English Floral, a rose, heather, elderflower, and lavender blend) and plenty to eat. I came super hungry, and left super happy! The three tiered tray holds everything from traditional scones and clotted cream to tea sandwiches and pastries. I’m not sure if the other ladies noticed, but I scarfed down one of the smoked salmon on sourdough with caramelized shallot caper cream before we even unfolded our napkins… :)
If you live in the area and want to show Mom how much she means to you, I recommend taking her to the Langham…they’re all booked up for this Mother’s Day, but you can give her a rain check. She’ll love it, and so will you.
It’s hard to come off the high of spending a few glorious hours at a luxury hotel, it’s like the letdown after a great vacation…reality settles in like a thud. I kinda wanted to keep the romance alive, so I set right to work creating my own elegant little sugar cubes to make my regular old tea a little more special. They aren’t really cubes, I guess, they’re more like little bon bons, but, whatever. They’re even prettier than the plain paper wrapped ones we had at the Langham! It’s super duper easy, even your toddler can help. You can use them to fancy-up your own afternoon tea, or add them to the breakfast-in-bed tray this Sunday. If you’re the ‘Mom’ in residence, make these and set them out as a hint…
I went a little nutty and made all kinds of flavors, starting with lemon, and then I moved on to rose, orange blossom, lavender, and even jasmine. There’s no end to the fun you can have. But I’m guessing most of you will be happy with plain sugar. The key is that you moisten the sugar ever so slightly with either water, or your flavoring of choice, and then press it firmly into a plastic or silicone mold. You can add a touch of gel paste food coloring if you like.
Flip the mold over and voila! – you’ve got perfect little sugar bon bons. They dry firm in less than an hour, and then you can set them out on a tray or in a bowl. The plain ones will keep indefinitely, but the ‘flavored’ ones will not last as long because the scent and flavors will eventually fade.
There is no trick to these at all, the sugar falls right out of the molds. The only thing you have to do is make sure to mold your sugar while it is still damp, and let the cubes sit, untouched, while they dry, for at least 30 minutes. If you mess up, just scoop up the sugar and remold it.
One of the interesting ‘flavors’ I made was jasmine. I made it the same way I made my lemon sugar, but instead of lemon rind I processed regular sugar with a handful of blossoms. This would work with honeysuckle, lilac, and lavender too. You can even use raw sugar for this, if you prefer, because the processor will break up the crystals enough for it to mold sharply.
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1/2 tsp water
- 1/2 cup sugar
- rind from 1/2 lemon (I use a serrated vegetable peeler to thinly peel the rid off, just the yellow, not the bitter white part)
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1/2 tsp rosewater
- touch of gel paste food coloring (optional)
- For the plain sugar cubes, put the sugar into the bowl of a small food processor and add the water. Process until the sugar is uniformly moist, this will just take about 30 seconds.
- For the lemon sugar, put the sugar into your processor. Add the lemon rind and process until the rind is completely incorporated into the sugar and it is a pale yellow. I give the small machine a little shake now and then to redistribute everything. You don't need the water for this one because the rind adds the moisture.
- For the rose sugar cubes, process the sugar with the rose water.
- Spoon the moist sugar into plastic molds and press in firmly. Use the pads of your fingers to really make sure you've packed it in. The processor will have 'fluffed up' the sugar which is why you need to pack it down.
- To invert the mold you can either do it directly onto a flat surface like your counter top, or you can place something firm and flat over the mold, and invert the mold and the surface together,
- Gently lift the mold so you don't disturb the delicate impressions. Let them sit for at least 30 minutes, or up to an hour. They will be firm enough to handle and even stack, carefully!
Work with the sugar while it is damp.
I used my trusty Cuisinart mini food processor to blend up the sugars, and the very same plastic bon bon mold I used in this post. Any plastic or silicone mold with small openings will do. You can find them at large craft stores.
This is a really straightforward, simple project, it shouldn’t cause you any trouble at all. Whether you’re treating mom, or just kicking back with friends, the only thing you have to decide is…