I love the British habit of a late afternoon snack. Tea and a little sweet or savory “bite” can help get you through the late afternoon energy slump and tide you over until dinner. Scones are a traditional tea time sweet, but small sandwiches are also a good addition to a tea tray. So let’s start here with Lemon-Honey Cream Scones.
It’s said that Anne, 7th Duchess of Bedford, and a good friend of Queen Victoria, made the habit of afternoon tea popular in London society. She found that she developed a “sinking feeling” in the afternoon while waiting for the fashionably late dinner hour to arrive. She requested tea, with sandwiches and cakes to tide her over. Over time the Duchess invited her friends to join her at these afternoon meals, and the ritual became a social gathering. It’s a tradition I’d like to explore a little further. So look for more “afternoon tea” here in the weeks to come.
Lemon-Honey Cream Scones
(makes 8 large or 10 to 12 smaller scones)
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
Finely grated zest of 2 small lemons
4 tablespoons (2 ounces) cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 generous tablespoons honey (use your favorite local brand, wildflower is good here)
Additional warmed honey, for brushing the scones when they come from the oven
Preheat the oven to 400°F and line a heavy baking sheet with parchment paper. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, salt, and lemon zest. Cut in the butter with a pastry cutter or a fork until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. In a small bowl or 1-cup glass measure, whisk together the eggs, cream, and honey. Add to the dry ingredients and stir until a sticky dough is formed. Turn the shaggy dough onto a lightly floured work surface and knead gently just until the dough holds together, about 5 to 6 turns. Pat the dough out to an approximately 8-inch round. With a sharp knife or dough cutter, cut the circle into 8 wedges (or use a round biscuit cutter to form smaller scones). Place the scones 1 inch apart on the prepared baking sheet. Bake in the preheated oven until crusty and golden brown, about 15 to 20 minutes. Remove from the oven, brush with additional warmed honey, and serve.
(minimally adapted from “The Art of Quick Breads” by Beth Hensperger)