Tonight at about 8:58 PM thousands of households will be scouring their TV Guides trying to figure out which channel PBS is so they can tune in to the Season 3 Premiere of Downton Abbey. Or maybe you’ve already DVR’d it. Smart move.
I for one can’t wait to be all up in the business of the Crawley household once again. Since watching devouring the first two seasons in an amount of time too short to really be socially acceptable, I’ve been anticipating this latest installment.
There’s much to be excited about in the new season, what with a long-awaited wedding in the works and the arrival of Coraline’s mother from the Americas. There are sure to be some zingers from Lady Grantham, and plenty of banter and mischief in the servant’s quarters. I’ll be holding my breath with the rest of America as we find out what is to become of beloved, noble Mr. Bates. This girl is sure hoping for a tear-filled reunion for Anna and Bates (and me). The sooner the better.
I decided this occasion deserved to be commemorated with a very special treat. Something worth getting out the fancy napkins and matching tea cups. And what better treat to honor the stories of a 19th century British household than homemade Cream Tea Scones?
The King Arthur Flour cookbook has a wonderful recipe for Cream Tea Scones that also includes a short history of this classic treat. According to them, scones became popular in England in the 19th century when the length of time between lunch and dinner grew to 8 or 9 hours long. Turns out, even the British couldn’t keep up their good graces for that long without food (I feel them! 8 hours without food and this girl couldn’t care a whit about table manners, silverware placement, or slurping). To fill the gap, they started having an afternoon tea, which was usually accompanied by finger sandwiches, baked goods, and of course, scones.
Usually scones are served with butter, jam, or clotted cream (which, by the way, if you haven’t tried is a-MAY-zing), but I figured, why dirty a knife? Let’s put the jam right in the scone!
The result is a tender, buttery, just slightly tangy treat with a ribbon of rich blackberry jam sweetening the center. I can personally speak to what a wonderful afternoon snack it is, as I couldn’t stop eating them straight from the flaming hot pan (and subsequently burning the roof of my mouth…and then going back for more).
I wanted these to be round, but it definitely makes much more sense to make these in a rectangle shape. Someone (me) didn’t think about the fact that you can’t really roll up the excess dough around the circle cut outs when it’s filled with jam. These little cut outs did however make for excellent midday niblins (which I’m convinced are calorie-less, by the way).
I’ve reflected the change in method in the recipe below and also included a few other tips for scone making I found while scouring the web. Of course, the easiest way to combine the butter and flour for scones is to use a food processor. But if you are processor-less (hey, me too friend!), I find the easiest method is to grate a frozen stick of butter into the flour. It’s faster than using a pastry cutter and avoids over working the dough with your fingers. However, it does involve having a stick of frozen butter at the ready, so do what works best for you!
The BBC also suggests preheating your baking sheet to give the scones a higher rise. I tried that with these, and it did result in the fluffiest, tallest scones I’ve ever made, but whether or not that’s due to the pan, I’m not sure. Either way, it can’t hurt to implement some wisdom from the BBC…they know what they’re doing with this whole scone thing.
Here’s hoping for lots of snarky comments, longing glances, and happy reunions! Enjoy Downton Abbey and enjoy these scones!
Blackberry Jam Cream Tea Scones
- 3 cups all purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 2 Tablespoons granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 8 tablespoons butter*
- 1 large egg
- 1 1/4 cup buttermilk
- 1/2 cup seedless blackberry jam (or any other jam you have on hand)
- *I used frozen and grated it in. If you're incorporating it with your hands, a pastry cutter, two forks, or a food processor you'll just want it cold)
- Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Place an ungreased baking sheet in the oven to preheat as well.
- Whisk together flour, baking powder, soda, sugar, and salt in a large mixing bowl or food processor. Grate frozen butter into flour mixture then stir, or use a pastry cutter (or your food processor or your fingers) to cut the butter into the flour until it resembles coarse crumbles.
- Whisk together the buttermilk and the egg. Make a well in the center of the flour mixture and pour buttermilk mixture in it. Stir together for 20-30 seconds or until barely combined.
- Turn dough out onto a well floured counter top then flour the top of the dough. Knead with floured hands about 10 times. You want the dough to stick together, but you don't want it to get overworked.
- Divide the dough in half. Using a floured rolling pin, roll each piece of dough into a circle that is about ¼ inch thick (it'll be 9 inches around-ish). Spread jam over one piece of the dough. Carefully lift the second piece of dough and place it on top.
- Slice dough into 8 equal triangles, like you would slice a pie.
- Remove preheated pan from oven and cover with parchment paper. Place triangles of dough onto the baking sheet then bake for 12-15 minutes or until puffed and golden brown. Serve with additional jam, clotted cream, tea, and the latest episode of Downton Abbey.
Recipe adapted from The King Arthur Flour Baker’s Companion: The All-Purpose Baking Cookbook