That’s the question scone lovers debate.
However you pile it on, there is no doubt that the “cream tea”, or Devonshire tea has many fans.
It brings to mind bucolic England scenes – potting sheds, village greens, Woman’s Guilds, Enid Blyton books, country lanes and all things nostalgic.
The scones must be freshly baked, and they should be served warm. The cutting or splitting is done by the eater – never by the kitchen. The beautiful golden scones are served whole on a plate, or a cake tier, along with pots of jam and cream.
The jam should be a berry jam. Some say raspberry, some say strawberry. I think scones are also delicious with lemon curd.
Traditionally the cream served is clotted cream. This unctuous, very thick, yellow cream is not readily available nowadays, and excellent substitutions include the high butterfat double creams. Any cream with over 30% butterfat can be whipped to serve with your cream tea. It’s what most people would do most of the time 🙂
I have a jam secret I want to share with you.
To absolutely nail the occasion, and make your cream tea one to remember, mix a proportion of frozen berries into your jam: about 1/3 fruit to 2/3’rds jam. Mix it well, and refrigerate until the berries defrost. The fruit must be frozen, you want that soft texture, like cooked fruit. Raspberries for raspberry jam, strawberries for strawberry jam.
Your guests will think you have made the most luscious, fruity jam they have ever had in their lives – the jam of their dreams. Don’t give your secret away. Let them dream about your jam long after event 🙂
You can’t keep this very special jam. If you don’t use it all on the day you can keep it in the fridge for a day or two. Make a cream sponge, or a steamed jammy pudding, or maybe some more scones….
I have used the following recipe for thousands of scones. It’s easy, it’s fast, they’re delicious, and – there’s no rubbing in of butter and flour, so no under-the-fingernails mess.
A few points:
work quickly. Do not over work the mixture. This will toughen the scones. I cannot emphasise enough – do not be tempted to play with and smooth and knead the mixture. It doesn’t need it, it takes up time, and the results won’t be as good. A light touch is what is needed here. Pretend the dough is very hot and you can only jiggle and juggle it about 🙂
the dough needs to be wet enough so the scones are light, and “dry”enough so you can easily cut them out and they don’t rise and collapse over in the oven. The mix needs to be fairly dry to touch without any shale-like or flaky looking areas.
The oven needs to be hot. 450F / 220C, or thereabouts.
The scone mixture should be patted out ( not rolled) to a thickness of about 2cm before cutting. The most common complaint people have when they make scones is that their lovely scones came out flat and more like biscuits. Yes, they will rise in the oven, but they still need to be cut out at about half the height you want them to end up when they are cooked.
To have them close together on the baking tray or not? Having the scones touching as they go into the oven requires a longer cooking time and a more careful watching-over of the baking. Reduce the oven temp if you want to use this method. The scones will kind of merge together as they bake. They do, however, separate easily when cooked. If you want a soft sided scone, have them touching. If you want the heat of the oven to be able to circulate around the scone, producing a even browning and “crispier” edges/sides, space them apart for baking.
Cooking times vary so much depending on ovens, altitude, dough, and size of the scone. Check them at about 10 minutes, it may take 20-25 minutes. Make sure they are brown on the bottom. If you are worried, take a scone from the centre of the tray, break it open and see if it’s cooked all the way through.
You will need:
Self-raising flour. Start with about 500-600g for around 1 dozen scones. You’ll need extra for dusting the board
a pinch of salt
2 teapoons of sugar
about 600ml / 1 pint of what we call thickened cream – cream with about 35% butterfat. Have a look on the label, the butterfat content will be listed
Sieve the flour, salt and sugar into a deep bowl.
Mix in the cream to make a stiff, not too dry, not too wet dough.
Add more cream or flour as needed
Tip out onto a floured board/bench/pastry mat, and pat into a squarish shape, about 2cm thick.
Using your choice of scone/pastry/biscuit cutter, cut out your scones. Dip the cutter in flour in between each cut, to stop the scone sticking to the cutter. You can use a glass as a cutter, be sure to flour it well. The mixture tends to create a vacuum and the scone can be a bit hard to shake loose of the glass.
Cut the scones close together to maximise the number you’ll get out of the dough. When you’re done, gently squish the remaining dough scraps together and make a couple more.
Place on a lightly floured or baking paper lined oven tray.
See the notes above about baking.
If you like, the scones can be lightly glazed with beaten egg ( or just beaten yolk for a richer gloss) before cooking.
Place a clean tea-towel on a rack and put the cooked scones on the towel after baking. Lightly cover with another clean towel. It keeps the warmth in, and makes sure they stay tender in the gentle steam.
I hope you enjoy your cream tea 🙂 As always, I welcome your comments and queries 🙂