It has been a very busy week for me, as I had a writing deadline for work that seems to have sucked one week of my life away (yes that’s a play on a Princess Bride reference). It was good writing, though, and feels satisfying and exciting now that it’s off into the world, which means I have time to write here about what’s going on at the Homestead.
Mother’s Day was two weekends ago, and, as you might recall, my family has become
obsessed rather fond of taking tea together. We’ve gone to a few fussy-but-still-cozy tearooms for full tea service before, and honestly, it’s one of my favorite things in the world to do. There’s something so very soothing about eating a bunch of tiny sandwiches, lots of sugar-laden things, and sipping warm, delicious liquid. So, for Mother’s Day, I decided to plan my dream Mother’s Day tea and, for the first time in months, invite my parents over to celebrate with us. We’d set it up outside, naturally, on our comfortable back patio and ample outdoor dining table overlooking all of our hard work in the raised bed garden and listening to the sounds of the birds and the wind in the trees.
Except, the past two weeks here in Central Indiana have been so rainy, and even downright chilly at times. Not exactly good outdoor tea party weather. But, it does make for the kind of weather of which one wants to be indoors sipping hot liquid and playing a myriad of board games–so that’s what we did!
My Dream Mother’s Day Tea:
- chicken salad sandwiches–my favorite local restaurant serves a goat cheese-pistachio chicken salad that is savory and delicious; my favorite not-homemade chicken salad and a perfect foil for all the sweet things going on at a tea. I served it on my homemade basic wheat bread, crusts cut off and sliced at a diagonal.
- cucumber sandwiches–sliced seedless cucumbers smeared with a cream cheese I whipped-up with some garlic, dill, chives, tarragon, and a little sea salt and pepper. I also served this on my homemade basic wheat bread, crusts cut off and sliced at a diagonal.
- PB&J sandwiches–for my kiddos. Good quality creamy peanut butter, homemade strawberry vanilla jam, and my homemade basic wheat bread, crusts cut off and sliced at a diagonal.
- cheese sandwiches–these didn’t actually make it onto the plate because we realized we had plenty of food, but they could have as I had planned to serve them: sharp white (English or Farmhouse) cheddar cheese, homemade apple butter, homemade basic wheat bread, crusts cut off and sliced at a diagonal.
- dark chocolate chip scones–recipe below. I served it with a local tearoom’s vanilla chai jelly and my own homemade strawberry vanilla jam. I also managed to get clotted cream off the internet (one less thing for me to worry about making, though you can make your own if you’re having a hard time finding any).
- lemon shortbread–from a local restaurant, the same one where I got my birthday cupcakes and the chicken salad. It’s one of my absolute favorites: The Lemon Bar.
- bakewell tarts–from the same local tearoom we often visit, and who supplied the vanilla chai jam: Tina’s Tea Room. I was able to order these off Market Wagon, which is good because the tearoom is a 20 minute drive from the Homestead.
- victoria sandwich cake–anyone who watches The Great British Baking Show knows what this is. I’ve made it a handful of times before as a tasty tea-treat. It’s a pretty quick and basic cake that sounds, looks, and tastes a heck of a lot more complicated than it actually is. I found a recipe on BBC (surely they’re qualified to be experts on a notorious British recipe), and tweaked it slightly.
- assorted teas–I already owned a few individual tea pots, but I did buy myself two more in pretty colors. Individual pots make sure we could have a variety o teas brewing, which adds to the luxury/leisure/decadent vibe I love about a good afternoon high tea. I made sure we each had our favorite teas, and also bought raw and brown sugar cubes with fussy little sugar cube tongs off of Amazon. I already own a creamer server.
- I already owned the three-tier tea server, as well, after throwing Chloe and Liam the “Choose your Own Adventure” Birthday party several years ago, where one of the adventures was a Princess tea-party in an Alice in Wonderland-esque set-up (it was near the Indiana Jones obstacle course, so eventually the princesses abandoned their fussy tea party and got in a tug-of-rope fight with the boys). 🙂
- And, we already owned 4 of our basic but favorite white tea cups from World Market. I simply bought a few more to round-out our service, and found the clotted cream there (well, online there), as well. I like white dishes, though I do miss my old tea cup collection I once had. They all broke, one by one, when the kids were very little. Fragile antique tea cups do not mix well with toddlers–who knew? 😉
Overview complete, let’s get on with the scones! I love a good scone, but they are rather hard to come by at times. Perhaps that’s because scones are decidedly less good a day after baking than they are on their original day. I like a moist scone that is sturdy enough to hold it’s shape and some cream and jam, but not so dry that the cream and jam has to be slathered on. The end result is not at all healthy (oh no, definitely not), but they are tasty–a yummy treat that I’m certain is no worse for you than a donut. Which isn’t saying a lot, but I mean, we all do tend to eat a lot of donuts (donuts are delicious, just like these scones). 🙂
You can adjust the mix-ins to accommodate different flavors, or forego them all together. I will often put these together and then freeze whatever I know we won’t eat immediately by placing them on a parchment-lined baking sheet in a single layer in the freezer until firm, then in a freezer plastic bag. You can remove one or however many at a time and go straight to the oven, just adjust the baking time to allow thawing.
Dark Chocolate Chip Scones
Yield: About 16
2 C AP flour
4 t baking powder
3/4 t sea salt
1/4 C sugar
1/4 C butter, cut into small pieces and kept cold
3 T coconut oil (in solid state and cold)
2 C heavy cream
1 C dark chocolate chips
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. In a mixing bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, sea salt, and sugar with a whisk until well-combined. Add the butter and coconut oil and use a pastry cutter to push and cut the fats into the flour until all the flour has been touched by the fats and there’s small pieces mixed with sandy looking stuff. Add the heavy cream and use a rubber spatula to begin to bring everything together, stirring in the chocolate chips just before it does.
Flour a surface and scrape the dough out. It should be a little sticky but workable. If it’s too sticky, Knead it a few times into a little more flour. Flour a rolling pin and roll-out the dough until it’s 1/2 inch thickness, then fold it back over onto itself. I have made biscuits and scones this way for years, though I recognize this is not a normal thing to do. I think it originated in high school–I would open all those cans of biscuits that split so nicely in the middle that I intuited doing this would help my biscuits split nicely in the middle. It always works for me, so there we go.
I have an old 1/2 cup measuring cup that lost its handle years and years ago that I use as my biscuit cutter. Fancy. Cut out the scones and place them on a parchment-lined baking sheet, near to one another but not touching like you would tray-up biscuits. I can usually fit the whole lot on one sheet. Continue until all the dough has been used, bringing it back together and re-rolling as needed (recognizing the more you work the dough, the tougher the scones will get, so try to roll-out a good size. It usually takes me three to get them all).
Brush the tops of the scones with a little heavy cream and then sprinkle with raw sugar. Bake for 20 or so minutes, or until they have browned slightly on top and bottom and the center of a scone springs back if you press it lightly with your index finger. Cool slightly and serve with clotted cream and your favorite jam. For best taste and texture, eat on the same day as baking.