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we can do one better

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 crap stuff. I’m a search-and-destroy kind of shopper. In and out and no one gets hurt. Too much stuff makes me crazy, which is why I donated several bags of (nice) stuff earlier in the week to Goodwill and the Humane Society’s Thrift and Gift shop. But I’ll admit that I did have some items on my “to do” list which count as shopping…

tea cups

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

campari mimosa

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

pinky out!

the menu
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
zucchini bread
apricot bars (Kitt’s mom)
chocolate macarons with chocolate-espresso ganache
chocolate mousse cups
digestive cookies (Drea)
fresh fruit
lemon curd (Nichole)
clotted cream (Drea)

campari mimosas
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

Cream Scones
[print recipe]
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.

47 nibbles at “we can do one better”

  1. Stephane says:

    Lovely in every way!

  2. April in CT says:

    One word: amazing!!!

  3. Linda says:

    Looks like a Christmas morning breakfast addition to me. Love scones.

  4. Nisrine, Dinners & Dreams says:

    These photos make me want to celebrate. I love the scones!

  5. Shu-Huei Henrickson says:

    love how clear your instructions are. and love your step-wise photos.

  6. My Kitchen in the Rockies says:

    How much fun is that! I also love Nichole’s beautiful tea pot.

  7. manisha says:

    I had your scone today as I could not eat a single bite more yesterday. Jen, I have never eaten a better scone in my life. Hats off to you, girlie, for all the effortf and the planning. It truly was the best tea party ever! The first treat at Brown Palace was special but yesterday’s tea party knocked my socks off! You are THE awesomest of them all!

  8. Wei-Wei says:

    Love love LOVE scones. These look amazing, and I’d love to host a high tea party someday ;)

  9. Nichole Nurenberg-Miller says:

    It was a splendid high tea, done at high elevation and in high style! As always, it such a gift to be a guest in your home. Big thanks and love to you, Jen <3

  10. Ruth Ann says:

    So lovely Jen! What a great idea to have an afternoon tea party with friends.
    The scones look yummy and I hope to try the recipe soon.

  11. Nicola says:

    A most civilised way to live, methinks!

  12. sisi says:

    how convenient for me to find this site and recipe when i’ve been yearning for the perfect scone recipe…i’ve always had cookie or biscuit like texture with various scone recipes and it has always failed to satisfy my sister’s craving for the perfect traditional english tea scone (served with clotted cream and jam) but this one might be a keeper!=) Thx!

  13. amy says:

    What a beautiful tea spread! Scones are in my top 5 favorite foods, and I can’t wait to try your recipe, Jen. They look absolutely delicious. :)

  14. Kristin says:

    My favorite way to eat, & what a lovely spread. I love the pearls w/ the North Face garb!

  15. angelitacarmelita says:

    I love currant scones, the best one’s I’ve ever had were at tea at the Ritz Carlton here in Northern Virginia where they serve them with devonshire cream (gaahhh) and morello cherries (double gaaahhhh!!). I can’t wait to try this recipe and see how close they are to those at the Ritz’s. And I love that you went looking for tea cups and saucers at thrift stores! They’re like lovely gems from someone’s past, I thought my sister was the only person who knew that secret (shhhh). She’s been collecting them for me for years and when she sees a really lovely one, I know it’s mine and what makes them all the more special to me is that when she sees them, she’s thinking of me. Lastly, I love that you get the whole “Thankful” thing and about what’s important, thanks for sharing this post with us.

  16. Andra@FrenchPressMemos says:

    Love the scones! I use a similar recipe and add orange zest- came from Bob @FuelCafeDenver and I swear by it. Fresh lemon curd is always such a treat too. Beautiful spread!

  17. Kirsa says:

    Those look absolutely beautiful and ready to be devoured… yes… keep them away from me, lest they disseapear !

    the teapots are just amazingly sparkling and shiny… ooooo…. shinies !

  18. Megan says:

    i LOVE scones, and the tea party thing looks like fun. might have to put one on for my daughter.

  19. Sil says:

    Wow! That’s a lovely afternoon tea. I’ll try to make those scones, they look really good.
    And congrats to Jeremy for being such a sweet! :-)

  20. Lisa says:

    These are beautiful pastries and they look delicious. I wish I had some of them.

    In spring, our women’s social club usually has an afternoon tea party with around 300+ ladies atteding the event. The program was designed by a very talent lady, Anita. I’ve kept those beutiful programs. Our pastries are provided by the resort folks because we use the resort’s ball room. Truely, I think they can take a few lessons from you. Don’t know if anyone from the resort reading your blogs.

  21. VancFoodie says:

    “Variety’s the very spice of life, That gives it all its flavor”
    This line is attributed to English poet and writer of hymns, William Cowper.

  22. Lisa is Bossy says:

    LOVE IT!!! Gosh I wish I could have crashed it. I LOVE a gorgeous tea party – and it’s even better when I’m not running around like a crazy banshee squawking at everyone…

  23. Faith says:

    Um… WOW. Gorgeous, gorgeous spread!

    My favorite scones I ever made were an orange chocolate scone with orange zest and chocolate flakes in the pastry. So fantastic!

  24. Chiot's Run says:

    Oh so lovely to be sure. I’d love to have an adult tea party someday. We had a tea party for my niece on her 8 year b-day. Not quite as “adult” as this since little girls wanted pigs in a blanket and wanted to make crowns as a craft. I did make some lovely petits four cakes with blackberry poured icing and fresh lavender from the garden on top. My sister got teacups and saucers at the thrift store and the girls got to take them home as their favor. All had a great time (oh yeah, and they all dressed up in sparkly dresses for the occasion)

    I do love some scones. I usually brush mine with the extra buttermilk/egg mixture that I use in the scones, I hate wasting eggs for brushing. I have a scone recipe I’ve perfected through the years, but I’m always game to try a new one – we shall see.

  25. Alexandra Rogers says:

    Wow! I will definitely give these a try–looks like you throw an incredible tea time! Thank you for the post.

  26. Davida Harlee says:

    Interesting stuff! I travelled to England this summer and had some afternoon tea with scones , and it was so delicious I thought I’d try and make my own last week. I made 3 different types! My friends were so happy when I brought them round for tea and scones. Great fun!

  27. Sharlene says:

    This spread is gorgeous. My brother made scones for my birthday a few months ago since he knows my affinity for them. I’m going to try this recipe out!

  28. Margie says:

    Lovely scones!

    I adore the pic of Jeremy and Miss K. 2SWEET :)

  29. Joy says:

    Everything looks great. I love this recipe.

  30. Sam says:

    Beautiful! Thanks for posting. Scones have always scared me (baking them that is) but now I’m going to try it.

  31. Tiff says:

    Such adorable and dainty scones. They look so tasty :)

  32. Julia Chang says:

    I made these scones just now, didn’t have any cream but added soymilk instead. I love all your recipes!

  33. jenyu says:

    manisha – xo :)

    Nichole – aw, such a sweetheart. Always a joy (and a hoot) to have you over.

    amy – thanks! I hope you like the recipe – it’s one of my favs.

    Kristin – that Manisha is a gem, I tell you.

    angelitacarmelita – I was delighted to find such pretty sets at thrift stores. I never knew!

    VancFoodie – I think I first saw this on a login prompt in college or something ;)

    Lisa is Bossy – You wouldn’t have to crash it, hon – you’d be invited (or more likely, you’d be helping me bake!)

    Sam – they’re easier than you’d think!

  34. Anjali says:

    Ah! Jen This sounds so much fun and the table is set like a pro! Nice to see you guys :)

  35. Sherry says:

    I was looking for a good scone recipe to go with the tub of clotted cream my brother brought me from England and you’ve never disappointed me so I came here. And yay, I had forgotten you had blogged about this a few weeks ago! I think I’ll add some lemon zest to this recipe since I’ve always adored it in other scones. Hopefully it’ll all turn well, my first try with scones wasn’t all that great… :\

  36. April P. says:

    YES! I’m so excited! I had tea at the Brown Palace last week and have been craving their scones since. I googled “Brown Palace Scones” and found your site. I look forward to trying your recipe in the mountains this weekend!


  37. April P. says:

    HOLY cow I made these this morning- SOOOO good! I shared with my neighbors. Thanks for posting.

  38. joann says:

    I am in love with so many things about your blog:

    Your perfect Doggie!!!!

    Your fabulously fresh (as in a breath of air) attitude!!!

    Your stunning photography! All of it!!!

    Your recipes!!!

    Your cream scone recipe is PERFECT!!!! Everything a scone should be: buttery, crumbly , subtly sweet.
    Thank you for that, and for all you offer!

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  40. sarah says:

    Your teapot and strainer are beautiful. May I ask where to find something like them?

  41. jenyu says:

    sarah – I believe Nichole got her lovely tea set in India or Pakistan. She’s a traveler :)

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  47. Michele says:

    Just made these scones and they are delicious!

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