My mum, Beryl, loves nothing better than a good “Devonshire Tea”…
I can’t measure the miles we’ve driven or the times we’ve travelled to out of the way craft shops and cafes in small towns ‘cos mum heard they “did a good afternoon tea”.
And understand that “good” is more than just good – it’s an all encompassing concept that includes the tea, the presentation, the staff or owner, the cups, saucers and plates, and finally the scones and cream!
Good afternoon tea: 2 fresh scones, whipped cream, option of butter and homemade jam. Nice cups and saucers. Good sized teapot, preferably one not individual pots. Tea strainer if needed. Cosies optional.
The irony is, rarely are the scones anywhere near as good as mum’s.
Too often dry and chewy (heresy) or gummy and heavy (sigh with disappointment) we spend almost as much time discussing the dreadful attempt as actually enjoying those that pass the test!
“Most people just can’t make a decent scone these days”
This is followed by remembrance of bad scones past and the worst offenders if known by name.
Beryl downplays her cooking, and scones in particular, with a ” Well…..I don’t do that much now” which reduces the rest of us to out loud laughter. Open up the kitchen cupboards and there are tupperware boxes with little jam drops, pastry cases for lemon curd, coconut or shortbread cookies and maybe a slice or two (hopefully the caramel one, but there’s an almondy apricot one that runs a close second).
Then in the freezer at least 6-8 scones from the last batch “just in case someone pops in”.
No greater sin than having to offer a store bought biscuit to accompany the cup of tea. Better to go the savory route with cheese and tomato on crackers than plate the Iced Vovos or Kingstons for company.
Beryl’s tips for scones: make them quickly with as little handling as possible (easier said than done!).
And note that the recipe is just a starting point as she doesn’t use commercial measuring cups but rather a particular tea cup and spoons from the drawer.
2 cups of self raising flour
2 dessert spoons of caster sugar
1/2 cup of cream (heavy whipping cream in the US)
1/2 a cup of milk
Beat the eggs and sugar till creamy. Beryl uses a hand mixer.
Stir in the cream and milk.
Add the flour, mixing w a knife.
Flour the counter and gently pat out the dough.
Cut out the scones w/ a cutter (or a teacup or empty tin can)
Place on a tray, brush with an egg wash or a little milk, and bake in a 200 degree C oven for 12-15 minutes (fan forced/convection). Serve with freshly whipped cream (absolutely no sweeteners or flavoring) and good jam.
Hierarchy of Jams:
Dark, rich berry jams like blackberry, raspberry, strawberry or blueberry. Maybe a goopy sticky apricot. Or go avant grade w tropicals like mango-ginger or pineapple guava. Lemon or passionfruit curd may be ok (and in our mind a little pretentious) but never a marmalade, which are just for breakfast and toast!
A visit to the UK and exploration of Devonshire and Cream Tea haunts confirmed what we already knew: the aussie bush version was better. Mum didn’t take to the clotted cream, or heavy triangular scones we had in Scotland but she did love that everywhere we went there was strong black tea in a pot, served with milk and sugar and a pretty plate of cakes.
Special once in a lifetime pilgrimages to Fortnum and Mason and Claridge’s were amazing, beautiful and ritualistic with silver service, petite sandwiches, specialty Darjeelings and tiered cake stands full of eclairs and petit fours.
Never to be forgotten, but we couldn’t wait to get back home and have scones from Beryls oven, dollops of whipped cream, yummy home made jam and bolstering amounts of Liptons tea.
Afternoon tea heaven.
And from across the other side of the Pacific I think maybe any afternoon tea with my mum is heaven 🙂