One of the nicest things to serve guests who drop by for a cup of tea in the afternoon has to be a cream tea. And it’s not complicated! But there are a few things you need to know…
What is a Cream Tea?
A cream tea, also known as a Cornish Cream Tea or a Devonshire Cream Tea is a teatime treat, consisting of a pot of tea, scones, jam, and clotted cream. The jam would typically be strawberry or raspberry, but any combination of red berries would do, and lemon, lime or orange curd is also a tasty option. The tea would typically be black tea, perhaps and Afternoon Tea Blend, an Earl Grey, or a Second Flush Darjeeling.
While a cream tea can be served informally, it is also a component of a more luxurious full Afternoon Tea (sometimes mistakenly called “High Tea”), whereby the first “course” would be the sandwiches and savoury snacks, the second “course” would be the cream tea, and the third “course” exquisite sweet pastries and treats.
How to bake perfect scones
Baking scones is easy! It takes just 10 minutes to prepare the dough, and another 10 minutes in the oven. Ideally the scones would be served warm so you might want to think about preparing them earlier and keeping them in the fridge so that you can simply finish them off and pop them in the oven just as your guests arrive.
Before you follow my very easy recipe, here are few extra suggestions:
- Have the butter at room temperature
- Use a scones cutter and do not roll the dough out too thin
- Leave sugar out and have fun adding other ingredients
Tip number 1: Have the butter at room temperature
Although there are similarities between making the dough for scones and making pastry, I tend to have the butter at room temperature. My theory is the less you have to handle the dough the better, and having the butter at room temperature means you end up with a fine breadcrumb like base to which to add the liquid without having had to much time to rub it in. When you add the liquid to the dry ingredients use a knife to bring the mixture together, and do not knead the dough – simply press it together with your hands.
Tip number 2: Use a scones cutter and do not roll the dough out too thin
Roll the dough out to about 2.5 cm and use a scones cutter to make the rounds. Using a scones cutter with a crinkled edge makes a difference to how well the scones will come apart when they are baked.
Tip number 3: Leave sugar out and have fun adding other ingredients
If you are serving your scones with jam you really don’t need the sugar. If you do use sugar, make sure it is caster sugar.
Get creative! If you are making sweet scones you can add a handful of cranberries, sultanas or whatever takes your fancy just before you bring the dough together. If you would like to make savoury scones, just leave the sugar out and add grated cheese, nuts, herbs in the same way.
How to serve perfect scones
While savoury scones would be served with cream cheese and chutney, traditional scones served as part of a cream tea would be served with jam and clotted cream.
Serving Scones: Cream first or jam first?
Whether the cream goes on the scones before the jam or on top of the jam is a really BIG question. As our clotted cream comes from Cornwall and in Cornwall the cream is always given pride of place, the answer is that the cream goes on top. After all, the cream is beautiful and delicious, why would you want to hide it under the jam? And if the scones are to be served warm, why would you want to run the risk of the cream melting away?
Serving Scones: Enjoy each half at a time
I know this sounds silly, but I’ve seen it done. Please, please, please do not reconstruct both halves of your scone to make a scone sandwich! When you break open your warm scone, apply the jam and cream, and savour each half separately: One scone enjoyed as two halves = doubly delicious.