Sunday, August 14, 2011

Traditional English Cream Tea... what we decided we'd have for dinner tonight!  It's something we'd been wanting to try our hands at ever since we had it over in England at Betty's in York.  The traditional English Cream Tea consists of tea and scones, generally served with clotted cream and/or fruit preserves.  It sounds more like just a light snack, but with the dense buttery scones and the added richness of the clotted cream, it's typically plenty for a light afternoon meal.  We had to begin with tea, of course.   

This is my favorite bland, and is actually what convinced me (back in 2005 when I first went to England) that tea could actually be delicious.  At Betty's they serve it with cream (we used 2% milk) and both white sugar and lumps of delicious dark brown sugar (which sadly we didn't have). 

Having never made scones, I wanted a simple, straightforward recipe that was fairly foolproof, yet authentic.  I found the following recipe on the BBC website

  • 8 oz self-rising flour (we were out, so I had to substitute using this recipe).
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 oz. butter
  • 1 oz. sultanas (raisins)
  • 1 oz. caster (superfine) sugar (if you don't have it, just whir table sugar in coffee grinder for a few sec)
  • 5 fl. oz. 2% milk
First set your oven to 425 F.  Combine the flour, salt, and butter, rubbing together between your fingers until well blended.  Add the sultanas, sugar, and milk, and blend until you've formed a loose dough.  Turn this out onto a lightly floured board and knead lightly.  Roll to about 1/2 inch thick, and cut out rounds (if you don't have a round cookie cutter, you can do like we did and use a wine glass).  Reform the dough and continue to form scones until you've used the remaining dough.  Brush the tops of the scones with milk, and bake at 425 for 12-15 minutes or until the scones are lightly browned on top. 

After they've baked, arrange on a plate and serve with clotted cream and whatever jam or jelly you prefer.  We served the scones with a side of the sugared strawberries my mom cans every year from my dad's garden back in IL and they were delicious! 

While you can just use butter instead of clotted cream, it's not traditional and, stickler though I admittely am for these things, it really truly is worth the cost (one 6oz. jar ran something like $7-8 I believe) to track down authentic clotted cream if you can find it.  We found ours at one of the local HyVee stores: the only place that seems to sell it anywhere in the vacinity of Columbia.

In the end, everything turned out quite nicely.  The scones were lightly browned on the outside, with a wonderful toasted buttery crunch.  The texture was pretty spot on too, although not quite as poundcake-dense as the ones we had at Betty's were.  The clotted cream was remarkably (really surprisingly, actually) good, especially for being a bottled product and being shipped all the way over here.  The best way I can describe the taste is richer and slightly earthier than butter, almost halfway between butter and a really mild, fresh cheese.  The interior of the scones wasn't quite as rich as I would have liked; I'm toying with adding a touch more sugar or butter to the recipe next time we make it to see if this improves things at all.  But then again, maybe I shouldn't compare my cooking to Betty's, as they've gained the reputation they have for a very good reason.

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