Make rich, flaky homemade cream scones using a simple ratio, then get creative with your mix-ins and flavors…perfect for your High Tea tradition!
A date with my girls
Last weekend I went to High Tea with my older daughter at a lovely English tearoom called Fancy That in Walpole, MA. It was the 20th time that we went to tea for her birthday. The first time we went she was 5 years old. I wanted to have a “Mommy Date” to make her feel special on her special day. Also, I felt she was old enough to really enjoy the experience. That, and I love High Tea and needed an excuse to go myself!
I took my daughter from preschool to a quaint little coffee and tea shop near our home where the owner proceeded to make a very big deal about my little girl’s birthday. We had homemade cream scones (with cream and jam), sandwiches cut into fun shapes with no crusts, and an assortment of sweets. There was even an extra Lemon Bar provided just for her. My young daughter loved it, and we had a wonderful date. The next year I took her out of Kindergarten early for our date, and our High Tea tradition was born. Later when my younger daughter turned 5, I treated her to the same experience. Both my girls knew that on their birthday they’d have a special date with Mommy.
High Tea traditions over the years
We’ve had many an adventure at our teas. The third year the tearoom forgot about our reservation, so my older daughter celebrated tea at a mall coffee shop…not the finest moment. That was the last time we went to our local tea room, and they went out of business soon after. The search was on to find English tea places around South Orange County (in the Los Angeles area). We always managed to find somewhere to go. Some places we only went once (either they went out of business or we just weren’t that impressed). Some places we went to for years. For my older daughter’s Sweet 16 birthday, we made High Tea at home for her and her friends…that was extra special.
Scone recipe ratio
So why am I going on about this? Formal High Tea is something special, but parts of the HIgh Tea tradition have become very mainstream, and the best example are scones. To my American palate, scones are quintessentially British and I’m definitely an Anglophile, but now they are everywhere…from the supermarket bakery section to Starbucks. You know me well enough by now to know that I would rather bake my own items than take my chances on commercially made products with who-knows-what in them. (Oh, we know, we know!). I have talked about the baking ratios in Michael Ruhlman’s book, and homemade scones are easy to make using a ratio. The ability to riff on the basic scone recipe means that the variations are only limited by your imagination (yes, yes, and the ingredients you have…yeesh!).
A scone is an enriched biscuit (eggs are added), so use the 3-1-2 biscuit ratio (3 parts flour, 1 part fat, and 2 parts liquid). Count the egg into the measurement of the liquid (one egg is about 2 oz). The method is similar to making pie crust, and the importance of keeping everything chilled is just as important here.
Here’s where the fun lies…you can use all sorts of substitutions for the liquid. Pumpkin purée, applesauce, egg nog, just to start. And add additional spices to change up the flavor! Drizzle the baked scones with melted chocolate or an icing that complements the flavor profile. And the mix-ins…well, chocolate chips are practically a must for my family. You can use nuts, fresh or dried fruit, or something else entirely. Check out my Maple Walnut scones and Eggnog scones for some ideas.
Did you know that scones don’t have to be sweet? (what?!?) Just omit the sugar and use savory liquids and mix-ins (cheese, bacon, caramelized onions…shall I go on?). You’ve got a wonderfully enriched biscuit to serve with dinner.
(Side note: if you’d like the recipe for Mint Chocolate Chunk Scones you see above, just subscribe! Enter your email, and I’ll send you not just this one, but two free recipes!)
And the sides…
What goes with homemade scones? Why, homemade lemon curd and clotted cream, of course!. I’ve also seen whipped cream, butter, crème fraîche, and various jams and jellies at our teas, just to name a few. No rules!
I hope you’ll make up a batch of homemade cream scones, and if you do, please drop me a comment telling me what you made and how they were. Pictures are welcome, too! And if you have the time, inclination, and a local tearoom, create your own High Tea tradition with someone you love. It’ll be quite special.
Slainté! L’chaim! Cheers!
Homemade Cream Scones
- 2 cups all purpose flour (9 oz, 255g)
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp salt
- 2 Tbsp sugar
- 6 Tbsp butter (3 oz, 85g), chilled & cubed, or frozen & grated (see Recipe Notes)
- 1/2 cup heavy cream (4 oz, 113g)
- 1 large egg, beaten
- mix-ins, as desired
- extra cream for brushing on top
- coarse sugar, for sprinkling
- icing, as desired
- In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar. Add butter and mix using a pastry cutter, two forks, or even your hands, until coarse, pea-sized crumbs appear.
- Mix the cream and egg together in a small bowl. Slowly add the cream mixture to the flour mixture and mix until the dough just holds together (here you have to be flexible about the amount of cream to add as the actual amount will depend on the humidity of the day). Squeeze a small amount of dough between your fingers and if it is very crumbly, add more cream, 1 tablespoon at a time (2 tablespoons maximum). If the dough is too wet, you can knead in more flour when you turn out the dough. Remember, do not over mix the dough (you want to keep that butter cold and separate from the flour).
- Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and push together into a rough ball. Knead a few times to combine (if you’re adding any mix-ins to the dough, here’s when you’d add them in). Gather the dough, and flatten into a disc or a rectangle about 1″ high, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate at least 20 minutes or up to overnight.
- Preheat the oven to 400°F.
- Once the dough is chilled, cut the disc into wedges or the rectangle into squares (if cutting the rectangle into squares, trim the outside edges of the dough first so that the scones can rise evenly). Alternatively, use a biscuit cutter to cut out shapes (gather and cut the leftover dough again as needed, but hopefully not more than 2 times).
- Bake at 400°F for about 20 minutes or until golden brown.
- Cool on pan for 2 minutes, then move to a cooling rack. Drizzle icing (if using) on top while the scoes are cooling. Let the icing set.