How to make the best English cucumber tea sandwiches

I always associate cucumber sandwiches with my mum.  She lived with us outside Philadelphia for four years helping me with my children Dan and Nicki, she also helped me start up my British Tea Room in Wayne PA. 

The children loved her cucumber and cream cheese sandwiches and of course having the crusts cut off made them an even better treat, it was a good way to introduce them to a healthy snack.

There is something so cool light and fresh about this sandwich, and it is a staple in the British tea sandwich menu. These mini cucumber sandwiches are the perfect addition to a tea party, mother’s day brunch, bridal or baby shower. They can be served in many different shapes, but they are always small finger food, made with thinly sliced cucumbers.

Cucumber tea sandwiches date all the way back to the 1800’s when afternoon tea was first introduced in England, and only served by the wealthy.  They originally consisted of buttered bread and cucumber – that’s it.  More recently herbed cream cheese and different flavored spreads have replaced butter.  However butter  is still the main type of spread used on English tea sandwiches, I never spread my tea sandwiches with mayonnaise although I do use it to mix up some of the fillings

How to keep cucumber sandwiches from getting soggy?

After slicing, lay the cucumber slices onto paper kitchen towel. Sprinkle with salt, and leave for a few minutes. The salt will draw out excess water and you can dab it away with paper towels.   It is important to not have the cucumber in actual contact with the bread so when making the sandwich decide what you will spread on the bread to add a great taste and give a protective layer between the bread and the cucumber.  Lower down you will see some ideas and recipes; once again keep away from any spread that has high water content.

 Can they be made ahead?

 Personally I never make these the day before because I like to have them as fresh as possible but they can be kept in the fridge uncut, without the crust removed , wrapped in saran wrap for up to 48 hours.  Just before serving they can be taken out, unwrapped then remove the crusts and cut into triangles or squares

 How to prepare cucumbers for tea sandwiches

I recommend using the English or Burpless cucumbers; you can find them in most supermarkets.  They are firmer, have a lower water content and less seeds.

You can slice the cucumber with skin on or off depending on your preference, with skin off you avoid some of the toughness of the skin but you lose the effect of the bright green color.  I like to go half and half slicing some off and leaving some on, I then cut into 1/8" rounds

I like to add a little malt vinegar to the sliced cucumber but I just put it on leave for about 45 seconds and then dry off with kitchen towel (once again you want them as dry as possible) I find that vinegar just gives it that bit of a tang!

Spread two pieces of bread with whatever spread you choose, put on a layer of cucumber slices on one, try not to pile the cucumbers up on the bread as they will fall out when you cut the sandwich, place the second piece on top and voila! You have your sandwich,

I have made so many of these that I am quite comfortable piling them 3 or 4 sandwiches high before cutting off the crusts and slicing into triangles but if this is your first time making I would advise just doing one at a time.  Some important tips! Always use a serrated edge knife and cut off the crusts and slice with a sawing action, just pressing very softly on the top of the sandwich or sandwiches to keep them in place.  If you attack them with a regular blade and push down on the sandwich you are going to get a very thin misshapen product.  You want to end up with a clean cut well shaped mini cucumber sandwich

Cucumber tea sandwiches for a high tea or afternoon tea party.

Whenever I chat to people about my catered tea parties in Jacksonville I am always asked if I make cucumber tea sandwiches, they are rarely seen on a regular American menu and so I think very associated with the idea of afternoon tea.  We offer them on our tea sandwich collection on our catering menu   (link) Different clients have different tastes but I always recommend the cucumber sandwich because it brings in a nice color, the pale and dark green(if you keep the skin) I am very fussy about color. 

When selecting your tea sandwich recipes I highly recommend keeping away from everything beige, for instance if the selection is a chicken salad and tuna salad and turkey breast on brown and white bread you effectively have a beige display, which although it may taste great looks very bland

Three shapes to cut your cucumber sandwiches .

Squares: Cut each sandwich in half and then again in half crosswise.
Triangles: Cut the sandwich in half diagonally, then cut each diagonal in half.
Circles: Use a biscuit cutter to cut out rounds.