Royal Scones: Eat Them as You Watch
I don’t know if you guys have heard, but there’s this wedding happening tomorrow in England, and it’s kind of a big deal — like so big of a deal that this morning on CNN one of their resident chatterboxes was like, “We’ll get right back to our Royal Wedding coverage in just a moment, but first let’s take a second to check in on the massive tornadoes that destroyed whole towns and killed dozens of people last night.” (Ugh. Priorities much, CNN?) Anywayzzz, some people are really into this Royal Wedding extravaganza. They are the kind of organized, peppy people who are going to host very elaborate tea parties with delicate cucumber sandwiches and delicious themed champagne cocktails. Others of us are sort of curious, but don’t really have the energy to rally all of our friends to come to our house in the pre-dawn hours to watch the damn thing so maybe we’ll just get up and watch it by ourselves. And then some of us hate love and joy and refuse to participate in any of this nonsense. You know what? That is just fine. To each his own, I say!
I personally would rank my excitement level as moderate. As love stories go, Prince William and Kate Middleton are about as perfectly typical as it gets. “Oh, you met in school and then dated off and on and couldn’t quite decide if it was right but then you realized there was no one else that was measurably better so you decided to settle down together and make a life for yourselves? Congratulations. How wonderful.” But typical is not bad, so, sure, I will watch the wedding. What have I got to lose other than a few hours of sleep? Plus, to be honest, the thing I find far more exciting than history’s most normal royal love story is breakfast pastries — and especially scones, which just happen to be English! That’s why I am going to use this wedding as an excuse to make some delightfully flaky and delicious scones! And then, come tomorrow morning, I will sit in front of the TV eating them with clotted cream and lemon curd and wonderfully rich butter, and I’ll probably drink some earl grey tea too because if you’re going to do it why not do it right? After all this wedding is all about decadence and romance and love conquering very minor obstacles — and nothing encapsulates all of that like me sitting on the couch slowly downing four or five scones (fine, six) as I watch the royal spectacle unfold.
I invite you to join me and recreate this appealing scene in your own home. You don’t even have to watch the wedding if you don’t want to. You can just make these scones and then eat them while you read the paper or while you cuddle in bed with the person that you met in college and can’t quite decide if you want to marry. Or you can even eat one of these scones while you attempt to find your clothes in the mess of sheets atop the bed that you shared last night with Prince Harry. (You go, girl!) Point is, they’re very all-purpose and extremely luxurious. Let’s get started, shall we? Jolly good.
First, let me say that there are one hundred million great ways (literally, a study once counted them all) to add flavors and dried fruits, cheeses, etc. to scones, but at this moment I really just want to use my scones as a vehicle for lemon curd (one of the world’s most delicious substances) and cream (ditto). So I am going to keep these as plain as possible, but if you’re feeling adventurous you can use this basic recipe and add currants or raisins or lavender or whatever else you think sounds good or reminds you of your estate in the English countryside.
Here’s what you’ll need:
-1/2 cup of heavy cream (plus a tablespoon or two more for brushing the scones)
-1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
-3 tablespoons of sugar (plus little extra for sprinkling the scones)
-1 tablespoon (roughly) of lemon zest
-2 cups of all-purpose flour
-1/2 teaspoon of salt
-1 tablespoon of baking powder
-1/2 teaspoon of baking soda
-6 tablespoons of cold unsalted butter
Optional: Good butter for spreading, lemon curd (you can make your own, but I just bought a jar), assorted jams of your choosing, and/or clotted cream. Speaking of clotted cream, would you believe that I went to two different grocery stores this morning looking for it, and they were both sold out? Yes, a casualty of royal wedding fever! There’s been a run on clotted cream! Alas, I must make do without it, but I’ll substitute some whipped cream instead. It’s not really British, but it’s still ridiculously good. Anyway, I hope and pray that you will have better luck finding clotted cream in your neck of the woods.
Here’s what you do:
-Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.
-In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together the cream, egg, vanilla extract, sugar, and lemon zest.
-In a larger bowl, stir together the flour, salt, baking powder, and baking soda.
-Now you’ll need to add the butter into the flour mix. You can do this in several ways:
- You can cut it up into about ½-inch pieces and blend it into the flour mixture with a pastry cutter. This takes a little time and patience, but it’s easy enough.
- You can freeze the butter, and then grate it on a box grater. Then you mix the shavings into the flour with a pastry cutter or your hands. This is the method I used today.
- You can add ½-inch chunks of cold butter to the flour and blend it all together in a food processor. Just be VERY careful not to over-process it.
No matter what method you use, what you want to end up with is a loose, crumbly blend with little chunks of butter throughout, like this:
-Once you’ve got the butter incorporated into the flour, add the cream/egg mixture in and stir it until it just comes together as a dough.
-Dust a bit of flour over a clean surface and dump the dough out onto it. Knead the dough gently for just a few turns — no more than about 20 seconds. You don’t want to overdo it or the dough will get too tough.
-If you want to get fancy, you can roll the dough out now and use a biscuit cutter to cut out perfect circles, but I can’t be bothered to be that fussy. If you want to go the more casual route, pat the dough into a square, making sure that it’s between ¾-inch and 1-inch thick. Then cut it into triangles, as shown.
-Transfer the triangles to a baking sheet. (You can line it with parchment paper if you want, but you don’t have to.) Use either a pastry brush, or a paper towel, or your fingers to paint the tops of the scones with thin layer of cream. Then lightly sprinkle some sugar over the top of each scone.
-Put them in the center of the oven and bake them for about 12 minutes — though I’d start checking them at 10 minutes to ensure you don’t over cook them. When they’re done they should be a nice shade of golden yellow, like this:
-Let them cool for a few minutes and then eat them right away. Or you can save them in an airtight container for a day. If you have leftovers, freeze them and then you can heat them up individually when you want them.
-Serve these golden, flaky pastries with butter, clotted cream, lemon curd, jam, tea, and any other festive things you can think of.
Phew, that’s it. Now breakfast is all taken care of, so you can sleep soundly and get up right before the wedding starts, plop yourself down on the couch, and turn on the ol’ TV. Be sure to keep one eye on the most exciting royal spectacle of the century, and keep the other eye on how totally scrumptious your scone looks because seriously, you guys, cream and lemon curd.
If after a while you start to get bored, maybe make a game out of it: Every time a newscaster mentions how exciting this event is, you raise a bite of scone to toast and say, “To love! Congratulations, Will & Kate!”