Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Orange-Scented Scones

Afternoon tea is one of my favorite meals – it arrives just as I’m easing out of the late lunch food coma, and starting to feel peckish in anticipation of dinner. As you can see from my blog, the menu is also to my liking – rich and sweet baked goods including scones, cakes, pastries, and cucumber sandwiches.

Growing up in Canada, my family often had tea with cookies, cake or Indian snacks (such as thepla, nan khatai, khaari biscuit and chevda). It wasn’t until I moved to England that I discovered cream tea (also known as Devonshire or Cornish cream tea) which is tea served with scones topped with clotted cream and jam. My favourite place to have cream tea in Oxford is the Old Parsonage Hotel, a 17th century building where Oscar Wilde once lived.

Although associated with England, scones are small Scottish breads that can be slightly sweet or savory. They sometimes include currants or raisins. Scones are similar to biscuits, traditionally served in the Southern United States with honey, butter or gravy. North American scones, recently popularized by Starbucks, are generally larger, drier and served with nuts, dried fruit or chocolate chips.

Makes one dozen

3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons baking powder
1/2 cup white granulated sugar
zest of one orange (optional)
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, cold
3/4 cup whole milk
1 egg white (optional)
clotted cream and fruit jam (not optional!)

1. Preheat oven to 375 F.
2. Mix flour, baking powder and sugar. Using the large holes of a box grater, grate the butter into the flour mixture.
3. Using a pastry cutter, two knives or your fingers, blend in the butter until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Add orange zest and mix well.
4. Add milk and form a soft dough. You can add a little more milk if necessary to bring the dough together.
5. On a well-floured surface, roll out the dough to 1-inch thickness. Using a 1 1/2 inch pastry cutter (I prefer fluted, but plain will do) stamp out as many rounds as possible. Gather scraps and re-roll the dough and stamp out additional rounds.
6. Gently transfer scones to a lined baking sheet (if you don’t use parchment the scones could burn on the bottom). Brush the tops with egg white and sprinkle with granulated sugar.
7. Allow them to stand for 10 minutes, and then bake for 10-15 minutes until light brown on top.
8. Allow them to cool for 10 minutes. Serve with clotted cream and high-quality fruit jam or preserve.

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