“Were you busy yesterday, luv?” Mrs. Saltmarsh placed a cup and saucer before her young boarder. The aromas of freshly perked coffee and hot scones filled the breakfast nook. Before he could respond, Mrs. Saltmarsh interjected, “Now try these and see if they aren’t better than the scones from Taggert’s. I don’t know what things are coming to that a person cannot get a proper scone anymore.”
Marshall Jevons, A Deadly Indifference: A Henry Spearman Mystery
“So these are scones,” said Rafa, helping himself to the biggest one.
“I’ll show you how it’s done.” Clementine cut open his scone and spread a large dollop of cream onto each half, placing a spoonful of strawberry jam on top. “Now tuck in! It’s more than a taste, it’s an experience.”
Santa Montefiore, The House by the Sea
If you have ever sat down to afternoon tea in a restaurant, tearoom or high-end hotel, you will likely have encountered scones in one form or another. The scone presented here is the simple, unadulterated English scone, circular in shape and fluffy in texture. Scones with dried fruit, nuts, chocolate, citrus, etc. have their place, but generally speaking, the scones you will find in a traditional British “cream tea” are of the plain variety. A cream tea consists of scones, clotted cream, jam and, of course, tea. A plain scone provides a blank canvas against which the combination of cream and jam play out with creamy, satisfying sweetness.
Much like a Southern biscuit, scones are sliced in half horizontally, with each half eaten separately. Clotted cream, for the uninitiated, is a semi-solidified version of cream that resembles the consistency of spreadable butter. It is available in speciality gourmet stores in the U.S. and also online. Any jam (or marmalade) will do, but strawberry is traditional.
Whether you apply the jam before the cream or cream before the jam is a matter of much dispute. According to conventional wisdom, cream first is the custom in Devon, while jam first is the preferred method in Cornwall. I suggest you try both and see which you prefer. While some people view scones as merely a vehicle for the condiments, a properly made scone will also be delicious on its own, with a soft interior and an ever so slightly crusty exterior.
A technical note: the scone batter will be quite moist. Try to avoid overworking it. The ideal scone will be about 2-2.5 inches in diameter. If you have leftover scones, they freeze nicely and can be warmed in a low oven for a few minutes before serving. Don’t forget the cup of tea!