if you read this blog, or if you know me personally and happened to wander over here, you may know that i’m a little bit obsessed with tea. particularly tea rituals, tea ceremony, and baking tea goodies. as much as i enjoy baking, you may have also guessed that i am a little baking phobic.
so i’ll admit it! the freshly-baked scones for my tea parties, brunches, and office-meetings-when-it’s-my-turn-to-provide-the-snacks come from a box! that’s right! fisher’s fair scone mix, to be exact. i like it because it’s, first of all, good, and i only have to add water (not additional cream or butter), and because it’s plain i can customize it easily (adding cranberries, almonds, blueberries, raisins…anything!). it works for me every time, and everyone loves them. that worked until i took a load of laundry home to use my parent’s washing machine and left a tea towel i bought last time i went to the empress hotel in victoria, bc. the towel had a recipe for their signature scones on it, and apparently my dad gave it a go.
now my dad teases me about “my” scones. he says he doesn’t want them unless they are made from scratch. when i retell the story to friends i get responses like “scones are a quick bread! it’s so easy!” to “i’m sure you could make them from scratch if you wanted to!” but i kept resisting. my fisher’s scone mix is trustworthy. we were buddies.
so the other week, it WAS my turn to bring treats for the staff meeting. i had planned to grab something on my way home from visiting my parents when my dad decided to make scones–his coworkers had been asking for them. he asked if i wanted to help him out (since he was making a double batch), and then it clicked–i could just take my dad’s scones in to work!
so we rolled out over 70 scones, and ate at least a dozen straight out of the oven–hot with butter and cherry preserves. he sent me home with 2 dozen, which were a huge hit at work. (something about all the butter and heavy whipping cream makes these scones irresistible–and FULL of calories.) now i know why the empress only serves 1 to each guest!
Victorian Empress Scones–Fairmont Empress Hotel Recipe (makes 35 scones)
2 lbs. 4 oz. Flour (about 4.5 cups) | 9 oz Sugar (about 1 cup, 2 Tbsp) | 9 oz butter (cold) | 2 oz Baking Powder (about 1/4 cup) | 6 oz Raisins (about 2/3 cup) | 5.5 eggs | 16 oz Heavy Whipping Cream | Pinch of Salt
1. Crumb flour, butter, sugar, baking powder, and salt together.
2. Add beaten eggs to crumb mixture slowly.
3. Add raisins to mixture.
4. Add heavy whipping cream to mixture, mix dough until smooth.
5. Roll out on floured surface to 1/2 inch thickness. Cut to desired size/shape.
6. Using the remaining half-egg, egg wash the tops of the scones, and sprinkle course sugar on top.
7. Bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes.
8. Eat at least one straight out of the oven with butter and jam.
i included some of my home-made “jam.” i’ve learned recently that one cannot market something as jam if it isn’t made with pectin. i love making jam, but i end up with so much of it. and i always feel guilty about the 1:1 fruit:sugar ratio. so i recently had started buying a french fruit preserve that is sweetened only with fruit juice, and with no pectin. when i looked up what the jar meant by “old french recipe” i realized it just meant letting it reduce with a little sugar. so i’ve started making my own “preserves” to use at home with fresh fruit. one small jar at a time.
making it this way lets me experiment with the flavors. probably the most popular one was a vanilla-satsuma spread. but another popular one was a red zinfandel-white peach preserve. my favorite, and the one i brought to work, was a simple autumn blackberry preserve with a small amount of sugar. it thickened up enough to spread on scones and peanut-butter sandwiches, and i don’t feel like i might as well be eating candy. and more of the fruit flavor comes out. more or less, i just cook down fruit with a bit of sugar to taste, and let it cook for a long time. i don’t even smash it very much–so that the fruit flavor and texture comes out in tact. so far, so good! and cheaper than making, or buying, high quality jams!