I like to call it the Downton Abbey Effect. The uptick in Americans drinking proper tea and their new interest in English culture could only come from a number of sources, and I truly think Downton is to blame! Not that I mind or am offended by their interest, it often makes me smile how intrigued they are about places like Bath or Buckingham Palace, places I have been to countless times, and I suppose, looking at it from their angle, took for granted. Of course, Americans have always had a fascination with our monarchy too, more so now that one of their own has been married in to it. I am sure that on her many trips to England over the years Megan Markle enjoyed a tea time or two. After all, there is nothing so quintessentially English than tea and scones.
This one of the few recipes I can clearly recall making with my Mum when I was young. She had (or maybe still has) this gargantuan ceramic mixing bowl that at the time, probably weighed the same as a small car. I would heave up to my chest and wobble when bringing it over to the table when we baked together. Making scones should, and I am being incredibly serious now, always be made with cold butter. It is worth, like I do, to whack your butter in the freezer for 15-20 minutes so that it really is far removed from room temp, something we are so used to using when baking. When younger, I had to dice the butter up with a knife and blend it down to bread crumbs using my fingers, a technique that is exceptionally tedious. When your butter is ice cold from the freezer, it is so easy to grate it in to the dry ingredients. Yup. Grate. WITH A CHEESE GRATER. It’ll be less messy, you won’t get finger cramps and it saves you a lot of time…which in turns brings these delicious fruit scones that much closer to you.
8 oz all purpose/plain flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp cream of tartar
pinch of salt
1 1/2 oz unsalted butter, chilled in freezer for 15-20 minutes
1 oz sugar
2 oz dried fruit (raisins, saltanas, cranberries work best)
1/2 cup buttermilk
Mix the flour, baking soda, cream of tartar and salt together using a whisk to distribute ingredients thoroughly and to whisk in some added air
Grate the chilled butter into the dry ingredients, and form floury breadcrumbs using your fingers. Slowly add in the sugar and dried fruits.
Pour in the buttermilk and mix with hands until a dough forms.
Knead gently on a lightly floured surface, being sure not to incorporate too much air into the kneading process. Roll out until 3/4 inch thick and using a 2 or 3in cookie cutter, cut out the scones and place on a lined baking tray.
Take edges/scraps to form more dough and cut as much scones as you can.
Bake for 10 minutes at 450F/230C, allow to cool completely before serving with strawberry jam and clotted cream. Failing that, whipped heavy cream will suffice.
To make tea, steep one English Breakfast teabag per guest in a pot of just-off-the-boil for 4 minutes, pouring into mugs before adding milk. Sugar can be added if desired.