If the first course of tea is tea sandwiches, the second is a bread course. And if you’re serving a traditional Afternoon Tea, you need scones. Properly pronounced, they rhyme with “johns” and not “joans,” but let’s just call them scones. Scones come in two varieties—cut-out (triangular or round) or drop (kind of blobby and bumpy). If you are a novice baker, drop scones are the easiest way to go, and there are scone mixes along side the cake mixes at the grocery store that can help with that. If you live near a Trader Joe’s, they have scone mixes to which you just add water to get very nice drop scones. Many scone mixes require you to add butter or milk, so be sure to read the package before you get it home. King Arthur Flour makes gluten-free as well as regular scone mixes.
My favorite scones are Cream Scones. I love them because they’re a breeze to make and my friends are extremely fond of them.They are plain because the basic function of a scone is to convey Clotted Cream and jam into one’s mouth. These are cut-out scones (I make triangles) and I always serve them hot from the oven—I put them in to bake when all my guests have arrived and I’ve served the tea sandwich course. Here’s the recipe I use:
From Joy of Cooking
Makes at least 1.5 dozen regular-sized scones (Plan on one or two scones for each guest)
Bake at 425° for 12 – 15 minutes on ungreased baking sheet
2 Cups All-purpose flour
1/3 Cup sugar
1 Tbsp. baking powder
½ tsp. salt
1 ¼ Cup heavy cream
1 tsp orange zest (optional)
Whisk dry ingredients together
- Add cream and zest (if using)
- Gather dough into a ball, and knead it against the bowl 5 – 10 times turning and pressing to gather all the crumbs
- Transfer dough to floured surface and pat into ¾“thick round (or square if you want smaller scones).
- Cut into wedges and place 1/2” apart on ungreased baking sheet
- Brush tops with 2-3 Tbsps. cream (you can sprinkle tops with cinnamon and sugar if desired)
Bake 12 – 15 minutes until tops are brown
Scones are properly served with clotted cream and strawberry jam. If you don’t like strawberry, use your favorite flavor. If you don’t like clotted cream you can use butter. Do not eat scones with a fork! Break off a bit of scone, slather it with clotted cream and top that with jam. Eat. Repeat. If scones are round, they may also be sliced in half along their equator, slathered and nibbled daintily. Clotted cream and Devonshire cream can be found at some supermarkets and online at Amazon and The English Tea Store among other places. At the grocery store you may find them on the shelf or they may be refrigerated.
If scones aren’t your thing (and they really should be!), you could serve tea bread for this course. Pumpkin, lemon, blueberry and banana bread are popular for tea. These small loaves are frequently available at the supermarket, but they’re very easy to bake and there are easy mixes in the cake mix aisle if you don’t feel confident baking from scratch. Serve tea breads warm. Try crumpets! Crumpets are often available at the supermarket; English muffins definitely are. Both are proper to serve at tea and should be toasted and served with butter and jam.