Cucumber sandwiches are perfect for serving at a Kentucky Derby party, an afternoon ladies tea, baby shower, or an Easter brunch. Traditionally served in England in the late afternoon with a cup of tea, cucumber sandwiches make an excellent light snack.
There's a lot of good reasons why these delightful sandwiches have been very popular in the UK since Victorian times!
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How should you make a cucumber sandwich?
Across the pond, there is a great debate on how to make the best cucumber sandwich. Which side of the debate do you lean towards?
- Should you peel the cucumbers or only score them?
- Should you slice them into rounds or cut them into strips lengthwise?
- Should you remove the seeds to prevent sogginess?
- Should you salt the cucumbers to draw out some of the liquid and bring out its delicate flavor?
- Should you dunk the cukes briefly in white wine vinegar or lemon juice to bring a burst of acidity?
- Should you layer the cucumbers by slightly overlapping them?
- Should any aromatics be added like minced garlic or white pepper for a hint of spiciness?
- Should cream cheese be added, or does that make it a cheese sandwich instead?
What is a cucumber sandwich?
In England, a traditional cucumber sandwich is made with soft white bread that is thinly sliced. The cucumber is peeled and then thinly sliced, sometimes paper thin. The bread is lightly spread with salted butter and the crusts are removed for a more elegant presentation.
Cut these into triangles or rectangular finger shapes that are two to three bites. The quality of the ingredients and the freshness of the sandwich play a big role in how the cucumber sandwich will taste. The bread should be soft and the cucumbers should be crisp.
How do these taste?
Cucumber sandwiches have a delicate taste. They are refreshing to bite into when the bread is soft and the cucumbers are crisp. Since cucumbers are mostly water, the sandwich is light and won't spoil your appetite for dinner. This makes it an excellent choice to serve for afternoon tea.
What kind of bread do you use?
- White bread that is very fresh.
- Soft bread at room temperature.
- Bread with a fine crumb; it should melt in your mouth.
- Thin, uniform slices of bread.
How many finger sandwiches are in a loaf of bread?
A typical loaf has 20 slices. This means you will be able to make 40 triangular or 30 rectangular finger.
What kind of cucumber do you use?
It's recommended to use English cucumbers for the best taste. Here's a comparison of these with the regular slicing cucumbers.
- English (Hothouse): 1 to 2 feet in length, thin smooth skin, almost seedless, easier to digest, mild in flavor, wrapped in plastic.
- Slicing Cucumbers: 6 to 9 inches in length, glossy dark green skin, tough skin that is often waxed, taste is more bitter, many seeds.
Are cucumbers healthy?
- Hydrating properties: 95% water
- Low in calories: great for weight loss
- Valuable nutrients: in the peel and seeds
- Contains fiber and beta carotene
How can I make a cucumber sandwich healthy?
- To Reduce the Carbs: have an open faced sandwich--it cuts the bread in half.
- To Reduce the Fat: use low fat cream cheese, spread it thinly, or omit the cream cheese altogether.
- To Increase the Fiber: use fresh, soft whole wheat bread that is thinly sliced.
- To Increase the Vegetables: use two layers of thinly sliced cucumbers.
- To Increase the Nutrients: score the cucumber skin and keep the peel on, and keep the seeds.
How should I serve this for afternoon tea?
Carefully arrange them in an elegant way. Here's some ideas:
- A round plate that is on the bottom of a three tier stand
- A china platter
- A silver platter
What is served at an English afternoon tea?
- First Course: two to three different finger sandwiches
- Second Course: two to three different scones with clotted cream and jams
- Third Course: a variety of dainty cakes and pastries
- Hot Teas: black, herbal or green
How many finger sandwiches should I make for my tea party?
This depends on what else you are serving, as guests could fill up on other finger foods like scones and pastries. To make sure you don't run out, plan for each guest to take 6 dainty finger sandwiches each. Each sandwich should be two to three bites in size.
How to Keep them from Getting Soggy
- Salt the sliced cucumbers, let stand for 10 to 30 minutes, then blot dry.
- If necessary, remove the seeds before slicing.
- Butter one slice of bread right to the edge.
- Use the same technique to spread the herbed cream cheese on the other slice of bread.
- Serve them right away, or store in the fridge wrapped in a layer of damp paper towels and aluminum foil.
- Just before serving, unwrap them so the air doesn't dry them out.
Can they be made ahead?
It's best to make them no more than 1 to 3 hours in advance because the water in the cucumbers can make the bread go soggy. If they are in the fridge too long, the bread will dry out and they will taste stale. Take the following points into consideration when making them in advance.
- Salt the cucumbers, let them sit for 10 to 30 minutes, and blot them dry to remove excess water.
- Make sure the bread is thickly spread with butter and the herb cream cheese right to the edges.
- Leave them on a sheet pan instead of the serving tray so they aren't touching.
- Cover with a damp paper towel then cover tightly with foil.
- Refrigerate until ready to serve.
How can I keep them from drying out?
- Place them on a sheet pan.
- Dampen several paper towels, then wring out the excess water from them.
- Lay the towel on top.
- Cover the pan tightly with foil.
How long can they last unrefrigerated?
If cucumber sandwiches are at room temperature, they should be good for up to two hours. Please take into consideration some other suggestions when serving cucumber sandwiches.
- Keep out of direct sunlight.
- Don't place near a heating or air conditioning vent.
- Don't store in a hot car.
Can I freeze leftovers?
Unfortunately, these don't freeze well. It's best to eat up all the leftovers the next day, or make up goodie bags for your guests to take home with them. This way there will be no waste.
How should I store leftover sliced cucumbers?
- Keep them in an airtight container that is placed in the fridge.
- Wrap them in a damp paper towel that is placed in a plastic bag in the fridge.
- Place them in a bowl of cold water in the fridge.
How to Make
Start by gathering all the ingredients. Cube the room temperature cream cheese and juice and lemon.
Peel and thinly slice an English cucumber into rounds. Place it on paper towel and sprinkle salt on top and wait 20 minutes.
The salt will draw out some of the liquid out of the cucumber and will make it firmer. It will also improve the taste by bringing out its delicate, mild flavor.
Use a paper towel to blot off the excess salt and moisture.
Dip each cucumber slice briefly into freshly squeezed lemon juice.
Wash and pat dry the fresh dill. Chop it up and pour it into the bowl of cream cheese, then mix it well with a spoon.
Lay out 6 slices of thin white bread on a cutting board. Use a knife to spread on the dill cream cheese.
Spread salted butter on the other 6 pieces.
Place 10 to 12 overlapping slices of cucumber in two rows on each slice of bread.
Sprinkle on white pepper for a hint of spiciness.
Place the other slice of bread on top. Wait 5 to 10 minutes to let the sandwich sit. This will help the cucumber slices from sliding around when cut.
Press down on the bread as you cut the crusts off the bread. Use a serrated knife to cut each sandwich into four triangles. This will give you 24 small sandwiches.
When ready to eat, arrange artfully on a platter or plate and garnish with some fresh dill.
- Want a different herb? Use chopped mint or chives.
- Want a twist? Add watercress, egg salad, anchovy paste, or make a benedictine sandwich with chopped cukes and green food coloring.
- Don't like cream cheese? Try herbed butter, sour cream, Heinz salad cream, crème fraîche, Neufchâtel cheese, mayo, or Greek yogurt.
- Don't eat white bread? Try fresh soft, whole wheat, pumpernickel cocktail bread, or rye bread.
- Don't want any bread? Use puff pastry as your base and make a canape.
- Want a different seasoning? Try garlic powder, finely minced fresh garlic, or lemon pepper.
- Don't like triangles? Try cutting them into rectangular fingers, squares, or rounds. Just make sure they are 2 to 3 bites in size.
- Want a garnish? Use a folded long cucumber strip. Place it on top of a round sandwich and secure it with a cocktail fork.
- Don't want to peel your cucumbers? If you're using English cucumbers, try scoring them.
- Can't eat seeds? Remove them, but you'll lose some nutritional value.
- Don't want cucumber rounds? Use a Y-shaped vegetable peeler to cut long thin strips lengthwise.
- Salt the cucumbers. It draws out some of the liquid and makes them firmer so they'll be less prone to sliminess.
- Want a burst of acidity? Briefly dunk the salted cucumber in white wine vinegar or freshly squeezed lemon juice.
- Don't use margarine; use good quality, lightly salted butter. It makes a seal between the filling and the bread.
- Let them sit before cutting them. It helps keep the cucumbers from sliding around when cut.
- Cut off the crusts with a serrated knife. Use the crusts for croutons or spread with cream cheese and have a snack.
- Cuisinart Knives: we've enjoyed using this versatile knife set for many years.
- Glass Prep Bowls: these handy bowls are perfect for prepping ingredients ahead of time.
- Measuring Spoons: we use these measuring spoons every day and love them!
- Bounty Paper Towels: these paper towels are super strong and very absorbent.
Other Teatime Treats
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This easy cucumber sandwich recipe is a dainty appetizer to serve at an English tea party, Easter brunch or bridal shower. Thinly sliced cucumbers, cream cheese, and fresh dill fill these fancy triangle sandwiches to make the perfect finger food at your next ladies' party.
- 12 slices of soft white bread
- 1 English cucumber, peeled and thinly sliced
- 3 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
- 4 teaspoons fresh dill, chopped
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 3 tablespoons lemon juice (from about 1 medium lemon)
- white pepper
- Peel the English cucumber, then very thinly slice it into rounds. Put the slices on paper towel, lightly salt, and wait 20 minutes. This will draw out some of the liquid, make the cucumbers firmer, and bring out the delicate flavor of the cucumber. When the timer goes off, blot the cucumbers to take off excess moisture and salt.
- Wash and pat dry the fresh dill. Chop it up and place it in a bowl along with the softened cream cheese. Stir with a spoon until well combined.
- Lay 12 slices of bread on a large cutting board. Lightly butter half of them with unsalted butter since there will be enough salt in the cucumber rounds. Spread the cream cheese with dill on 6 slices of bread.
- Squeeze the juice from one lemon into a small bowl, then quickly dip the cucumber slices into the lemon juice one at a time. Carefully place ten or twelve overlapping cucumber rounds in two rows on top of the slice with the cream cheese. Sprinkle with white pepper.
- Place the other bread slice on top of the sandwich. Using your hand, press down on the bread as you cut the crusts off, then slice the sandwiches into fingers, squares, or triangles. For the picture, I cut each sandwich into four triangles.
- Serve immediately for best freshness.
- Salting the cucumbers helps draw out some of the liquid. This makes them firmer and less slimy.
- Dunk the salted cucumber in white wine vinegar or lemon juice for a burst of acidity.
- Good quality, lightly salted butter, not only tastes better, it will help make a seal between the filling and the bread.
- Help the cucumbers from sliding around when cut by letting them rest first.
- Use a serrated knife when cutting off the crusts. Keep crusts for a snack or croutons.
- Category: Sandwiches
- Method: Chopped
- Cuisine: British
Keywords: Ladies tea, bridal shower, baby shower
This recipe was originally published on March 29, 2018.