Three years ago this past spring, Donna-Marie took a trip to visit her daughter, who at the time was living and working in England. One of the highlights of the trip was visiting Highclere Castle more famously known as the setting for the much loved PBS television series Downton Abbey. A trip to an English castle wouldn’t be complete without indulging the in ritual of teatime, and Highclere offers an “Afternoon Tea in the Coach House.” While we noshed on fancy sandwiches, sipped champagne from sparkling crystal flutes and drank copious amounts of black tea served in bone-china tea cups, it was the piping hot, wonderfully flaky scones served with jam and clotted cream that made us swoon.
The brilliance of a perfect scone lies in its simplicity. The ingredients are few, but the trick is not to overwork the dough. The choice to use salted, unsalted or cultured butter is not as important as using fresh, cold butter. You can’t let it get warm otherwise it melts in the flour making it too wet. It’s best to rub the better into the flour with cool hands so it resembles a fine crumb. And finally, use buttermilk for ensuring its light and flaky texture.
This weekend, Donna-Marie and her daughter Darcy are hosting a bridal shower for Maria’s daughter Eliana who will be married in England later this summer. The “Desperate Housewives” themed event is a combination of Wisteria Lane meets English Tea Party. While we won’t be serving “luncheon” in the coach house, we will be pulling out all the stops complete with those well-remembered scones.