3 Sept 2012

God bless Anna and her guilty pleasures (Scones)

I used to picture Great Britain as a nation of ladies and gentlemen, drinking tea all day with their little fingers in the air, making jokes that I wouldn’t understand. Afternoon tea was a mystery to me. I just knew it involved tea and cakes, so it had to be wonderful. 
I did a bit of reseach...

We owe afternoon tea to Anna, the 7th Duchess of Bedford, who was tired of starving every afternoon, waiting for dinner time to come (at that time, British aristocrats only had 2 meals a day: breakfast and dinner). Enjoying a snack of tea, sandwiches and cakes made by her cook, poor Anna felt lonely. So she decided she would invite friends to join her the next day. 
Before she knew it and summer was over, Anna had set a new trend and all the fashionable society was now hosting afternoon teas in London.  

From the old fashioned tea set to the scones and homemade jam, I love afternoon tea. It's like playing doll, but better because you get to eat real cakes! If you make the cakes yourself, it's even better!

I recently treated myself to an afternoon tea baking class with Caroline Hope (http://www.teaandscones.org.uk) .
Caroline took our little group on a three hour hands-on baking session. We baked 4 delicious kinds of traditional cakes, such as Victoria Sandwich and Lemon Drizzle Cake, as well as plain and savoury scones.  
Not just scones actually, the best scones I have had in my life. (I obviously did eat a few of them to make sure I had not given this distinction too lightly). 

Mini Victoria Sandwich
Frosting our mini coffee cakes (See gentlemen, baking classes are also for boys!)

Scones (plain and variations)

200g plain flour
4 tsp baking powder
50g cold butter, diced
½ teaspoon salt
150ml full fat milk at room temperature
1 tsp lemon juice or vinegar
1 tbsp caster sugar

Make the scones
1. Preheat the oven to 220 deg C.
2. Place the teaspoon of lemon juice/vinegar into the milk.
3. Sieve the flour, baking powder, sugar and salt into a large bowl.
4. Drop the butter cubes into the flour. With your fingertips rub the butter into the flour until there are no lumps of butter.
5. Make a well into the ‘crumb’ mixture and pour in the milk. It should have a few lumps, a bit like yoghurt.
6. Cut and fold the mixture with a large palette knife until combined and make a soft loose ball. If you find the mixture is very sticky just sprinkle in some more flour.
7. Scoop up the soft dough ball and place on a floured surface.
8. Pat down the ball until it is about 2 to 3 cm thick
9. Cut out the scone shapes with a glass and place the shapes onto a floured baking tray.
10. Once you have finished cutting out the shapes, roll up the remaining dough into a ball and repeat the process until all used up.
11. If desired, paint the top of the raw scones with milk or beaten egg to create a glazed top.
12. Place in the hot oven for about 9 – 10 minutes until risen and golden brown. Check that the base of the scone is also a nice brown.
13. Cool and the serve with some good quality jam and either clotted cream, whipped cream or butter.

Savoury variations:

Stilton and Walnut – 75g stilton and 50g chopped walnuts
Cheddar cheese and parsley – 100g mature cheddar cheese and two tablespoons parsley

Sweet variations: 
100g of dried fruits (sultanas) and candied fruits (glacé cherries, chopped)
80g of chocolate chips

Chive and cheddar savoury scones

A scone as light as a cloud

Orange cake, coffee cake, victoria sandwich, lemon drizzle cake, scones...all made in only few hours
Orange cake

If you want to treat yourself to a delicious afternoon tea in stunning surroundings, go to The Wolseley ( http://www.thewolseley.com) in London. Supposedly the perfect place to spot stars. I did not spot anybody famous the few times I went there, but it might be because their scones are so good that I could not help myself but eating them with my eyes shut?

Today, I know that it is actually a French thing to drink tea with your little finger in the air, I am as sarcastic as my British friends... I think I am "on the other side"! 

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