As one who enjoys the pleasures of teatime daily, I have been happy to note that over the past decade or so, the availability and choices of loose-leaf tea have soared. Years ago, when I was a new convert to hot tea, it seemed my options were either English Breakfast or Early Grey. I loved and used both, reserving the bergamot-flavored brew for any cups enjoyed after early morning.
As I learned more about the benefits of drinking tea, I began to search out tearooms, where, I discovered, an impressive selection of teas usually could be purchased by the ounce or the pound. From very delicate whites and earthy greens to oolongs and blacks, I have tasted many varieties and enjoyed them all.
The serving of tea at a social event or simply for a quiet moment of repose is becoming increasingly popular. The beverage, said to be second only to water in consumption, can be enjoyed alone or with a vast assortment of foods chosen to complement the unique flavor of each blend.
Although many facets of the tea experience are strikingly similar—the china teapot, the thin porcelain cups, the plate of scones—there are ways to personalize each occasion, whether serving two or twenty. Tea is a versatile and intriguing drink. Its positive attributes are many: it is available in countless blends and flavors; it can be served hot or cold; it boasts medicinal properties; it inspires tranquility and relaxation. I can’t think of a single negative!
And what’s tea without a scone to pair it with? Basic scones are staples of a tearoom’s kitchen. These types of scones do not feature fruit, nuts, or savory additions. Instead, they are unadorned and often only slightly seasoned. Since there is no competing flavor, plain scones are perfect vehicles for showcasing a special spread, such as a favorite jam, unusual curd, or strong-tasting tea.
Enjoy this vanilla scone recipe from Scones and Tea, and don’t wait to purchase the entire TeaTime Collection—that’s four beautiful, hardback books—for just $69.99. Hurry, the sale ends Monday night!
Yield: 12 scones
2 cups self-rising flour
1/3 cup sugar
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/3 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup heavy whipping cream
1 large egg
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 vanilla bean, split and scraped, seeds reserved
1 egg white, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons vanilla-flavored sugar*
• Preheat oven to 400°.
• Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Set aside.
• In a large bowl, combine flour and sugar. Using a pastry blender, cut butter into flour mixture until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Set aside.
• In a medium bowl, whisk together buttermilk, cream, egg, vanilla extract, and reserved vanilla-bean seeds. Add to flour mixture, and stir until dough is just combined. (Dough will be sticky. If mixture seems dry, add more cream, 1 tablespoon at a time, until a dough forms.) Divide dough into 2 balls.
• On a lightly floured surface, roll half of dough into a 6½-inch circle. Cut into 6 wedges. Repeat process for remaining dough. Place on prepared baking sheets.
• Brush scones with egg white, and sprinkle with vanilla-flavored sugar.
• Bake until lightly browned, 9 to 11 minutes.
*To make vanilla-flavored sugar, place 1 vanilla bean in a zippertop plastic bag, along with desired amount of sugar. Seal bag, and let sit until sugar has absorbed vanilla scent, approximately 24 hours.