Beautiful blue skies & big blossom trees in full bloom must mean Summer is finally making her grand entrance & I for one am rather pleased! The last couple of months have been a rollercoaster of rain, sunshine & hailstorms, giving us all wardrobe issues (you go out in the morning dressed for freezing rain & by lunchtime it’s sweltering sunshine!). It’s May Bank Holiday weekend & although it’s probably not shorts & scanty vest weather just yet, hopefully it will be soon (fingers crossed though, this is the UK remember).
May always evokes fond memories of when I was a young girl, running around the lawn barefoot in the warm sunshine, the scent of tiny pink Dianthus filling the air & lovely long Lupins, standing tall in the flowerbeds with their umbrella-like leaves. The anticipation of indulging in various delectable delicacies was always exciting, as I could hear the faint clinking of china cups & saucers, as plates were piled high with treats & loaded onto the table, one after another. My Mum would spend all morning baking up a storm in the kitchen & filling the house with the heady perfume of pastries & cakes! It was bliss!
All my friends know that I absolutely love making afternoon tea & on one occasion, I made cupcake shoes for my guests to take home. Afternoon tea should be a lavish affair – all those miniature, elegantly decorated cakes, plump sumptuous sultanas embedded in fluffy scones, fragrant ripe fruit & berries perched on pastry cups & delicious dainty sandwiches, crustless with cream cheese & cucumber. Of course, there’s the endless cups of Earl Grey tea, with wafer thin lemon slices floating like lilypads on the surface, sometimes accompanied by a flute of fizz (or two, because there’s no such thing as leftover fizz – it’s a myth, like leftover chocolate).
Because scones are synonymous with afternoon tea treats, I wanted to share a really easy scone recipe with you. They take very little effort to make & always look rather impressive. If you’re going to put dried sultanas in them, I suggest you soak them first to plump them up – nobody likes shrivelled sultanas in their scone, they’re just chewy & not very squishy! Put a large handful of dried fruit in a large mug or a bowl with a tea bag (try Chai tea) & cover in warm, boiled water (let the kettle cool for a couple of minutes first). Give it a stir, put a plate on top & leave it for an hour or two (overnight if you can) & then drain to reveal sumptuous, squishy sultanas! Aprons on, hands washed & here we go!
What you need (makes about 12 scones):
8oz Strong Bread Flour (plus extra for rolling out)
4 teaspoons Baking Powder
1 large Egg
100ml Semi-Skimmed Milk (approx)
2oz Butter (or Stork or Sunflower Spread) – room temperature is best
2oz Sultanas (optional – if you don’t like them, just leave them out)
What to do:
Pre-heat the oven to 220*C & prepare your tins – simply line a couple of baking trays with greaseproof paper (which means no washing up, always a bonus!).
Into a large mixing bowl, sieve the flour & baking powder, then add the sugar & stir everything together.
Cut the butter into pieces & add to the dry ingredients in the bowl. Using your fingertips, rub everything in together to form a fine, crumbly mixture (a bit like fine breadcrumbs).
If you are adding fruit, strain your sultanas & add them to the mixture, stirring well to combine. Remember, these will add moisture to your mixture.
Crack the egg into a measuring jug & top up to a quarter of a pint with semi-skimmed milk, then beat together.
Pour most of the egg & milk into the mixture, keeping some back for brushing on top of your scones.
Mix everything together with a fork, until all the ingredients have formed a slightly sticky ball of dough.
Lightly dust your worktop with some flour & tip the dough out. I like to knead mine gently for a moment, just to make sure everything is mixed in.
Roll out on the worktop (dust on top with a little flour if you need it) & get it to about a quarter of an inch in thickness.
Using a pastry or cookie cutter, cut into circles or shapes & place each one on the baking tray, leaving a couple of inches between each. Repeat until you have used all the dough – any leftover bits can be gently rolled into a ball in your hands & pressed onto the baking tray. We don’t waste anything & this one can be your taste test scone (Chef’s perks).
Using a pastry brush, lightly dip in the egg & milk you saved from earlier, then brush each scone on the top to glaze. Don’t brush the sides, because it will stop them from rising properly.
Let them rest for five minutes – your scones will start to grow & rise slightly.
Bake in the centre of the oven for about 10 minutes, until risen & the tops have turned a gorgeous golden colour.
When cooked, remove from the tray & leave to cool on a cooling rack for a few minutes.
Once cooled, simply stack them on a huge plate, ready to be smothered with strawberry slices, juicy fruit-filled jam & splodges of cream (whipped or clotted cream is fine, whatever you like!). They also taste fabulous eaten slightly warm, sliced in two & spread with a bit of softened butter, which melts into the scone beautifully. Any spares can be stored in an airtight container (they will keep for a couple of days, but freshly baked on the day is always best).
If you’re doing them without fruit, why not add a few chopped nuts instead? Of course, everyone likes scones their own way – my Son prefers plain or walnut scones (actually, he makes the best walnut scones!).
Treat yourself & a few friends to your own afternoon tea, while relaxing (hopefully) in the garden. However you do it, afternoon tea should be frivolous, fabulous & fun! Stay hungry 😉 A x