Recipe: cream scones
I hope everyone who celebrates Thanksgiving had an enjoyable day. Ours was fairly low key as Thanksgiving goes, although I was probably cooking and baking as much as the next person – or more. It’s not so much the food as the thanks that are most prominent in my mind on Thanksgiving. I’m thankful, so thankful… for my life and all of the wonderful family and friends who populate it. And when I say life, I mean all of it – I’m referring to the joy of waking each day and knowing I’m here to make the most of it because there is no other way to live in my book (that book being the Rules of Jen, which isn’t published… it’s just in my head, you know). The winds were howling and hammering at our house on Thursday and driving to and skiing in ground blizzards didn’t appeal to us, so we stayed home and had sushi for dinner. Last year there was enough snow on the ground to make for a lovely walk with the dog. This year, Kaweah was perfectly content snuggling up on the couch with the occasional treat and belly rub for good measure.
last year’s thanksgiving walk
very thankful for these two
As for Black Friday, I avoided shopping altogether. I hate shopping in general because I feel like my time could be better spent doing something else rather than looking for
I scoured three thrift stores in Louisville (with Manisha) and Boulder in search of tea cups and saucers. The treasures one can find at a thrift store are many. These are items that someone doesn’t want, but someone else could use. I like that idea. I hate waste. Why the hunt for tea cups and saucers? Well, last month I had treated Manisha to afternoon tea at The Brown Palace in Denver after a meeting we had with the Denver Botanic Gardens.
which tea to order…
Our first reaction was to say, “oooh!” and “ahhh!” at the beautiful little pastries, tea sandwiches, scones, and tea. Then, as any food-obsessed pair of friends would do, we began to analyze every bite. We whispered to one another:
“That must be cream cheese.”
“Yes, but that curry is weird.”
“You know, we could totally do this ourselves!”
And the wheels began to turn. Certainly, we could put on our own tea, no? We could put on a better tea. Manisha recalled one of Lisa’s blog posts on a bridal shower tea she and her family threw. Oh that was gorgeous and Lisa’s tea had some fantastic ideas. Wouldn’t it be nice to put on a tea for our gals? Why, yes indeed!
campari, prosecco, fresh squozen orange juice, orange peel curls
Tea appeals to me not for the tea, but for all of the little foods. I am quite fond of little foods and tiny servings. And variety. Variety is the spice of life (I say this all the time, I don’t know where I got it from). Afternoon tea is a great excuse to make all manner of sweet and savory bites for your guests. But what makes me happier than making all of this food is watching the people I care about dig into it. We call people with good appetites who enjoy eating and can appreciate good food “good eaters”. I think all cooks love a good eater. I can’t tell you how much it makes me smile when I see Erin’s eyes light up at the sight of chocolate.
we hadn’t even finished putting everything on the table
it’s not a tea without scones (also pictured: chocolate chip banana bread)
chocolate mousse, fresh fruit
salmon sandwiches, chutney and cucumber sandwiches, cocktail samosas, chocolate macarons
The day before Thanksgiving, Manisha taught me to make cocktail samosas. I’m a whore for any “dumpling”-esque savory food – essentially a dough filled with vegetables or meat: samosas, pot stickers, ravioli, empanadas, and the list goes on. Manisha’s samosas are different from traditional samosas. Cocktail samosas have a delicate and thin pastry shell and are quickly devoured in two or three dangerously easy bites. In my opinion, they’re so much better! That could very well be my bias though. Manisha has never made anything that I didn’t like. She arrived at my house on Saturday with about four dozen cocktail samosas. Half of them potato and the other half chicken. Both types are phenomenally addictive. There will be a post on those adorable savory pastries soon enough.
waiting for teas to steep
a full table
nichole pours her tea
cucumber sandwiches with cilantro-mint chutney
salmon sandwiches with dill and capers
chicken salad puffs (I got this idea from Lisa)
cocktail samosas (chicken and potato) with tamarind-date chutney, cilantro-mint chutney (Manisha)
crostini with sweet onion dip (recipe from my good friends White On Rice Couple)
black currant cream scones
chocolate chip banana bread
apricot bars (Kitt’s mom)
chocolate macarons with chocolate-espresso ganache
chocolate mousse cups
digestive cookies (Drea)
lemon curd (Nichole)
clotted cream (Drea)
assorted loose teas from everyone
Whew! That was a huge amount of work, but it was worth it and so much fun! I had extraordinary help from my one and only fella. In between all of the work he had to get done (science doesn’t stop for holidays) Jeremy cleaned the house before the party, taste tested everything I made and gave me constructive feedback (hey – anyone can eat food, but I have standards to maintain), washed the parade of dirty dishes, mixed mimosas for the ladies, kept track of steeping teas (he is our tea and coffee expert), kept Kaweah from goosing guests with her wet nose from under the table, cleared dishes, and was generally as incredible as ever. He even sat down with us briefly to enjoy some pastries, mimosas, and tea before the conversation got too giggly and ridiculous. I know no better awesome than he.
nichole’s beautiful tea pot
Believe it or not, I had the presence of mind to shoot one of the recipes I made for the tea in the midst of three days of prep. Scones. I hadn’t tackled scones at elevation before. I figured they would be easy enough. Right? Right?!
a little sugar in the dough
add dried black currants
I made the recipe three times, not because I needed three batches of scones, but because I wasn’t happy with the results until the third batch (and even then it was mostly because I was running out of time). The first batch spread like crazy and the bottoms burned. I’m pretty sure I didn’t mix the butter in enough. I thought leaving it lumpy in the dough would create a desirable flakiness, but instead the butter melted and ran out and made a greasy mess. Also, the scones were enormous. The recipe according to Fine Cooking makes 8 large scones. These were huge-ass. I felt they could be (and ought to be) smaller.
cut the butter into the flour
beating egg yolks before mixing with cream
Round 2: First, I increased the flour by an ounce or so. I cut the butter into the flour mixture until it resembled coarse crumbs rather than leaving giant lumps. Instead of shaping the dough into a circle, I shaped it into a rectangle 1 inch tall and 4 inches wide. The dough was cut into 16 triangles and I baked them on the middle rack (the original instructions say to place a rack at the bottom third of the oven) for 15 minutes since they were smaller.
pour the liquid into the dough
toss together with a fork
Batch #2 came out with a better crumb than the first batch and burned less (but still a little more brown than I like) on the bottoms. However, they were on the thin side. Flat scones are no fun because you need to be able to split them in half and smother them with butter, clotted cream, jam, whatever it is you put on your scone. They still spread a lot, but not as much this time around. Okay, I was finally narrowing down how to fix these bloody scones… Next batch!
shape dough into a round (or rectangle, which i prefer)
Round 3: Another half ounce of flour, but this time a taller rectangle of dough. I made the dough 2 inches high which yielded fewer scones – 12 instead of 16. They baked on the middle rack for 15-16 minutes and I was finally satisfied with the results! Good thing too, because I was going to lose it if I had a third fail in a row. I just can’t bake one failure after another without taking a break at some point (which is essentially going for a run or a ride to get my frustrations out).
brush with egg wash
sprinkle with sugar
The final batch produced tall scones that had a bit of spreading (that’s okay with me), a light and tender crumb, browned, but not burnt bottoms, golden tops, and great flavor with just a touch of sweetness. I’m not sure if I would have encountered the above problems at sea level or not. These didn’t seem like elevation specific problems to me, but hey – what do I know? If you’re baking these at sea level, I’d try the recipe as-is first. If you run into similar troubles as mine, then you can make adjustments accordingly.
perfect with a spot of tea
Fine Cooking Issue #61
2 cups (9 oz.) flour (10.5 oz. @8500 ft.)
1/3 cup sugar
1 tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup (2 3/4 oz.) dried currants
3 oz. butter, unsalted, cold and cut into cubes
3/4 cup heavy cream
2 large egg yolks, lightly beaten
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 tbsp milk
Heat oven to 400°F with rack on bottom third of oven (NOTE: I place my rack in the middle of the oven). Line a heavy rimmed baking sheet with parchment. In a large bowl, whisk the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt together. Add the currants and toss until coated. Cut in the cold butter until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. In a small bowl mix the cream and egg yolks together. Pour the liquid into the flour and toss with a fork to incorporate the liquid. Gently knead or press the dry ingredients into the dough until it comes together. Don’t over knead it as you’ll ruin the crumb of the scone. Shape the dough into a 7-inch round on the parchment if you want eight large scones. Otherwise, I shape it into a 4-inch wide and 2-inch high rectangle for 12 medium scones. Slice the round into eighths and slice the rectangle however you like (for me, 12 triangles). Space the pieces on the parchment with a few inches between them. In a small bowl, mix the egg and the milk together. Brush the tops of the scones with the egg wash then sprinkle sugar over the tops. Bake 18-22 minutes for the large scones, 15-16 minutes for the smaller ones or until the tops are golden. Makes 8 or 12 depending on which instructions you follow.