Alice Walker said, "Tea to the English is really a picnic indoors." Of course one expects sandwiches for a picnic. I preferred my tea at the Hyde Park Hotel where Joe and I stayed to look for a home for our three-year sojourn in England. The restaurant looks out on Hyde Park where troops on horses pass by. The hotel now has a new name, Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park. The chocolates, scones and clotted cream were my interest in the 80s, but now I am fascinated by the little tea sandwiches. I never made them, but I always wanted to. I was gifted a tea service which I only look at. So when Katie said she would like to have a tea for our quilt group reunion, I naively said I would make the finger sandwiches. I had NO idea about the effort, but I would do it again. Joe, my sous chef, would decline. I also baked and took along little white buttermilk cookies.
There are many instructions for English tea sandwiches on the Internet, but I knew I needed to find very thin slices of bread. Pepperidge Farm and others supply, but some people make their own bread to slice or go to a bakery that cuts thin. There are instructions on how to keep the bread fresh since you are advised to put the sandwiches together at the last minute. Rules are made to be broken. I will write minimally the most important of what I remember:
Buy dark and light bread, maybe pumpernickel and potato bread (or just white). Although tempted otherwise, make only two recipes, initially. Plan to spread the inside of the sandwiches with soft butter (not melted) mixed w fresh chopped chives or other herbs. Chives are a rarity I grow and they return regularly. Butter keeps the bread from getting soggy, but possibly the cream cheese concoctions in your different recipes do the same.
I found recipes for watercress egg salad, cucumber dill, and smoked salmon sandwiches online. You will want to wade through your Google finds for the most appealing. I used a lot of cream cheese and lemon zest, dill and mayo. You will need more cream cheese than you think. Plan to be generous. Only after the sandwiches are spread and closed do you saw or cut off the crusts of the breads. You can get three tea sandwiches out of each big sandwich. You will need to wipe your knife constantly, so prepare to be neat. For variety you can cut out circle sandwiches with a cookie cutter. The greatest planning goes into deciding on the best recipes.
I put my sandwiches together the day of, but we enjoyed the leftover sandwiches for three days thereafter. Of course we wrapped carefully, including a paper towel inside the wrapped sandwiches. Give it a try, while I will hope to have my first "tea party" sometime soon. "Tea is a hug in a cup" (Elite Daily). "Where there is tea, there is hope."