Sweet Scones with Clotted Cream and Strawberry Jam
Afternoon tea (otherwise known as High Tea) is a lovely English tradition that isn’t widely practised in the city anymore. It’s oddly quite difficult to find a nice relaxed venue for tea and cakes in London. There are the extravagant avo teas offered at fancy hotels such as the Ritz for £35 per head on average, usually booked out by tourists, and then there are the very average (and suddenly ubiquitous) Patisserie Valeries everywhere. I don’t really have much against Patisserie Valerie. In most cases I do think they are a huge waste of valuable real estate, offer shoddy and lazy service (the Marylebone branch in particular), and very blah food. They are quite cutesy in their faux-French shabby chic way but I find no value in my local Pat-Val except that, umm well, it’s local.
So I set about re-creating an afternoon tea experience at home. It took 2 days of prep.
Day 1: Get ingredients, prepare strawberries and chill overnight, cook cream in oven overnight
Day 2: Make clotted cream, make jam, make scones
The cream was a dream. Really. I got the recipe off one of my favourite cupcake blogs, Cupcake Project, and I couldn’t believe how simple it was. Cook heavy cream in a pot in the oven for 12 hours. That’s it. It comes out as a beautiful clotted layer with a fresh sweet taste. Next time I’m going to whack in a slit vanilla pod to crank up the yumness.
The scones were slightly trickier for me to make. As a novice baker, I’m wary of dough and batter. Through my experience with macarons I’ve learnt what a drastic difference under and over mixing can do to the end product. With Rachel Allen describing certain steps as “mix briefly to combine into a moist dough… and knead ever so slightly to bring together” I was preparing myself to get through 6 batches before I got them right.
Surprisingly, I didn’t mess it up *pats herself on the back*. I was exceedingly careful with the brief mixing and slight kneading and I am very chuffed with the results. Can’t say the same about the strawberry jam unfortunately.
The strawberry jam was more of a wax. My ratio of sugar to fruit wasn’t right (being heavier on the sugar side of the equation) and I boiled it for so long it started smelling like caramel (which isn’t a bad thing but it hinted to me that things had gone too far). What I ended up with reminded me of getting sheera-waxed in Kuwait – hard waxy lumps made of sugar, lemon juice and coca cola, rubbed over limbs and yanked off.
My jam would’ve been the deluxe sheera option with strawberries. I tasted some of it and felt my jaw dislocating. I spread a warm lump over my leg and yanked it, and it actually pulled out some hair. So if any of my friends are reading this, let me know if you’d like to come over for some afternoon tea. I can throw in a deluxe waxing session for a fiver. Bring your own champagne to make it ultra deluxe.
Light Sweet Scones (Rachel Allen’s Recipe)
500g light Italian or plain flour (I used plain)
1 rounded tsp bicarbonate of soda (not sure what rounded means, so I used heaped)
2 rounded tsp cream of tartar
1 tsp sea salt (if using flakes, grind them finely using pestle & mortar)
125g unsalted cold butter, cubed
25g caster sugar
1 egg, beaten
275ml buttermilk or milk, plus extra for the egg wash (I used milk)
50g caster or granulated sugar (optional)
1. Preheat the oven to 220°C (425°F), Gas mark 7.
2. Sift the flour, bicarbonate of soda, cream of tartar and salt into a large bowl. Using your fingertips, rub in the butter until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Add the sugar and mix well.
3. Set aside about a third of the beaten egg and combine the rest with the buttermilk, then add to the flour mixture and mix briefly to combine into a moist dough. Place on a lightly floured work surface and knead ever so slightly to bring together, then press or roll out to a thickness of 2cm.
4. Using the cutter (6cm (2 ½ in) cutter), cut out approximately 12 scones and place on a floury baking tray. Add about a teaspoon or so of buttermilk to the remainder of the beaten egg to make an egg wash.
Brush the scones with the egg wash (and dip the tops in sugar if you wish) and bake in the oven for 10–12 minutes or until golden brown on top. Eat as soon as possible! Scrummy.
Strawberry Jam (Sophie Grigson’s from BBC Food)
1kg granulated sugar or caster sugar
½ lemon, juice only
small knob of butter
4-6 jam jars, depending on their size
1. The day before you wish to make the jam, hull and halve the strawberries. Check for soft spots (which must be removed) and discard any berries with bruises or that are overripe.
2. Place the strawberries into a large bowl with 500g/18oz of the sugar. Turn carefully to mix and coat well, then cover with cling film and place into the fridge overnight.
3. The next day, place a saucer into the freezer to chill – you’ll need this when you come to test the setting point of the jam.
4. Sterilise the jam jars – first wash the jars in soapy water and rinse in clean warm water. Allow them to drip-dry, upside down, on a rack in the oven set to 140C/275F/Gas 1. Leave them there for at least half an hour while you make the jam.
5. Pour the strawberries, their juice and any residual sugary juices into a very large pan or preserving pan, remembering that the mixture will rise as it boils, and add the remaining 500g/18oz sugar and the lemon juice.
6. Stir over a gentle heat until the sugar has completely dissolved.
7. Bring the strawberries up to the boil then boil hard until the jam reaches setting point. Check the setting point every ten minutes, although it may take up to half an hour to reach setting point.
8. To test the setting point, remove the pan from the heat. Take your saucer from the freezer and place a drop of jam onto the cold plate. After a few seconds push the jam with your finger.
9. If the jam surface wrinkles then it has reached setting point and is ready. If it slides about as a liquid, then it hasn’t reached setting point and should be returned to the heat and boiled for a few more minutes before testing again.
10. When setting point has been reached, turn off the heat. Stir in the butter and skim off any scum on the surface of the jam with a large spoon.
11. Let the jam cool and thicken in the pan for ten minutes, so that the strawberries don’t all sink to the bottom in the jam jars.
12. Carefully remove the sterilised jars from the oven with oven gloves – try to avoid touching the insides of the jars with the oven gloves, which might introduce unwelcome bacteria.
13. Stir the jam, then ladle it into the sterilised jars. Use a jam funnel, if you have one, to avoid spilling too much jam.
14. Cover the top surface of the jam in each jar with waxed paper discs that have been cut to size – they should cover the entire surface of the jam. Press the wax disc down to create a complete seal.
15. Cover with a lid while still hot, label and store in a cool, dark cupboard for up to a year.
Clotted Cream (Cupcake Project’s Guide)
1.Pour how much ever cream you want into a heavy-bottomed oven-safe pot. The cream should come up the side of the pot somewhere between one and three inches.
2.Cover the pot and put it in the oven on 180 F.
3.Leave the covered pot in the oven for at least 8 hours. My four cups took 12 hours (until my oven automatically turned off). You’ll know it’s done because there will be a thick yellowish skin above the cream, as shown above. That skin is the clotted cream.
4.Let the pot cool at room temperature, then put it in the refrigerator for another 8 hours.
5.Remove the clotted cream from the top of the pot. The cream that is underneath it can still be used for baking.