Sunday, January 5, 2014

What's high tea without scones?

And what better occasion for high tea than the SEASON 4 PREMIER OF DOWNTON ABBEY TONIGHT?!?!

I am a pretty big Downton Abbey fan. A few main reasons: it is one of the few shows I can watch live, the costumes are awesome, I appreciate everyone's diction, it's not completely stupid like most TV, and I think I am Lady Mary :/ To be sure (and I'm pretty sure, because I've watched the available footage an embarrassing number of times), I haven't ever seen an actual scone on the show.

See, Granny's frowning at my Photoshopping. Photo from
But we're Americans! Apparently we don't let tradition or order deter us! And besides, if we all followed the dietary examples of our virtual British counterparts, we would all probably be eating more silver polish than actual nutrients. So in honor (in spite?) of today's long-awaited television event, I give you: arguably the best English food you will ever taste.

My mom has been making these scones for years. There's usually a batch baking around my house about Christmastime, but I'd say they're fair game any time of year. Also, they can take about whatever type of zest and dried fruit you have sitting around the house (Actually, I haven't tried scones with lime zest...would that be disgusting?).

This is the first time I've made them, and they're actually really easy Sybil could probably make them!

The only catch seems to be to steer clear of over-kneading/mixing, which can easily be avoided if you do it by hand.

I dare you to whip up a batch before (while?) you watch the riveting* and breathtaking* new episode of Downton Abbey. Maybe I'll take a shot at those lime ones!

*This is what Anelise hopes at least...but a car crash, really? I can only hope Season 4 lives up to my awesome scones ;) 

Teatime Scones
This scone recipe is crumbly, buttery, and altogether delicious. The texture is drier than a cake or muffin but avoids the hard exterior often found in store-bought scones. It's open to interpretation in terms of the zest and fruit you use, so experiment! One recipe makes about a dozen scones.


1/2 cup dried fruit, packed*
2 cups flour
1 tbsp baking powder
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 tsp salt
4 tbsp unsalted butter, cut into chunks
2-3 tbsp citrus zest* (within realistic levels, the more the better)
1 cup cream
OPTIONAL: caster sugar (that kind that comes in those big, chunky grains and is kind of clear) for sprinkling over the top).

*For these scones, I used dried cranberries and orange zest because that's what I had around the house. Lemon zest and blueberries is also really good, plain orange scones without any fruit is a classic around my house, and the original recipe actually calls for dried strawberries. So go for it!


1. Steam your dried fruit over boiling water (I used a double-boiler) for about 5 minutes, until it gets soft. Let cool.
2. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.
3. In a medium-sized bowl, mix together dry ingredients: flour, baking powder, sugar, and salt.
4. Add the butter and blend until evenly incorporated and the mixture begins to resemble meal. You can use your hands, a fork, or a pastry blender.
5. Add the fruit and zest and mix to combine.
6. Add the cream and combine. A dough should form; keep mixing and pat the ingredients together until everything is combined into a solid ball. 
7. Form the scones. 
- If you want fancy triangle-shaped scones, roll your dough into a rectangle 8 by 10 inches and about 3/4 of an inch thick. Cut it in half lengthwise and divide into about 6 triangles.
- Alternatively, form balls of dough about the diameter of your thumb, place on a cookie sheet, and smash down until you have flat disks about 3/4 inch thick. They're better that way ;) 
8. Bake for about 20-25 minutes or until they start browning. 
9. Serve with clotted cream, raspberry jam, lemon curd, tea, sandwiches, cookies, champagne, dessert, Downton Abbey...

HERE, is how you use a double-boiler. Fill the bottom pot (the one with the heavy, direct-heat-resistant bottom) with water
Set the next pot, with the perforated bottom, over it and fill it with your dried fruit of choice. (There should be another pot with a thin, non-direct-heat-resistant bottom that also fits atop the lower pot, but that's for ex. melting chocolate and not steaming.)
Turn the stove on the whole strange contraption until the water in the bottom is boiling, and let it go for about 5 minutes; timing really is not that important in this case.
Can't you just sense the softened texture? No? Ok maybe this was a redundant picture.
Zest. Don't chintz.
Here are the dry ingredients with the butter incorporated. It will look pretty much like dry ingredients. Just make sure that all the big chunks of butter are broken up. I did all the kneading by hand, so I just kind of smushed up the butter and coated it with dry ingredients until everything was pretty homogeneous. 
Berries and zest mixed in
This is what your final dough should look like, once your cream has been added.
Here is what the disks about to go into the oven should look like.


Edit: Hell Yes I did try those lime scones in time for Downton Abbey!

Unfortunately, my scones may have been more interesting than the season premier...

I was trying to think of something that would go well with limes. I wanted to use blackberries but they didn't have any at the store, so I used dried raspberries instead because I love the tart-sweet flavor, which kind of reminds me of limes. DON'T USE RASPBERRIES. Somehow from the package to my scones they turned out WAY too tart and bitter and the recipe as written isn't sweet enough to come back from that. Also, even though they were soft after steaming, they turned out sort of dry and hard. I would use something sweeter and less delicate--next time I may try strawberries instead.

The lime wasn't bad though! And they were very Christmas-themed ;P

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