My friend L. invited me to attend a high tea benefit event hosted by the FBI (no, not that FBI), the Friends of Braille Institute (FBI)! The fundraiser was for a great cause, to support the Braille Institute of America in its mission to “empower visually impaired people to live fulfilling lives.” Extremely nearsighted since the age of 12, and almost legally blind without glasses or contacts, I appreciate what the Braille Institute does for the visually impaired.
The event was meticulously organized and took the collective efforts of all the members who lent their personal china, volunteered their time to cook and bake the tea courses, created party favors, provided the tea service, etc. Every table was unique and the teapot centerpieces were all for sale by silent auction. There was also a harpist who played tea music during the tea.
After the tea, there was a guest speaker who spoke on the topic of seeing-eye dogs, one of the important services offered by the Braille Institute. What an interesting talk! I had no idea that there are some dog species better suited for the job than others (Lab Retrievers, Golden Retrievers, and German Shepherds). The dogs start training as puppies and are placed with an owner after 2.5 years of training. It costs about $40K to train a seeing-eye dog. They usually only work on average for 6-8 years. The guest speaker shared touching stories about her relationship with her seeing-eye dog. Putting her life in his paws everyday, her dog is her constant loyal companion that acts as her eyes and helps her with daily activities including crossing streets and taking public transportation. She told her story with grace and humor and even managed to make a dog believer out of me!
Lady MH went crazy for the mushroom toastie and we managed to nab the recipe off one of the organizers. It’s a good thing I’ve preserved it here for posterity because it’s no longer available online.
12 slices Wonder® bread
3 tablespoons butter
2 green onions, chopped
8 ounces button mushrooms, finely diced
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup whipping cream
1 tablespoon chopped flat-leaf parsley
1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 tablespoons shredded Parmesan cheese
Preheat oven to 400F.
Cut crusts from Wonder bread and flatten with a rolling pin until quite flat, about ⅛-inch thick. Cut circles from the bread with a 2 1/2-inch round cookie cutter. (You can cut 2 circles from each slice of bread.) Lightly brush mini-muffin pan with melted butter. Gently press each round of bread into a mini-muffin cup, forming it into a bowl shape. Repeat, making as many Croustades as specified in the recipe. Bake about 9 to 10 minutes, or until golden brown.
Cool slightly, then remove the Croustades from the pan and allow them to cool completely on a wire rack.
Reduce oven temperature to 350F.
Melt butter in medium skillet over medium high heat. Cook green onions and mushrooms about 4 to 5 minutes or until moisture evaporates, stirring occasionally. Sprinkle with flour and stir well. Add cream and bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Continue cooking until mixture thickens. Remove from heat and stir in parsley, lemon juice and cayenne pepper.
Fill cups and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Bake for 7 to 10 minutes.
The story behind the sensation: Croustades are wonderful, versatile cups made from Wonder bread. Baked until hot and crispy, these bread cups are the perfect “bowl” for your favorite filling. Make small, appetizer-size Croustades in mini-muffin pans or choose larger, main dish-size Croustades by baking in regular-size muffin pans.
“When tea becomes ritual, it takes its place at the heart of our ability to see greatness in small things. Where is beauty to be found? In great things that, like everything else, are doomed to die, or in small things that aspire to nothing, yet know how to set a jewel of infinity in a single moment?”
― Muriel Barbery,