Interview with Executive Chef Brooke Vosika, Four Seasons Hotel Boston :
The Teddy Bear Tea shouts ‘Winter is here!’ There is nothing like seeing our restaurant, lobby, staircase – and every nook and cranny – filled with the sites and sounds of children. As they arrive with their giant teddy bears, some bigger than they are (though they refuse to have help carrying them), smiles are plastered to their faces. And these smiles remain throughout.
The children dig into sweet treats and little tea sandwiches made just for them, and then sit down for carols and story time with a local celebrity. The funniest part, which is also quite refreshing, is that even Brad Pitt could be sitting in front of them and all the kids would really care about is hearing their story, and then going to play with Truffles, our “live” teddy bear!
Truffles is the Teddy Bear Tea’s very own A-list celebrity. For them, no one else compares!
There is so much joy and tradition associated with the Teddy Bear Tea: Women whose mothers took them to the Tea many years ago are now bringing their own children.
And behind all the fun and fanfare is an invaluable lesson for children about giving back to those in need. Each of their teddy bears, with their little handwritten notes attached (such as “Get well soon” and “This teddy bear loves you!” and so on), are gathered under the giant teddy bear tree and then delivered to children at hospitals and charitable organizations. The goal? That all kids can enjoy the comfort of a teddy bear at Christmas.
A Teddy Bear Tea party would be easy and fun to recreate at home! And there are so many ways to do this:
When my daughter was a little girl, we would have all the children in the neighborhood over to the house for Teddy Bear Breakfast parties every Saturday morning. We’d make teddy bear pancakes with maple syrup (we’d add a strawberry for the nose and two blueberries for the eyes). The kids would eat their pancakes and sip hot cocoa with extra marshmallows, and you’ve never seen happier faces!
Teddy Bear pancakes are easy to make – you can use a special cookie cutter or just prepare one large round pancake with two smaller pancakes as the ears. Either way, the kids will love it – as a dad, you can trust me on that one!
My daughter also loved teddy bear PB & J sandwiches when she was little. And we make those for the kids at today’s Teddy Bear Tea, too! We use a teddy bear cookie cutter and then add faces to the sandwiches with jelly – we make a smile, two eyes, a nose and buttons.
My two favorite dishes at the Teddy Bear Tea, however, are the sweet treats: the mini chocolate cupcakes with gummy bears on top, and the gingerbread teddy bears. My gingerbread cookie recipe is really easy to follow and melt-in-your-mouth delicious.
One fun and creative activity is to have kids help decorate the hot-out-of-the-oven cookies! Children are so creative, and they love cooking and being in the kitchen. Give them aprons and paper Chef’s hat with their names on them, and then set up an array of fun toppings, from candy to frosting. Give each child a couple of cookies and let them spend the afternoon decorating their very own gingerbread teddy bears while listening to holiday music. A fun-filled and festive afternoon!
A final tip for teddy bear parties: If we’ve learned anything in the past 16 years of the Teddy Bear Tea, it’s that a surprise appearance from a “live” teddy bear is ALWAYS, without fail, a special touch. That is, if you can find a rental teddy bear suit, and a great friend to wear it, the kids will literally jump up and down for joy! (This creates wonderful photo ops too.)
You can invite all the children to come dressed up in their holiday best, so that the photos can be used for holiday cards and as keepsakes. And perhaps add a “giving back” angle too, as we do here at the Hotel: Ask each child to bring a brand new teddy bear with them, to donate to a great cause. After the party, you and your children can go together to donate the bears to a local hospital or charity. A wonderful lesson in giving back at a young age!
Voilà: Your Teddy Bear Tea party…in so many shapes and sizes.
From Four Seasons Boston Executive Pastry Chef Tim Fonseca
In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar until light then stir in eggs and molasses.
Combine dry ingredients in a separate bowl and add to wet mixture. Stir until well combined. Cover and let chill for 1-hour.
Preheat oven to 350F.
Roll chilled dough to ¼ inch thick and cut into your favorite shapes. I love the classic gingerbread bear shape.
Place cookies on lightly oiled cookie sheet or use baking paper.
Bake for 7 minutes or until just firm to the touch.
Cool and decorate using either classic confectionery icing or chocolate with your choice of décor.
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