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Cucumber Tea Sandwiches

Long a classic of teas and subdued receptions, cucumber tea sandwiches have a history as rich as their flavor. If you're planning a quiet afternoon tea or simply want to try something a bit different next time you're asked to bring a dish, cucumber sandwiches are simple to prepare and bring along.

Of course, you must remember the proper form and allotment when making tea sandwiches. You should plan for each guest to have four to six cut sandwiches and your sandwiches should be beautiful and tasty.

Always use the best bread possible and never serve end slices. The bread used for any tea sandwich should be soft and delicious, although freezing the bread before using it during the preparations of the sandwich will make it a bit easier to handle. As it defrosts, the slices will become soft again.

Tea sandwiches are delicate and light, so be sure to cut the completed sandwich into thirds or quarters. Once the filling is complete, always remove the crusts. You should also always spread unsalted butter lightly inside each piece of bread to ensure your sandwich is prepared properly.

To prepare cucumber tea sandwiches, gather the following ingredients: 1/2 seedless cucumber
1/2 cup unsalted butter at room temperature
1/2 cup coarsely chopped watercress leaves
16 slices of high-quality white bread
Salt
1/2 cup alfalfa sprouts

Begin by peeling the cucumber and then slicing it into extremely thin slices. You should have about 32 individual slices of cucumber when you're finished slicing. Place the cucumber slices between two paper towels while you move on to the next step. The paper towels will help to remove any excess moisture.

Combine butter and watercress in a small bowl. Blend as smoothly as possible and then spread a thin layer of the mixture on each slice of bread. Butter only one side of each slice. Place 8 slices of buttered bread in a row. Put the other 8 aside for now.

On each of the 8 buttered slices, place four cucumber slices. Arrange the slices with one in each corner of the bread to make cutting easier. You should have four slices of cucumber per piece of bread.

Sprinkle each piece of bread with salt according to taste and then place one tablespoon of alfalfa sprouts onto each. Retrieve the other 8 slices of buttered bread and carefully place one, buttered side down, onto each of the prepared slices.

Use a long sharp knife to cut away the crusts on each of the sandwiches. Then cut the large sandwiches into triangles or squares to make them petite and dainty - the way tea sandwiches should be.

Finally, arrange the sandwiches on an attractive platter or tiered serving tray. You can garnish the serving tray with grapes or parsley for added flair, or simply serve the sandwiches as they are positioned.

One thing is certain, however. When you pour a cup of hot tea, a cool cucumber sandwich will be a wonderful snack alongside it.