I read a great blog the other day, "Meal Malapropism," by The Ulterior Epicure. Apparently, when he sees the misuse of the word entree, he has the same nails-on-a-blackboard reaction that I have whenever someone refers to afternoon tea as high tea. I understand why it happens. High tea sounds ever so much more "haute" than afternoon tea. But it is actually just the informal main evening meal sometimes called a meat tea.
The stylish event is called afternoon tea. While I thoroughly enjoy every delightful repast of the day, none cheers me up quite so much as afternoon tea. As Henry James wrote in The Portrait of a Lady, "Under certain circumstances there are few hours in life more agreeable than the hour dedicated to the ceremony known as afternoon tea."
But on this busy Monday there's no time for an afternoon tea, so I'll just bake some scones to have with my everyday tea in the afternoon or for elevenses (British English for midmorning tea break), which I usually have around ten since I start my day so early. For an afternoon tea, I serve clotted cream, lemon curd and strawberry or raspberry jam with the scones. For everyday tea, though, I'll save the calories and have them plain. But can you really call that currant-filled, orange-scented, buttery goodness plain?
Once in a while I might make a 2-inch (maximum) round scone, but nearly always I make the wedge-shaped scones because that is what my mother and grandmother did AND because it uses all the dough the first time around, so there are no scraps of dough that have to be worked together for a second cutting; those are never quite as pretty or tender as the first rounds cut.
Update 12/07/16: For how to throw an afternoon tea party and a roundup of afternoon tea recipes, see Afternoon Tea Party Tips.
(Makes 16 scones)
2 dip-and-sweep cups (10 ounces/283 grams) unbleached all-purpose flour
1/4 cup (1.75 ounces/50 grams) sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons (3 ounces/85 grams) cold unsalted butter, cut into cubes
Zest of one orange
1/2 cup (1.75 ounces/50 grams) currants or other chopped dried fruit
2/3 cup (5.33 fluid ounces/158 ml) buttermilk (or milk with 2 teaspoons cider vinegar stirred in and left standing for 5 minutes)
1 large egg*
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 Preheat oven to 400F/200C/Gas6. In medium bowl whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Cut the butter into the flour mixture until it resembles coarse meal. Stir in orange zest and dried fruit to coat and separate. Whisk together buttermilk, egg and vanilla; pour into dry mixture and gently mix until just combined.
*If you prefer to glaze the tops of your scones (I do not), beat the egg lightly and reserve one tablespoon to mix with a teaspoon of water to brush on tops only just before baking.
2 Line a large baking sheet with parchment and sprinkle lightly with flour. Scrape the dough onto the floured parchment and gently pat the dough, dusting with flour as needed, into two 6-inch rounds. Cut each round into 8 wedges. Pull the wedges out and space them an inch or two apart. Bake for about 15 minutes or until golden brown.
Now put on the kettle and make a proper cup of tea. Enjoy the delightful repast!