Embrace Alice and celebrate 150 years of Wonderland with a classic gathering that would please even the Queen of Hearts.
For the last 150 years, “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” has captured our imaginations. Lewis Carroll’s Victorian audience was entranced by the dreamlike world he created, and we’re just as fascinated today.
Food is at the center of Alice, whether it’s the mushrooms that shrink you in size, the hysterical revelry of the Mad Hatter’s tea party, or the climactic court case that hinges on a stolen basket of tarts. So it’s fitting we celebrate the 150th anniversary of Carroll’s novel by eating our way through Wonderland. Throw a tea party that even the Mad Hatter would beg to attend. Invite your friends. Invite your enemies. Invite a sleepy Dormouse, if you possibly can, and a March Hare of questionable sanity. It’s time to plunge headfirst down the rabbit hole.
Start with something sweet
As Alice descends into Wonderland, she spies a jar of orange marmalade, a first glimpse into the magical world she’s about to enter. Although the jar she finds is empty, you can welcome your guests with this sweet citrus spread, a perfect topping for cream scones you'll be serving at your tea.
You can pick up some marmalade, which differs from jellies and jams in that it is usually a citrus spread made from the peel and pulp of fruit, at the store, or consider finding a recipe to make your own.
Once Alice hits the bottom of the rabbit hole, she encounters something much more unusual than an empty marmalade jar: a cake with Eat Me written in currants on top. Like everything else in Wonderland, this cake isn’t exactly what it seems – just one slice makes Alice grow 9 feet tall. We settled on a recipe for regular currant cake. (Currants are like small raisins.) Your guests will be relieved to know they can enjoy a slice without switching shoe sizes or bumping the ceiling. If they want to play it extra safe, they can stick to warm cream scones with melted butter and marmalade.
To accompany the scones and cake, offer your guests a good cup of English black tea.
A well-made sandwich
With all these sweets, your guests may wish for something a bit more substantial. That’s where tea sandwiches come in. When Alice leaves the tea party, she nibbles on a bit of magical mushroom and shrinks to 12 inches tall. At your party, you can serve Ham Tea Sandwiches, a nod to the ham sandwiches in Carroll’s “Through the Looking Glass” that calm the nerves of a panicky king. Or, try Cucumber and Lemony Dill Cream Cheese Tea Sandwiches.
Near the end of Alice’s adventures, she stumbles upon a surreal jam tart trial. Alice longs to steal a taste from the basket of mouth-watering evidence, and once your guests sample these jam tarts, they'll understand why. They'll be the perfect finale for your culinary tour through this magical world.
Freezer Orange Marmalade
2 1/3 cups prepared fruit (buy about 3 medium navel oranges)
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
4 1/4 cups sugar, measured into separate bowl
3/4 cup water
1 box fruit pectin, such as Sure Jell
Rinse clean plastic or glass containers and lids with boiling water. Dry thoroughly.
Remove colored part of peel from the oranges using a vegetable peeler. Cut the peel into thin slivers, or finely chop.
Peel and discard remaining white part of peel from the oranges.
Finely chop the fruit, reserving any juice. Mix with the slivered peel along with the lemon juice.
Measure 2 1/3 cups of the fruit mixture into large bowl. (If needed, add up to 1/2 cup water for exact measure.) Stir in sugar. Let stand 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Mix water and pectin in small saucepan. Bring to boil on high heat, stirring constantly. Boil and stir 1 minute. Add to fruit mixture; stir 3 minutes, or until sugar is dissolved and no longer grainy. (A few sugar crystals may remain.)
Fill all containers immediately to within 1/2 inch of tops. Wipe off top edges of containers; immediately cover with lids. Let stand at room temperature 24 hours. Marmalade is now ready to use. Store in refrigerator up to 3 weeks or freeze extra containers up to 1 year. Thaw in refrigerator before using.
Mini Jam Tarts
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
2 large egg yolks, divided
1 cup jam, in assorted flavors (see note)
1 tablespoon heavy cream
Heat oven to 350 degrees. In a food processor, combine flour, sugar, salt and cinnamon; process for 10 seconds. Add butter and process until mixture resembles coarse meal, 15 to 20 seconds.
Combine 1 egg yolk with 2 tablespoons ice water and add to flour mixture. Process until the dough comes together, about 7 seconds. Transfer to a clean work surface and compress into a flattened circle.
Lightly dust the work surface with flour; roll out dough to just thinner than 1/4 inch. Using a round or square cookie cutter, cut out shapes and press into 2- to 3-inch tartlet tins or a small muffin-top pan. (Editor’s note: Placing them right on a baking sheet is less desirable but works, too.) Shape crust as desired, fill each with 1 1/2 to 2 teaspoons jam, and decorate tops with cutouts of dough if you want. At this point, the tarts can be refrigerated for several hours.
Combine remaining egg yolk with cream; lightly brush exposed dough with egg wash. Bake until golden brown, 20 to 25 minutes. Transfer tarts from tins to a wire rack to cool.
Note: Use whatever jam you like as the filling for these little tarts. Makes 16.
Martha Stewart Living, March 1996
Dreamy Cream Scones
2 cups (10 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour, preferably a low-protein brand such as Gold Medal or Pillsbury
1 tablespoon baking powder
3 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
5 tablespoons chilled, unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch cubes
1/2 cup currants, raisins or dried cranberries, chopped into smaller bits
1 cup heavy cream
1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 425 degrees.
2. Place flour, baking powder, sugar and salt in large bowl or work bowl of food processor fitted with steel blade. Whisk together or pulse six times.
3. If making by hand, use two knives, a pastry blender or your fingertips and quickly cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse meal, with a few slightly larger butter lumps. Stir in currants. If using food processor, remove cover and distribute butter evenly over dry ingredients. Cover and pulse 12 times, each pulse lasting 1 second. Add currants and pulse one more time. Transfer dough to large bowl.
4. Stir in heavy cream with a rubber spatula or fork until dough begins to form, about 30 seconds.
5. Transfer dough and all dry, floury bits to countertop and knead dough by hand just until it comes together into a rough, sticky ball, 5 to 10 seconds. Form scones by either pressing the dough into an 8-inch cake pan, then turning the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface, cutting the dough into 8 wedges with either a knife or bench scraper or patting the dough onto a lightly floured work surface into a 3/4-inch thick circle, cutting pieces with a biscuit cutter, and pressing remaining scraps back into another piece and cutting until dough has been used up. (Be warned if you use this latter method, the scones that are made from the remaining scraps will be much lumpier and less pretty, but taste fine.)
6. Place rounds or wedges on ungreased baking sheet and bake until scone tops are light brown, 12 to 15 minutes. Cool on wire rack for at least 10 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.
“America’s Test Kitchen Cookbook”
2 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup heavy cream, or half-and-half
1 heaping tablespoon molasses
12 tablespoons room temperature (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, plus more for pan
3/4 cup Demerara or raw sugar
3 large eggs
2 cups currants
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside. Butter a 9- by 5-inch loaf pan; set aside.
In a small saucepan, heat the cream over medium heat. Stir in molasses. In a medium bowl, cream the butter until light and fluffy. Gradually add the sugar. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, beating to combine after each addition. Stir in the cream mixture, then the currants. Add the dry ingredients and beat to combine.
Pour into prepared pan, and bake until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean, about 1 hour 15 minutes. Serves 8 to 12.
Adapted from Martha Stewart
If you’re making these in advance, chill the whole sandwiches on a tray lined with damp paper towels. Cover them with more damp towels and wrap with plastic. When ready to serve, trim and cut the sandwiches, then garnish them. They will be easier to cut neatly when chilled.
Ham and Cheese Tea Sandwiches
16 slices very thin whole-wheat or white bread
8 to 10 ounces very soft Brie, room temperature
8 thin slices ham, about 4 ounces total
Unsalted butter, softened
Toasted sesame seeds, for garnish, optional
Spread a very thin layer of honey mustard on 8 slices of bread. Then spread a thin layer of Brie over the mustard and top each slice with 1 piece of ham. Spread a thin layer of Brie on the 8 remaining slices of bread, then place each, cheese side down, over a slice of ham-topped bread.
Using a serrated knife, carefully trim off and discard the crusts. Slice each sandwich in half diagonally, and then in half again; each large sandwich makes 4 triangular tea sandwiches.
Lightly butter one edge of each sandwich, and dip that edge into a dish of sesame seeds. Garnish remaining sandwiches. Arrange sandwiches in tight rows on a serving platter. Serves 8.
O, The Oprah Magazine
Cucumber and Lemony Dill Cream Cheese Tea Sandwiches
4 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
6 slices good-quality white bread*
1/3 large English seedless cucumber (about 4 inches), thinly sliced
In a small bowl, combine the cream cheese, fresh dill, lemon zest, and lemon juice. Season the mixture with salt and pepper. Remove crust from bread, if desired.
Lay the slices of bread on your work service and distribute the cream cheese evenly among each slice, spreading into a thin layer. Arrange the cucumber slices in rows over 3 slices of the bread. Top with the remaining bread, and cut into quarters so there are 4 pieces from each sandwich. Serve immediately.
Melissa D'Arabian/Food Network
About the book
“Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” is a classic children’s story first published in 1865.
Written by Lewis Carroll, it’s a mind-bending, logic-defying fantasy filled with bizarre and beloved characters.
When Alice falls down a mysterious rabbit hole, she finds herself in Wonderland, a dreamlike world that makes her question her own identity.
“We’re all mad here,” a grinning cat informs her, and it certainly seems that way.
Her new acquaintances include a hookah-smoking caterpillar, a melancholy Mock Turtle and a Mad Hatter who is stuck in a perpetual tea party. At this tea party, Alice encounters unanswerable riddles and nonsensical behavior, along with plenty of tea and buttered toast. The classic novel has been made into countless adaptations, including the famous Disney cartoon and Tim Burton’s 2010 movie featuring Johnny Depp as the Mad Hatter.