“Thank God for tea ! What would the world do without tea! How did it exist? I am glad I was not born before tea.” Sydney Smith, “Lady Holland’s Memoir”
For someone like me being from a small California town near the Mexican border, afternoon tea was a different and unique way of socially eating. As we continue here with the foods served at afternoon tea, a little focus on scones. Many Americans are familiar with the dry, crusty versions and tend to shy away from eating them. I always received favorable comments from the students in my tea
classes after sampling my take on scones.
There are many varieties of scones. Some are baked with currants, cream, sweet spices or savory with cheese. They come in different shapes; round, wedged or dropped-batter on a hot griddle. I suggest choosing one flavor and serve it with jam and cream. The secret ingredient is the buttermilk that keeps the scone moist. Even a low-fat buttermilk will bring good results.
Cinnamon Buttermilk Scones
3 cups all purpose flour
1/3 cup sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 cup butter, chilled cut in pieces (1 1/2 sticks)
3/4 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup milk (use to brush top of cut scones)
Topping: mix 1 tablespoon cinnamon with 1 cup sugar (This will produce more than you need. Keep extra stored in a small jar with a tight lid.)
Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
In a large bowl, stir all the dry ingredients.
With a pastry blender or a fork, cut in the butter until it becomes crumbly.
Slowly add the buttermilk and gently stir with a fork. Form a large ball.
On a lightly floured surface, pat the dough 1/2 thick.
Cut out the scone with a 2″ deep cookie cutter.
Place an a greased baking sheet. Parchment paper can also be used.
Brush tops of scones with a little milk.
Sprinkle generously with the cinnamon topping.
Bake for about 15-18 minutes, let cool on a baking rack.
Clotted cream can be purchased from a kitchen gourmet store. The clotted cream is skimmed from the top of milk; much like the cream that “floats” to the top of fresh bottled milk or yogurt. It is high in fat content but only a small spoonful is needed for those watching their calories. The small jars of cream can be a bit expensive if you are serving a large crowd of people as I was doing for my tea classes. So I came up with a thriftier version, a mock-clotted cream, that, although not authentic is quite tasty.
My favorite part of tea are the “sweets”. Sweets should be small and dainty. Pick three that vary in taste and texture. For example, lemon mini-tarts, two-bite brownies, and shortbread are a good selection. These can be hand-baked or purchased to save time. Again, three sweets are simple. Try to always include chocolate as one of your selections.
1 cup whipping cream
1/4 cup sour cream
4 tablespoons powdered sugar
1/4 teaspoon almond flavoring
Mix all ingredients in a deep bowl.
Beat with an electric mixer until thick.
Refrigerate , covered, for 1 hour.
Obviously, afternoon tea requires a good pot of brewed tea to compliment the food. The most favorable afternoon tea is Earl Grey. English Breakfast and Darjeeling follow in popularity. Herbal and fruit teas are not traditional but are perfectly acceptable at the tea table if that is what you prefer.
How to Brew a Proper Pot of Tea
First, measure how many cups of water fill your teapot. Write the number on a small piece of paper and tape it on the bottom of your teapot. This will help you from having to re-measure every time you want to make a pot of tea.
Fill the kettle with fresh, cold water.
Warm your teapot by filling it with hot water.
When the kettle water comes to a boil, empty the previous hot water from your teapot.
Fill your warmed, empty teapot with tea leaves. Use 1 teaspoon of loose tea per cup, adjusting the quantity to suit your taste.
Pour the boiled water over the leaves, cover with lid, and let step for 3-5 minutes.
Give the tea a stir to ensure an even brew.
Use a tea strainer placed over the teacup and pour the tea.
Serve with milk (not cream), or lemon and sugar cubes.
I happily urge you to give afternoon tea a try. I know it will be the beginning of a wonderful tradition for you, your family and friends!