Asparagus and smoked salmon pinwheels with lemon chive cream cheese are the perfect tea sandwiches: beautiful, elegant, and flavorful! Visit the Afternoon Tea homepage here.
There are a lot of reasons people drink tea.
It’s a morning caffeine boost. It’ll warm you up when the house is too cold. Different blends can provide various health benefits.
Sure, I do drink my tea in the mornings for the warmth and the caffeine. But those aren’t the reasons why I seek out “tea time.”
Tea time for me is when I turn off the screens and the distractions, and decompress from the day by lamplight. It’s when I step back from the busyness of everyday life. It’s a respite from the daily grind, a chance to reenergize and be inspired.
Ideally, all five senses are engaged during tea time. You take in the aroma of the peppermint or cinnamon or Earl Grey. You savor the small pleasure of a warm teacup between your hands. You taste the tea, the jammy scone, or the delicate sandwich. Maybe there’s soft guitar music playing, the sounds of birds from your porch, or maybe there’s blissful silence.
But before you smell or taste your tea and sandwiches, you see them.
They say people eat first with their eyes — when you see it, you imagine the taste.
That’s why, in magazines, cookbooks, and blogs, it’s so important to have high-quality photographs. And for tea sandwiches, the appearance is just as important as the contents.
You can have an assortment of shapes: triangles, rectangles, or shaped with a cookie cutter; open-faced sandwiches, pinwheels, and double-decker sandwiches. Variety is key.
Garnishes and presentation can enhance an afternoon tea, which, after all, is supposed to be a relaxing and indulgent experience. Why not indulge the eyes as well as the taste buds?
These asparagus and smoked salmon pinwheels are probably my favorite tea sandwich to date. They’re not only beautiful, but contain all of my favorite ingredients: smoked salmon, asparagus, and lemon.
Most smoked salmon tea sandwiches I see pair salmon with dill, which is not my personal favorite combination. I feel like the dill competes with the flavor of the salmon rather than enhancing it, and since smoked salmon is one of my favorite things ever, I really want to taste it.
What does enhance the flavor of salmon, in my opinion? Lemon.
So for these smoked salmon pinwheels, I’ve used the lemon chive cream cheese spread I shared last week. If you, like many people, like the combination of salmon and dill, you can substitute dill for the chives in the spread and call it a day!
Making pinwheel tea sandwiches
When you make pinwheel sandwiches, one slice of bread isn’t enough to make a nice spiral. You need two pieces of bread, crusts off, slightly overlapped and rolled together.
It seemed odd to me at first to flatten my fluffy bread with a rolling pin, but it’s really a must for these sandwiches.
Once you’ve rolled out your bread, you can spread the spread. Here, I’ve used my lemon chive cream cheese spread.
Then you cover the entire surface with your main fillings: in this case, smoked salmon. I used about three slices of salmon, or about 2 oz., to make one sandwich roll, which made four smoked salmon pinwheels.
If you want something in the center of your pinwheels, add that at the very end. I used three stalks of blanched asparagus rather than one to give it a little more substance, both visually and flavor/texture-wise.
Then, roll ‘er up.
Wrap the whole roll in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes to allow the shape to set. This helps keep your sandwich from unrolling when you slice it.
After the shape is set, slice into four asparagus and smoked salmon pinwheels. You don’t need to discard any end pieces, just put the rough edges face down.
I sprinkled some chopped chives on top, but these are pretty enough to stand alone without a garnish!
Make-ahead options: You can make the lemon chive cream cheese spread several days in advance. Make sure it is completely softened before you spread it on the bread! I’m sure these are best the day you make them, but I sliced these after a day rolled in plastic wrap in the fridge and they were still excellent!
Smoked Salmon and Asparagus Pinwheel Tea Sandwiches
Asparagus and smoked salmon pinwheels with lemon chive cream cheese are the perfect tea sandwiches: beautiful, elegant, and flavorful! They're my favorite finger sandwiches!
- 6 stalks asparagus ends snapped off
- 4 slices white bread
- 2 tbsp lemon chive cream cheese spread softened, see recipe linked above
- 4 oz smoked salmon
- chives chopped, for garnish
Bring a medium pot of water to a boil. Prepare a bowl of ice water. Blanch asparagus for 2-3 minutes, until tender-crisp, and no more. Plunge asparagus into ice water to stop the cooking so it stays crisp. Once chilled, pat to dry.
Remove crusts from bread. Overlap two slices by about half an inch and roll flat with a rolling pin.
Spread with 1 tbsp lemon chive cream cheese.
Arrange smoked salmon slices over the surface of the sandwich, making sure to cover the entire area. Place three stalks of asparagus at one short end of the bread, trimming to just fit the length of the bread.
Roll tightly into a spiral, starting with the asparagus end, so the asparagus is in the center of the roll.
Wrap roll in plastic. Repeat with remaining bread and salmon to create a second sandwich roll.
Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes so the spiral shape will set. Slice each sandwich roll into four small pinwheel tea sandwiches. Garnish with chopped chives.
Make-ahead options: You can make the lemon chive cream cheese several days in advance, and you can blanch the asparagus a day ahead. Sandwiches are best the day you make them, but you can assemble them a day ahead and slice them the day you eat them if necessary.