Royal Wedding TeaBy Lori Grossman
History will unfold before the eyes of billions of people around the world the end of this month. Prince William of Wales (the late Princess Diana's eldest son) and Katherine Middleton will marry at Westminster Abbey. If this is a not-to-be-missed event for you – as it will be for me – why not celebrate with your own English tea and tea breads?
This is like deja vu for me, because I watched William's parents' wedding years ago. In the early morning hours of July 29, 1981, two friends and I settled down in front of the TV to watch the wedding of Prince Charles to Lady Diana Spencer. Since London time is six hours ahead of Texas time, our wedding watch started around 1 a.m. and continued for about six hours, if my memory is correct. We wanted to celebrate the grand occasion, so we baked some scones and brewed tea. We used tea bags instead of brewing tea the way the British do.
The term afternoon tea refers to more than just when a cup of tea is served. This British institution started in the 1800s to bridge the gap between lunch and dinner. Afternoon tea includes little sandwiches, scones, and maybe one or two kinds of cake or pastry. Some of the grand old hotels in Texas (including the Adolphus in Dallas) serve afternoon tea. It is a wonderful experience that you shouldn't miss, so check around in your area to find a place that serves afternoon tea.
Ready? Here's how to make what some Brits call a "cuppa."
British TeaDo you have pretty china teacups hidden away in the back of your cupboard? (Virginia Rose, perhaps?) Bring them out and use them!
Gradually add remaining 2 to 3 cups flour to form a stiff dough, beating well after each addition. On a floured surface, gently knead dough 5 to 6 times until no longer sticky.
Roll dough to 1/4 to 3/8-inch thickness. Cut with a floured 3 to 4-inch cutter. Sprinkle cornmeal evenly over 2 ungreased cookie sheets. Place cut out dough circles on cornmeal and sprinkle with additional cornmeal. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and a cloth towel (like a tea towel, if you have one). Let rise in a warm place (about 30 to 45 minutes).
Heat griddle to 350°F. Using a wide spatula, invert dough onto ungreased griddle. Bake 5 to 6 minutes on each side or until light golden brown. Cool. Split in half and toast before serving. Spread with butter and strawberry preserves or orange marmalade, if desired. Makes about 2 dozen.
You cannot have a proper British tea without scones. They can be made in many variations by adding just about any flavor. Some recipes call for fruits, chocolate, cinnamon, coffee, coconut, or nuts. You can make savory scones by adding cheese, herbs and vegetables. Shapes vary, too. When I make whole-wheat scones, I pat the dough into a circle, then cut it into wedges. This saves time when I'm in a hurry – no rolling and cutting required. Other recipes use the biscuit-making version of rolling out the dough and cutting with a biscuit cutter.
This basic scone recipe uses the biscuit-making version. Before you start rolling and cutting, you'll be happy to know that the scones served at the Queen's afternoon tea are made just this way!
Cream Tea SconesThis is a basic, but delicious, scone that tastes great any time of day. The name is a bit misleading, because the recipe uses buttermilk, not cream.
In a small bowl, beat together the egg and buttermilk. Make a well in the flour mixture and pour in the liquid. Mix together for about 20 seconds.
Turn out the dough onto a well-floured surface and dust the top of the dough with flour. With floured hands, knead gently about 10 times. With a well-floured rolling pin, roll or pat dough until it's just over 1/2-inch thick. Some scone afficionados don't roll the dough any thinner than 3/4-inch.
Cut out circles with a 2-1/4-inch biscuit cutter, pressing down firmly. Do not twist the cutter to free the dough; that will compress the sides of the scones and keep them from rising to their full height. After you cut out as many as you can, gently re-roll the remaining dough and continue cutting. You should be able to get 12 the first time and 5 not-so-perfect ones the second cutting. Use the remaining dough to make a slightly misshapen (but great for snacking) final scone.
Place scones gently on a lightly floured baking sheet. Bake for about 12 to 15 minutes. Cool slightly and place in a basket lined with a cloth napkin. Serve with strawberry jam and clotted cream. Makes 18 scones.
Clotted CreamIn England, Devonshire is known for its clotted cream. To make authentic clotted cream, you need access to a cow to get fresh unpasteurized cream. Most of us don't have a cow in the backyard, so try this variation.
Even if royal doings are not your cup of tea (sorry), you should treat yourself to English afternoon tea. I recommend, however, that you have it in the afternoon and not in the middle of the night!
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