Time for Tea!
It is a tradition (albeit a fairly new one) in our home that for Mother’s Day my children take me to Tea. It is not usually on the official Mother’s Day, but whenever we can all get together, which can be a bit of a challenge. This is also tricky because there just are not a lot of places in our area that serve High Tea.
In my book, High Tea consists of: a well brewed cup of exquisite tea, finger sandwiches, sweets and scones. Finger sandwiches are easy enough, my favorite are cucumber with cream cheese, and pimento cheese. Sweets can be virtually anything, although I do prefer those that involve fresh fruit and pastry cream. Scones are a little more of a challenge. Not a lot of bakeries sell scones. If they do, they tend to be a little dry, and massive. I don’t like massive. It is Tea, after all, so I prefer petite versions of the above so I can sample all of the items on the tray. If the scone is the size of the plate it sits on, you are not going to be able to finish it. Give me 3 small scones or 2 medium scones, so that I can enjoy one and take the rest home for another day.
Scones are really not very different from biscuits, which I am very practiced at. Since it does take a practiced hand to feel the right dough for biscuits, please read my Biscuit and Scone FAQ’s, which includes my history with the pastry if you’re curious!
When my daughter first challenged me to do scones for this tea blog, I read through a lot of recipes. Embarking on a recipe I thought sounded intriguing, I followed it to the letter. My “scones” came out looking like pancakes.The taste was fine, but they were far from a scone. So I threw away the recipe and I went back to what Grandmother taught me. You have to feel the dough. Using my basic concept of biscuits, and adding in the flavor profiles I liked I tried again. This time I worked the dough by hand until I felt like it was where it should be. BINGO! Scones! High Five! Moist. Soft. Crumbly.
So this is my recipe for scones with Dried Cherries, Orange Zest, and Almonds.
2 cups all purpose flour
(plus around ¼ cup extra to dust surface and cutter)
1 tablespoon Baking Powder
¼ teaspoon Baking Soda
Pinch of salt
⅓ cup Truvia Baking Blend
4 Tablespoons (½ stick) butter
2 oz Cream Cheese
⅓ cup Dried Cherries
1 tablespoon Orange Zest
⅓ cup Sour Cream
½ cup whole milk
¼ cup sliced Almonds
If this seems like a lot to you, well, it is. But I did not have Crisco, Self Rising flour, or buttermilk. So if you are an experienced biscuit maker, and you have those items on hand, then you know where to substitute.
- I start by measuring my dry ingredients into a large bowl. I don’t own a sifter so I use a whisk to thoroughly mix the dry ingredients.
- Next, I take a kitchen knife and cut my butter into small pats or chunks straight into the dry Ingredients.
- I pull apart the cream cheese with my fingers into small chunks allowing it to fall into the flour mixture.
- Using one or both hands, I dive into the dry mixture. I mix the ingredients gently together to cut the fats (butter and cream cheese).
- Then, I press the lumps between my thumb and forefingers, breaking them into smaller pieces. I continue until the mixture feels like coarse cornmeal. You can have a few pea sized pieces. But I don’t like to have more than a few.
- To my coarse mixture I am going to add my cherries and orange zest and toss to coat. I find that zesting one good sized orange with a micro-planer is as much zest as I need. Don’t zest another orange just to get exactly 1 tablespoon. You just want the flavor from the oils in the peel so 1 orange should be enough.I should probably tell you that my dried cherries have been sitting in a few tablespoons of Grand Marnier (orange liqueur) for the last 7 months. Every fall I buy a couple of containers of dried cherries and throw in 2-3 tablespoons of Grand Marnier. Then I use them in various dishes throughout the Holidays. Today’s cherries were left over from the Holiday cooking and baking. So the orange liqueur has completely saturated the cherries. It gives them a rich distinctive flavor. You don’t have to soak your cherries ahead of time, but if you do, I promise that you will taste a difference.
- I have read a lot of recipes telling you to freeze your butter, freeze your dry ingredients, etc. The point of this exercise is so that your butter will slowly melt into your biscuits while they bake. I don’t usually put a lot of stock in this, but what the heck. I have a few things I need to prep, so I throw my bowl with the dry ingredients into the freezer. It couldn’t hurt.
- With dry mix in the freezer, I blend together my sour cream and milk and set aside.
- I prep my baking sheet by placing parchment paper on it. I also put parchment paper down on my counter where I will roll out my scones.
- I put some flour into a small bowl to use for flouring the parchment paper and my biscuit cutters. I also get out my biscuit cutters. You don’t have to use biscuit cutters. You can use a small glass (which I have done on many occasions), or you can simply use a table knife and cut into any shape your heart desires.
- If I have not done so before, I turn my oven on to a 400 degree baking setting. You want that oven good and hot when the scones go in.
- Take the dry ingredients out of the freezer and make a well in the middle of the bowl.
- Pour about half of the liquid into the well you’ve just made and begin mixing the two together. I am using my fingers. You can use a spatula, but you are going to have to ditch it soon any way.
- Add the remainder of the liquid, and continue to incorporate. At this point you are probably going to ask yourself, “Do I have enough liquid? It seems dry.” This is normal.
- You are going to be using a slight kneading motion to incorporate the dry and the liquid. As you continue to knead, the dough should pick up the remaining dry ingredients from the bottom of the bowl and incorporate them. If you have been kneading for more than a minute and a half and still have loose ingredients on the bottom, you may need a splash more milk. Do this very sparingly. Every recipe that I have ever seen warns that you should not “overwork” the dough and you shouldn’t.
- Once you have all ingredients incorporated and the dough will hold a firm ball shape, stop. It doesn’t need to to be a perfect orb; it should have a few veins or cracks.
- Now, we are ready to roll. Literally! Place your dough onto your floured surface. I like to do mine on parchment because it makes cleanup easier.
- Flatten the dough with the palm of your hand until you get a more disk shape.
- Sprinkle the top of the dough with extra flour.
- At this point you can either continue to flatten with your hand or you can roll with a rolling pin. In case you never took Home Ec., you roll from the middle of the dough outward, not across, and rotate the dough a little every roll. Do not try to move the rolling pins across it at different angles. This is not an ab roller workout.
- I like to roll my dough to a thickness that when my hand is placed beside it you cannot see my pinky finger. This bread is not going to rise like yeast bread, so don’t roll it very thin.
- If you are using a cutter or glass, you will want to dust the edge with flour before you start cutting. When you cut the first scone, you should be able to lift it off the surface and have it hold it’s shape. Again, knowing the correct consistency of biscuit/scone dough is very tricky, so you can take a moment to visit our Biscuit and Scone FAQ’s page. But if it doesn’t hold it’s shape or is very loose, stop what you are doing and knead it a couple more times. Go ahead. We will wait.
- This recipe allows me to cut 8 medium and 8 small scones. Remember, I said I prefer small for tea. But they are your scones so cut accordingly.
- After I cut the scones and place them on the baking sheet. I am going to brush the top with a little egg white wash (the white of the one egg in the recipe and a teaspoon of water whisked together).
- Then I sprinkle the top with a few sliced almonds. The egg white acts as a sort of adhesive.
- Into the oven they go. I will check on them in 8 minutes. My oven is a little one sided these days. So I rotate the pan at 8 minutes and then continue for another 2-3 minutes, that way they get evenly baked. Once again, I have a convection oven. Your scones may need a minute or 2 longer.
- When fully baked, Your scones should have a slight tinge of brown. They should not be completely brown.
- Once they are out of the oven, let them cool a bit before serving.
Serve with butter, jam, lemon curd or Creme fraiche.