Saturday, 13 November 2010

tea & scones

scones with clotted cream and strawberry preserve
s&r came over for tea to thirty-two today. i had wanted to bake a small cake and make it somewhat of a birthday tea as it was s' birthday last week. but a rather acute case of tendinitis meant i couldn't really do much more than make sandwiches and scones (a fair bit of which s helped with) including buying the clotted cream and cream of tartar. i used my mum's foolproof recipe which is very very close to national trust recipe that felicity cloake decided was the best in her quest on 'how to make the perfect scone'.  so here is the recipe my mum passed down after scoffing at me for wanting to try delia's version which includes an egg. i was told in no uncertain terms that adding an egg to my scone mix would most definitely mean i am not making a british classic. 

you will need:
16 oz of flour
4 oz butter (at room temperature)
2 oz caster sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cream of tartar 
160 ml milk soured with some lemon juice or vinegar

i start by sifting the flour with the baking soda and cream of tartar. i prefer to sift as this helps incorporate air and consequently lightness into the scone mixture. to this i add the butter cut up into little cubes and the sugar. then, using just the tips of my fingers i bring together the butter and dry ingredients so that they form loose crumbs. 

at this point i turn my oven up to 200 degrees and let it pre-heat.

to add the milk i made a small well in the centre and add in two steps bringing it together with a spatula. once the mixture has come together i turn it over on a lightly floured surface and roll it together just long enough to make sure that the whole mixture has come together and isn't too sticky. i have been told time and again that overworking the mixture makes for scones that aren't loose textured and don't rise very well. 

i flatten the mixture to about a little over half an inch thick and cut out rounds with a glass. no need to bother with a rolling pin. cloake says that scones that haven't been rolled out are slightly unruly but i personally prefer the organic form. after all it is a homemade scone. brush the tops with a little milk and then pop into the oven for between 10 - 12 minutes. your scones should be golden on top and be firm to touch. if they are a little wobbly given them an extra minute or two but watch them like a hawk as you don't want the tops to burn. in my last batch of scones i used exactly the same recipe but scrimped on a the cream of tartar because i didn't have any. however, it is well worth the addition as not only do the scones rise beautifully, they also have this wonderful texture that is both crumbly and dense. the scones also break of on their midline which much ease and perfection. so, don't miss out on this little teaspoon of magic!

once out of the oven serve with a thick layer of clotted cream and a dollop of strawberry preserves. for savouries i had made egg sandwiches - mashed eggs with a whole grain mustard flecked mayonnaise and some sprightly dill leaves and cucumber sandwiches - cream cheese with thinly sliced cucumbers wilted in a bit of salt and chives for a not so overpowering oniony note. 

s, r and o really enjoyed it. and as for me, i love cooking for people who love eating. not to mentioned the warm smell of baking. if this smell had a colour it would be a creamy vanilla with flecks of seed. 

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