If you’re anything like me, when you have a full three-course afternoon tea, by the time you get to the pastry course, you can probably only manage a few bites. So you’ve got to be strategic about the pastries – focus on the ones that are your favorite flavors, plan the best for last but not when you’re so full you’re not going to enjoy it!

To help alleviate this when I’m the one serving the afternoon tea, one thing I like to do is have one selection of the pastry course be something lighter, not too rich or sweet, that goes down easily and just fills in the cracks. These festive jellies (or Jello-O, for us Americans!) of my two favorite seasonal drinks – mulled wine and good old apple cider – fill that bill nicely.

The idea for this comes originally from the Pudding Club’s Great British Puddings book. Though I didn’t use their mulled wine recipe (but did use the excellent crème fraiche garnish idea!), not sure how long it would have taken me to think of doing this if I hadn’t seen it here first! It just clicked – what a great addition to the pastry course of an afternoon tea.

Try it with a second flavor – a nice spiced apple cider (though with different garnish), and Bob’s your uncle! Either one is almost like a lightly sweet, fruity bit of a palate cleanser between what are normally richer pastries.

For the mulled wine jellies, I found the tiniest, cutest little 1-ounce ramekins from Sur La Table that I couldn’t resist. And they hold about 4 bites of the jelly, best used with a small tea spoon – so, the perfect size for a full-course afternoon tea.

And take my word for it – the crème fraiche with orange zest or candied orange peel absolutely makes it. Smooth and creamy, it pairs beautifully with the spicy, fruity mulled wine-flavored Jell-O and the orangey tang of the zest.

My mulled wine recipe is adapted from one at Allrecipes.com; when we made this once for a family event, it just seemed very close to the taste of a true Gluehwein like you would get mooching around a German Christkindlmarket, which is the only true mulled wine flavor, in my book!

The apple cider recipe is very basic, I pretty much winged it, adding spices, steeping it for awhile to let them really permeate the apple cider. The two garnishes make it extra special – a cinnamon vanilla whipped cream, topped with a very small chai spice cookie (from my previous posting), accented with a little bit of royal icing just to make it a little more festive.

So give one or both of these ideas a try and see if they don’t provide a nice little change of pace in a full-course afternoon tea. Or as part of a holiday buffet, as an alternative to endless Christmas cookies or rich desserts.

Mulled Wine Jelly (Jello-O)

  • Servings: 6 regular servings
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients

  • 1/2 c. orange juice
  • 1/4 c. water
  • 1/2 c. sugar (add up to another 1/4 c. if you prefer it sweeter)
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 1 large navel orange
  • 14 cloves, whole
  • 4 allspice, whole
  • 1 (750 milliliter) bottle red wine
  • 6 gelatin leaves

Directions

Slice the orange in half and squeeze the juice into a one-cup measure (should be about 1/4 c. orange juice). Add orange juice to total 3/4 c. orange juice, then top up with 1/4 c. water to make 1 cup total.

Add the 1 c. orange juice/water mix to a saucepan. Also add the sugar and cinnamon sticks. Bring to a boil and mix to dissolve the sugar. Reduce the heat, and simmer.

Push 10 of the cloves into the outside of the orange halves, slice it so you have four orange quarters. Add the cloved orange quarters, the extra cloves and allspice to the simmering juice, and simmer for 20-30 minutes, until thick and syrupy.

Pour in the wine, and heat until steaming but not simmering. Strain out the oranges and other spices.

In a separate bowl, bloom your gelatin leaves with cold water – let soak for ca. 10 minutes. Squeeze out the extra water, then mix into the warmed mulled wine, and stir until gelatin is completely dissolved. (If using powdered gelatin, follow the directions on the box).

Pour the mulled wine into your ramekins, and put in the refrigerator to cool and set.

To serve, place a small tea spoon of crème fraiche on top. Sprinkle with a little orange peel or candied orange to garnish.

Apple Cider Jelly (Jello-O)

  • Servings: 8 regular servings
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Ingredients

  • 1 gallon apple cider
  • 3-4 cinnamon sticks
  • 6 cloves, whole
  • 4 allspice, whole
  • 8 gelatin leaves

Directions

Pour the apple cider into saucepan on the stove. Add the spices and simmer the cider with the spices for 20-30 minutes. When cider is spiced to taste, strain out the spices. (Simmering will reduce the total amount of cider; covering with a lid will help keep more from steaming off).

In a separate bowl, bloom your gelatin leaves with cold water – let soak for ca. 10 minutes. Squeeze out the extra water, then mix into the warmed cider, stirring until the gelatin is completely dissolved. (If using powdered gelatin, follow the directions on the box).

Pour the cider into your ramekins, and put in the refrigerator to cool and set.

To serve, pipe some cinnamon vanilla whipped cream into the top, and top that with a mini spice cookie.

Cinnamon Vanilla Whipped Cream

  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Ingredients

  • 1/2 p. heavy whipping cream
  • 1 Tbsp. + 1 tsp. granulated sugar (or to taste)
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

Directions

Add the heavy whipping cream to a mixer with a whisk attachment. Whisk the whipping cream until you have soft peaks.

Add the sugar, cinnamon and vanilla and whisk until the peaks are stiff enough to pipe and hold their shape.

Add to a piping bag with a star tip, and pipe on top of your apple cider jelly.

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