In the United Kingdom a three hour drive is considered a long, long, almost like a once in a lifetime drive. For us Americans, it's nothing - I know some people who live in LA that spend more than three hours everyday in a car. A few weeks ago, we hopped in a car and drove west, away from London and in a few hours we were in Cornwall. On the way there we had to take a ferry that only held four cars...actually, as you can see, it was more like a floating barge that was being pushed by a boat.
We were lucky with the weather and it was sunny in St. Ives (western coast of Cornwall).
It was the first time I had heard of cream teas and the first time I tried Cornish clotted cream. Cream Tea, by the way, isn't tea with cream, its scones with clotted cream and strawberry jam. There is even a great debate among the English on whether to slather the clotted cream first and then jam, or if its better the other way around. Cornwall is known for its Cornish clotted cream and is always made from unpasteurized milk. The milk is set out in shallow pans and over a few hours little buttery "clots" begin to form. Clotted cream is like a creamy, gooey butter - its absolutely divine.
English scones, on the other had, aren't so divine. I've tried English scones in Cornwall, Devon, Cambridge, Exeter, Canterbury, Dover and London. I've tried them from local bakeries, hole-in-the-wall bakeries and fancy bakeries. I've even had scones from the Queen's grocer - Fortnum and Masons. I hate to say it, but the scones are far from yummy and kind of plain and boring. They are crumbly, but in a dry sort of way. I wonder if maybe they are just baked to work as a vehicle to aid the clotted cream into one's mouth. In any case, clotted cream I buy and scones I make on my own.
I've had this scone recipe forever. It crumbles, but in a moist, delicious way. I'm guessing a true Englishman may not consider it a true scone, but its still my favorite. It's a basic recipe and you can doctor it anyway you like (or omit the fruit for a plain scone). Add a little cinnamon with fresh peaches or apples. Maybe try lemon zest and dried blueberries. Or cranberries with orange zest. Chocolate chunks and a bit of banana. The recipe below uses orange zest and currants.
- 1 1/2 c all purpose flour
- 1/6 c sugar
- 1 1/4 tsp baking powder
- 1/4 tsp baking soda
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 3 oz. unsalted butter, cold and cut in little cubes
- 1/2 c buttermilk
- 1 1/2 tsp orange zest
- 1/4 c dried currants
- extra buttermilk and brown sugar to brush and sprinkle on top
Sift together all dry ingredients. Add the little butter cubes. Rub the butter together with your hands and mix in with the dry ingredients. The mixture should begin to look crumbly and similar to wet sand.
Form a well and pour in the buttermilk. Use your fingers and gently mix the buttermilk into the flour/butter mixture. Add any fruit, nuts, zest, etc. Take care not to overwork the dough that begins to form. Put the dough on a cutting board and gently form into a rectangle. The more you mix the dough the tougher your scones will be.
Cut dough into twelve for small scones or into six for large scones. Brush top with buttermilk and sprinkle with brown sugar (you can use white sugar, I just like the color of the brown). Bake in a 350 Fahrenheit/ 220 Celsius oven. About 13-15 minutes for small, closer to 20 minutes for the large. Do not overbake! The scones should lightly brown underneath, and barely browned on top! These are great as they are, but I'm in England so a little clotted cream and strawberry jam on the side.