Let’s forget about the Godiva, the long-stem roses, and the impossibility of getting dinner reservations at this late date. Let’s not worry about who has a sweetheart, who’s looking for a sweetheart, or who’s planning to dump their sweetheart. Let’s get to the heart of matter and talk about scones.
As a little girl, I remember going with my mother to get afternoon tea at a tea shop in Tallahassee, FL. I’m still contemplating why Tallahassee had a tea shop, but we did, and it had an entire wall filled to the brim with jars of loose leaf teas. The whole place smelled of spices and warm milk and it rang (or rattled) with the sound of women chattering.
It was a special occasion treat to get afternoon tea. Dressed in my Sunday best, my mother by my side, I remember standing in front of that huge wall contemplating teas with exotic names like Ceylon, Earl Gray, and oolong. Upon choosing your tea, you would sit down and wait for your teapot to be brought to you with cream, sugar, and, of course, a plate of scones.
I think my mother, despite her Polish and Italian heritage, secretly longs to be British, at least around 4 pm every afternoon. One summer, years ago, she tried to implement an afternoon tea at our home and when we traveled as a family, whether we were in Victoria, Canada or London, England, we made a point to stop all touring mid-afternoon and sit down for a proper tea.
Her fondness for tea must have passed down to me as I adore a cup of steaming tea in the afternoon. Sadly, this tea is typically sipped while typing away at a computer, instead of properly enjoyed with all the trappings at a table with friends. Which is why this week, in honor of Valentine’s day, I’m taking a different approach. These scones are a wonderful treat and what better way to show your love and appreciation for a friend, a colleague, a spouse, a family member, or even yourself, then to bake up a fresh batch and then sit down and enjoy them properly with tea.
Wondering what happened to those two missing scones? Left unattended while I went inside to grab my camera, they were victims of an attack by Lady, my spunky and always hungry yellow lab. Apparently scones aren’t just a people thing. Don’t you agree she looks smug and satisfied?
The recipe below is my take on “Lily’s Scones” from Nigella Lawson’s cookbook, How to be a Domestic Goddess: Baking and the Art of Comfort Cooking. I found the recipe peculiar as it included 4 1/2 teaspoons of cream of tartar. Cream of tartar is a white powder created from a sediment found on the inside of wine barrels. I typically use it to stabilize egg whites and I’ve never seen it used in such great quantities as it is in this recipe. It took me a minute, but after a little thinking on my part I realized it’s used as an acid to activate the baking soda (which requires an acid to leaven correctly).
Nigella suggests the finished texture of the scones has a “cellulite appearance” thanks to the cream of tartar. I agree. They do look a bit more puffy and fragile than most of the hockey pucks that I see in display cases around town and a bite of one, fresh out of the oven, confirms this. Moist and light, these are scones fit for high tea and good company. Happy Valentine’s day.
Scones with Dried Cranberries – Printer Friendly Recipe
Makes about 15 small scones
This recipe is a take on Nigella Lawson’s recipe for “Lily’s Scones” from her cookbook, How to Be a Domestic Goddess: Baking and the Art of Comfort Cooking.
3 1/3 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking soda
4 ½ teaspoons cream of tartar
6 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
1/3 cup dried cranberries
1 1/3 cups half and half
1 large egg, beaten, for egg-wash
Raw sugar, for sprinkling (optional)
Special equipment: parchment paper, 2 ½-inch round or heart-shaped biscuit cutter
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Line a small baking sheet with parchment paper.
Whisk the flour, salt, baking soda, and cream of tartar together in a large bowl. Use a pastry blender or two forks to cut the butter into the flour mixture until it is in very small pieces. Stir in the dried cranberries.
Add the half and half all at once and use a rubber spatula to just bring the dough together. It will be very shaggy. Turn the dough out on the counter and knead it briefly to form a large ball.
Roll the dough out until it is between 1 and 1-1/2 –inches thick. Cut out as many scones as you can, being careful not to twist the cutter, and place them on a parchment-lined baking sheet side by side. Bring the remaining scraps together and briefly knead them into a ball before re-rolling to the same thickness as before. Cut out as many additional scones as you can and place them on the baking sheet as well.
Brush the top of each scone with some egg wash and sprinkle with raw sugar. Bake for 12 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from the oven and cool briefly before serving with a cup of tea and your favorite jam. Remember to share – after all, it’s Valentine’s Day.