A Stop for Tea in Chipping Campden
“We shall now have tea and speak of absurdities.”
—From the movie “Love is a Many Splendored Thing”
It was difficult to tear ourselves away from fall on Block Island, but a few weeks ago we took what turned out to be 10 mostly sunny, delightful days visiting the United Kingdom with our friends, Carol and Henry Hill. The trip began in London for a visit with our younger son, Charlie. It was great fun to see where he lives, and roam that fascinating city with him as tour guide.
Following our stay in London, we rented a car, and wound our way up through England and Scotland via Bath, the Cotswolds, the Lake District, Edinburgh, and on to St. Andrews. Most of the drive (on the left side of the road) was along country roads lined by hedgerows and surrounded by pea green hills scattered with black-faced sheep (almost as many as there are deer on Block Island!). In a short period of time we covered a huge segment of British history beginning with a glimpse of Stonehenge (built somewhere around 2400 to 2200 BC), and the warm mineral baths of an early Roman settlement in Bath (around 60 AD).
The second segment of the trip was in the Cotswolds, where we wound through village after village of houses and shops built typically with honey-colored stone and either terra cotta or thatched roofs. Even in late summer flowers were plentiful, and the weather was nice enough to allow for several tailgate lunches in grassy patches along quiet roads.
We’re devoted coffee drinkers, but one rainy afternoon in Chipping Campden we stopped in at Badgers Hall to have tea — called a “cream tea.” We’ve been serving scones to folks in our B&B for 10 years and wanted to try real English ones.
Badgers Hall, with beamed ceilings, interior stonework and a walk-in fireplace, dates from the 15th century, and is in the center of town just across from the Old Market. For tea time (3 to 5 p.m.), along with the cozy atmosphere, a variety of teas and an assortment of pastries, cakes, jams and clotted cream are offered.
The tea was hot and there was plenty of it. Our hostess said most of her guests add lots of milk and heaps of sugar. The warm scones were rich and buttery, fluffy in the center and crunchy on the edges. Clotted cream is spooned liberally on the scones and then topped with a choice of preserves. We chose strawberry. Delicious!
We should say a little about clotted cream. First of all the name is a bit confusing. It sounds like something to go in your tea, but is very thick – a cross between butter and whipped cream – and used as a spread. The homemade version is much better than the store-bought, so it’s worth a try.
There are plenty of recipes for clotted cream online, but generally unpasteurized heavy whipping cream is put in the oven at a low temperature (180 degrees) and left without stirring for about 8 hours. When it’s removed and cooled, the thick, yellowish skin on top is the clotted cream.
These scone recipes are some of the best, and the strawberry preserves are no-fail. What about crumpets? We’ll save them for another time. Cheerio!
Scottish Tea Scones
1/3 cup milk, plus 2 tablespoon more for tops
¾ cup all-purpose white flour
¾ cup wheat flour
½ cup toasted wheat germ
4 teaspoons baking powder
¼ cup sugar
½ teaspoon salt
Zest of 1 orange
½ cup butter, softened to room temperature
½ cup golden raisins, currants or dried cranberries
Coarse turbinado sugar (optional)
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Lightly grease a baking sheet. Pour milk into measuring cup; add eggs and blend well. Set aside.
In a large bowl, combine the white and wheat flours, wheat germ, baking powder, sugar, salt and orange zest. With a pastry cutter (or by criss-crossing two table knives), cut in softened butter until mixture resembles coarse meal. Add egg/milk mixture and raisins all at once, and stir gently just until blended.
Spoon dough onto prepared cookie sheet. With floured fingers, shape into a large oval shape of even thickness (about ½ inch). Brush with the remaining two tablespoons milk, and sprinkle liberally with turbinado sugar.
Bake 12 to 15 minutes until puffed and lightly browned on top. Cut into wedges and serve hot with butter and jam or honey.
Makes about 10 large scones.
Glazed Lemon Poppy Seed Scones
¾ cup buttermilk (or, as a substitute, spoon 2 tablespoons white vinegar into a measuring cup, and fill with whole milk to the ¾ cup line. Stir and let sit 5 minutes)
1 large egg
2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
¼ cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 slightly heaped tablespoon poppy seeds
2 tablespoons grated lemon zest (save rest of lemon for glaze)
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup butter, softened to room temperature
1 ½ tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 ½ cups confectioner’s sugar
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Lightly grease a baking sheet. In a small bowl whisk buttermilk and egg together. Set aside.
Into a mixing bowl measure the flour, granulated sugar, baking powder, poppy seeds, lemon zest and salt. With a pastry cutter (or by criss-crossing two dinner knives), cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse meal. Add buttermilk/egg mixture and gently stir until just evenly moistened (dough will look crumbly).
Scrape dough onto lightly floured work surface and, with lightly floured hands, work it into a ball, place on baking sheet and shape into a 7-inch round, about 1 ¾ inches thick.
Bake until top is browned, about 25 minutes. Let cool a few minutes. Cut into 6 to 8 wedges.
Stir together the lemon juice and confectioner’s sugar. Drizzle glaze over warm scones and serve immediately.
Makes 6 to 8 scones.
Easy Strawberry Preserves
1 quart strawberries, stemmed and washed
1 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
Place a glass or metal refrigerator container with a cover, in the refrigerator to chill.
In a medium-sized pan, combine strawberries, sugar and lemon juice. Bring to a gentle boil and cook, stirring, 10 to 12 minutes until juices begin to thicken.
Remove the chilled dish from the refrigerator and drop a small amount of the cooked preserves into the bowl. Let cool a few seconds. Check for desired thickness, cooking another minute if necessary.
Transfer all of the preserves into the container, cover and chill until ready to serve. Will keep up to 1 month in the refrigerator.
Makes about 1 ½ cups preserves.