I do so hope your tea is still hot, and that yesterday you enjoyed your finger sandwiches.
Our next stop up the serving tray is, scones.
There is no hard and fast rule regarding which flavour of scone to serve your guest, but again, it is best for it to be on the smaller size. If you are comfortable in the kitchen and are baking your own, opt perhaps for a biscuit cutter 2 - 2.5 inches in diameter. If your scones are smaller, you can serve your guests two each, one plain perhaps, and one savoury or fruity.
If you tend to be a little skittish in the kitchen and wonder if you are up to the task of baking your own scones, let me share with you this recipe which produces the most wonderful scones I have ever had. And, let me ease your worries, by assuring you, that the making of a good scone often eludes me. This recipe is from FoodNetwork.com. I have adapted it slightly.
* 3 cups flour
* 1/3 cup sugar
* 1 teaspoon salt
* 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
* 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
* 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter
* 1 cup buttermilk
* 1/2 cup currants (optional)
* 1 tablespoon heavy cream, for brushing
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Combine the flour, sugar, salt, baking powder and baking soda in a large bowl. Add butter and mix with your fingertips to a coarse meal. Add buttermilk and mix just until combined. Add currants, if desired.
Transfer dough to a floured board and divide into 2 parts. Roll each to 3/4 inch thick rounds. Using a round cutter, cut dough and place slightly separated on a greased baking sheet. Brush the tops with the cream, and bake for 15 minutes, or until lightly browned. Serve warm, split in half with butter and marmalade.
Instead of currants, you can try raisins, diced dried apricots, diced maraschino cherries, blueberries, or for a savory option, sharp cheese with your favorite dried herb.
Two important tips that I learned from Donna Hay magazine for successfully making scones are: 1) Use a very sharp cutter so you don't compress the gluten, and 2) keep the scones rather close together on the baking sheet. Both of these tricks will help the scones rise evenly and produce a fluffy scone.
Ideally, if you can, wait until the last possible moment to bake the scones off so that you are able to serve them warm. If the idea of tackling this kitchen task makes you swoon, there are prepared scone mixes widely available, such as those at this sweet etsy shop, TeaForAllReasons.
Also, if you know a good bakery in your area, feel free to grab a box of their scones.
Scones typically are served with a fruit preserve, and if serving tea the Devonshire way, with clotted cream. Clotted cream? Yes, it does sound quite horrifyingly like something that should have been tossed out a month prior, but it is in fact quite rich and tasty. Though it is not readily available throughout North America, a reasonable facsimile can be made the night before your tea party.
Combine two parts whole milk with one part whipping (heavy) cream, heating at the very lowest possible heat for a couple of hours until a skin forms, leaving it undisturbed overnight, and then harvesting the skin and its underclots. (No, really, trust me it is good.)
If the idea of clotted cream is unappealing, try making a sweetened butter for those who do not prefer preserves. Simply whip butter with a drizzle of honey.
Hhhhmmmmm... Hungry yet?
Tomorrow, we will visit the last stop on the tiered serving tray.... the sweets.