The Oxford English Dictionary defines the word scone as a noun – a small unsweetened or lightly sweetened cake made from flour, fat, baking powder and milk and sometimes having added fruit. The first mention of the word is in 1513. Origin of the word may derive from different sources, primarily Scottish (the name perhaps taken from the town of Scone and originating as a bannock cut into pieces) or the Scots Gaelic (sgonn meaning a shapeless mass or large mouthful); the Middle Dutch (schoonbrood which is very similar to the drop scone), or Middle Low German (schonbrot meaning fine bread). Other sources define the scone as a single-serving cake or quick bread, usually made of wheat, barley or oatmeal, with baking powder as a leavening agent, and are baked on sheet pans. They are often lightly sweetened and are occasionally glazed. There are many regional varieties of the scone on every continent around the world.
For most Janeites, the scone is a basic component of a cream tea (which can also be called the Devonshire or Devon tea) which consists of tea, scones, jam and cream); a light tea which is tea, scones and sweets; and a full tea which is tea, savories, scones, sweets and dessert. The cream (Devonshire or Devon) method of consumption is to split the scone in two, cover each half with clotted cream and then add strawberry jam on top. Traditionally it is important that the scones be warm (ideally, freshly baked), and that clotted (rather than whipped) cream and strawberry jam, rather than any other variety, are used. Butter is generally not included, and the tea should be served with milk.
There is also the term “High tea.” High tea is actually “meat tea” i.e. dinner. In Britain, high tea tends to be on the heavier side. American hotels and tea rooms, on the other hand, continue to misunderstand and offer tidbits of fancy pastries and cakes on delicate china when they offer a “high tea” when in reality they are not offering that at all.
Yet, for the Janeite, there is a dispiriting fact: Jane Austen never ate scones. Baking powder wasn’t invented until about 1859, over 40 years after her death. She had biscuits, muffins, cakes, and pies but no scones as we now know them. (If you want to eat historically accurate food from her time period, read the “Jane Austen Cookbook” by Maggie Black and Deirdre Le Faye or “Jane Austen and Food” by Maggie Lane which unfortunately is not currently in print).
When one does a Google search for “scones,” there are approximately 9,490,000 hits. A search on Amazon for “scones” returns a list of approximately 5,550. A tad overwhelming.
To find out where to find the best information regarding the making of a good scone, we turned to Charlotte Flanagan (one of the founding members of our region) who has a long standing interest in tea and tea rooms. She was first introduced to tea and scones by her older brother who has been an Anglophile since grade school. She, along with her gallant and uncomplaining husband, has visited many tea rooms across the United States, Canada, and England. Among her favorite places are Fortnam & Mason in London, Betty’s in York, and The Compass Rose in the Westin St. Francis on Union Square – which sadly has been replaced by a very modern bar. She went to Tea & Sympathy in New York City earlier this year and has a list of other places ready and waiting for her next visit there.
A very happy result of her interest is that Charlotte makes an incredible scone. It is our regional tradition to have a “full tea” at our meetings and Charlotte’s contribution of scones is always greatly welcomed and anticipated.
She lists the following as sources of inspiration: “Joy of Cooking” by Irma S. Rombauer and Marion Rombauer Becker; “The Charms of Tea: Reminiscences & Recipes” by Victoria Magazine/Hearst Publications; “The Afternoon Tea Collection” published by Metro Books; “Tea & Sympathy: The Life of an English Teashop in New York” by Anita Naughton & Nicola Perry; and various issues of Victoria Magazine. Online sources include Victoria Magazine (http://victoriamag.com/Entertaining.aspx); TeaTime Magazine (http://www.teatimemagazine.com/); and Martha Stewart Living (http://www.marthastewart.com/). New books, blogs and recipes are constantly being published.
Charlotte likes to try different recipes she finds and customize them to her particular taste or occasion.Below are Charlotte’s creations in process:
Of course, clotted cream is an essential part of the experience and she has kindly shared her recipe with us:
HOMEMADE CLOTTED CREAM (From the kitchen of a generous Republic of Pemberley poster) -
2 cups pasteurized NON-homogenized heavy cream [I use Promised Land brand]
Turn on the oven to warm (170F).
Pour cream unto a shallow pan, like a 9 inch pie plate [I use a glass one]. Cover with foil, then place in the oven and leave untouched for 8 hours (or overnight).
Carefully remove and let cool. Take care not to shake the pan or move it while the cream is cooling. Once cooled, use a slotted spoon to skim the thick cream on the surface.
Makes about 1 cup, and lasts 3-4 days.
Make some tea and enjoy!