Fruit scones for cream tea

One of my sad, sad weekend hobbies is wandering around National Trust properties, buying a sack of books at the inevitable second-hand bookshop and then visiting the tea-room for a handsome cream tea, with fluffy scones, strawberry jam and plenty of clotted cream to slather on top. If you’re in East Anglia, the exquisite Oxburgh Hall, where you’ll find a number of embroideries worked by Mary Queen of Scots and Bess of Hardwick, a priest hole you can clamber into and a very fine garden, has a really fabulous tearoom. Ickworth House (English wines, fantastic gardens, wonderful collection of fans) and Wimpole Hall (organic farm, hot-dogs made from the pigs you have just fed pig-nuts to in the barn) also do a very good line in cream teas – but to my mind Oxburgh’s intimate tearoom, housed in the hall’s old kitchens, complete with antique bread ovens and blue and white crockery displaying pictures of the hall itself, still takes the…cake. All the same, while it’s nice to visit Oxburgh once or twice a year (those gardens change gorgeously in character over the seasons), I can’t really justify driving an hour just for a cup of tea and a scone more regularly than that. Time to get baking.

I usually choose a pot of Earl Grey to go with my scones. So when, in the absence of a National Trust tearoom, I decided to prepare my own cream tea at home this weekend, I decided to use some very strong Earl Grey to soak the sultanas in before adding them to the dough. With a pot of tea, a jar of good strawberry jam (try Tiptree’s Little Scarlet or Duchy Originals Strawberry) and some clotted cream (increasingly available in supermarkets and delis – if you can’t find any, use extra-thick double cream rather than whipped cream, which has exactly the wrong texture), you’ll find yourself in possession of one of the finest things you can eat in the afternoon.

A quick note on the egg in the dough. I was lucky enough to have a box of bantam eggs a neighbour had given me, and used two – bantam eggs are tiny, very yolky and rich, and two are approximately the same volume as a single large hen’s egg. If you can find bantam eggs, I’d recommend using two in this recipe.

To make about 16 scones, you’ll need:

225g plain flour
2½ teaspoons baking powder
50g butter
25g caster sugar
1 large egg OR two bantam eggs
Milk (enough to make up 150ml when added to the beaten egg)
100g sultanas
1 large cup strong Earl Grey tea

Start by brewing the tea (make yourself a cup to drink while you’re at it) and preheating the oven to 220°C (425°F). When the tea is nice and strong, pour it over the sultanas in a bowl and leave them to plump up for half an hour while you prepare the dough for the scones.

Sieve the flour and baking powder into a bowl, and cut the softened butter into it in little chunks. Rub the butter into the flour mixture until it resembles breadcrumbs. Stir in the sugar.

When the sultanas have had half an hour in the tea, drain them in a seive and add them to the flour mixture. In a measuring jug, beat the egg. Top the beaten egg up with the milk until you have 150ml of liquid, and stir it gradually into the flour mixture (you may not need all of it), mixing all the time with a wooden spoon, until you have a soft dough that holds together but is not sticky. Try not to over-handle the dough so that your scones are light and fluffy. Roll the dough out on a floured surface to a thickness of about 1cm, and cut out rounds with a 5cm circular cutter.

Place the rounds onto greased baking sheets and brush the tops with any remaining milk/egg mixture (if you have none left, plain milk will do). Bake for 10 minutes until golden brown.

These scones are at their very best served as soon as they come out of the oven, split in half, spread with jam and cream. Once cooled, they’ll keep for a couple of days in an airtight tin.

21 Replies to “Fruit scones for cream tea”

  1. The Wimpole Hall scones were very good.

    Why do cream teas always have to feature fruit scones though? I really don’t like raisins and would much prefer a plain scone.

    Oh and while we’re at it, I know they aren’t the same thing at all, but how about something about buttermilk biscuits?

  2. Why fruit scones? Because they are *scrumptious*. You can always leave the sultanas out, of course, if you’re not into them.

    If I can find a source of buttermilk which doesn’t require me to purchase the stuff in tiny yoghurt cartons at absurd prices, you will be the first to know.

  3. Excellent recipe. Now, if you would be so kind as to send over approximately 6 hours of sunshine to a wet and dreary Sofia then we may be able to enjoy them on our May Day picnic. Are homemade pork pies with English mustard safe to eat during the current swine flu crisis, or am I jumping onto the tabloid press paranoia bandwagon?

  4. Buttermilk can be found in Sainsbury’s in 250 ml cream tubs and should cost approximately 65p. I know coz we make our own Irish soda bread.

  5. Tig – Cleethorpes; we moved to Bedfordshire shortly after I was born, but a Lincs mother and grandmother ensured that the word ‘scon’ never passed my lips.

    Big John – I understand that pork is perfectly safe. It’s *live* pigs you don’t want to be licking. Many thanks for buttermilk tip. I shall investigate a Sainsbury’s.

    Lizzie – it is a regional thing; my father-in-law, who is a dialectologist, has been killing himself laughing at how worked up Dr W and I are getting about the sc-own/sc-on thing. The nice thing about both versions is that they can be made to sound very posh indeed, said in the correct tone of voice!

  6. There’s a place in Perthshire, Scotland called Scone and it’s pronounced “skoon” as in spoon. It’s the place where Scottish kings and queens were crowned and the coronation “chair” was actually a large stone called the Stone of Scone. Edward Longshanks removed it and it sat under the coronation chair in Westminster until recently when it was returned to its rightful owners. See, food and history; what more can a body want for?

  7. Ah yes – I’m actually rather intimately acquainted with the Stone of Scone; I was at Westminster School, which is attached to the Abbey, in the early 90s when the stone was still kept underneath the Coronation Chair, and used to walk past it on the way to sing in the school choir in the mornings. And no, I never sat on it.

  8. Just to add to the scon/scown debate, I feel obliged to point out that I’m originally from Lincolnshire (born near Cranwell), and yet the word is only ever pronounced “scon” in my family. I think my dad might have tried a “scown” or two in the early stages, but my mum and I would soon have quelled him. And don’t get me started on the pancake/drop scone controversy…

  9. Ah, but Lorna: you were born in Lincs because you’re a Forces kid, not because your scone-noshing family has lived there for generations. I need to dig out my FIL’s book of dialect maps to see whether your aberrant pronunciation is the fault of your mother or your father. 😉

  10. No, it’s fine to lick a pig, if you can get it to stand still for long enough. Unless you have flu, in which case, keep away from my swine.

  11. I have a feeling ‘sconn’ and ‘scown’ are like ‘eether’ and ‘ither’, there’s no real logic with regard to class or region in the differeing pronunciation.

    Lait ribot, buttermilk, is available in plentiful supply here in Brittany, where most of the population over the age of 50 were raised on it. Clotted cream, however is not. Nevertheless, I have a jar of it that came in a parcel! It’s not quite like fresh but pretty good. It requires scones to share this afternoon, perhaps with blackcurrant jam, or a red jelly made from last years crabapples and elderberries, so I shall set about this recipe!

    I’ve often been disappointed with my attempts to make them; I think the egg will make the difference though. Thanks Liz!

  12. Here’s a question for all you clever people. If I have run out of baking powder can I use bicarbonate of soda, or am I talking a load of rubbish?

  13. Baking powder’s got both bicarb and tartaric acid in (the two react together to leaven the mixture). Afraid I don’t have any substitution ideas – I think you’re probably safest holding off on scones until you can get to the shops!

  14. These Scones look great, except I can only eat dairy free. Alpro have a really good recipe for hot cross buns which even I can eat and they taste amazing. I’m going to try and make those scones with a few alternatives and I hoping they will taste even better than the Alpro hot cross buns.
    Whish me luck!

  15. Hi Liz (great name, by the way) – I feel your pain. I’d be interested to hear how you get on using a substitute; do comment again when you’ve experimented and let me know how it went!

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