Sunday, March 29, 2015

Traditional English Tea and Scones

I am a HUGE Downton Abbey fan, as are most of my friends. This year, many of members of our group of longtime girlfriends are turning 60. So, in honor of that momentous occasion, I decided to have a tea party to honor one of them. Not only because we love Downton Abbey but because I LOVE tea. I actually don't drink coffee at all, but have a cup or two of tea every morning -- and some afternoons. In addition, I am an "English" tea drinker, meaning I like my tea with a little bit of milk in it. I also LOVE china, so a traditional afternoon tea is the perfect party to have at my house (not that there is any party that's not perfect to have!). Our local paper had a wonderful article about how to throw a perfect tea party and that got my creative party juices flowing. Here is link to the article along with featured recipes.

Once I conferred with another friend and we decided to have this party, I went up into my attic to look for my own not so distinguished tea set.  It's a mixed bunch of china including a teapot, some cups and saucers, 3 or 4 luncheon plates and a cream pitcher. I collected it because of the violets and green leaves, a combination I love. I looked and looked up there, in that flea market under the roof. Just when I was about to give up, LOOK what I found:
Not my mismatched tea set, but a beautiful, antique tea set given to me by me dear, departed father-in-law, that had belonged to his mother. As far as I can remember, she purchased this set at the St. Louis World Fair in 1904 from the "Nippon Pavilion" -- his description, not mine! It is drop dead GORGEOUS and Yes, I Used It.  Here is a close up of one of the cups and the creamer so you can see the pattern:
Antique Japanese China 
Anyway, on to the food, which is, after all, what a party is all about. We had all the traditional treats associated with English Tea, plus some!

Scones with clotted cream and strawberry jam!

Tea and Scones with a lovely jam pot I found (from my Mom) and fresh flowers.
What lady doesn't want that for her birthday? This is my own china (Noritake Asian Song).

And there were Finger Sandwiches and Cheddar Biscuits,  (recipe here)

And of course, Tea, real tea, loose tea, made in two lovely tea pots, one from my Great Grandmother-in-law and one from my dear friends Grandmother. Here's her slightly more contemporary set:
Beautiful 1950's era tea set by Noritake

After some discussion, we altered the finger sandwich recipe from the article and used softened cream cheese on the sandwiches instead of butter. That's how my mom and grandmother always did it, so I figured that's a "Southern" thing. I used the recipe from the article for the scones, but I made them in my food processor. I also pre-baked the scones about 90% so that I only had to warm them when the guests arrived. Another sweet friend brought a lovely silver tray filled with tiny tarts and chocolate drizzled strawberries, so it was a full and beautiful table. I didn't get a picture of those, but they not only looked pretty but tasted delicious, too. It's good to have friends, especially friends who can cook and will always help you out! 

As a wee word of advice, go ahead and purchase a fluted biscuit cutter for these scones. I could not find a small sized one, but a larger one made perfectly beautiful scones. 
Scones with Clotted Cream and Strawberry Jam

Clare's English Scones
Makes 8 large scones or 16 small ones

1.5 c. all purpose flour
1/4 tsp. Kosher salt
2 tsp. baking powder
4 T. COLD unsalted butter
3/4 c. COLD buttermilk
More flour for dusting

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. 
Sift the flour, salt and baking powder together in a bowl and add to the bowl of your food processor, fitted with a steel blade. Cut the butter into small pieces and add that to the flour mixer. Put the lid on and pulse the flour/butter  mixture about 8 times until the it starts to look like wet sand. Add the buttermilk slowly through the tube with the motor running until the mixture just comes together and forms a rough ball - don't over mix it or the scones will be tough. Turn the dough out onto a pastry mat or clean counter space that has been dusted with flour. Pat or roll the dough to about 1/2" + thick. You may need to add a little more flour to keep it from sticking. Cut the dough with your floured scalloped cutter and place on an ungreased baking sheet. Bake for 10 -15 minutes. I baked mine 10 minutes and removed them from the oven an hour before the party started. I reheated the scones -- covered loosely with foil -- for 5 more minutes when my guests arrived. I liked it that way so I could clean up the floury mess on my kitchen counter before everyone arrived! 

Serve the warm scones with clotted cream, strawberry jam and Irish butter. SO delicious, and what a treat. They were easy to make and I'll definitely be doing this again! 


Jayemarie said...

"Beautiful" is the only word to describe the tea service, the food, the flowers and the sentiment! Well done, Beth, well done!

Trina Wallace said...

I was so sorry to miss tea and now even more so after seeing these pictures and reading your blog. Perfection and I would expect nothing less from you dear friend.

We she do this more often.

Happy Easter to all!