Watching Downton Abbey always makes me have this random and somewhat impractical wish to drop everything, go off the grid and open a tea room somewhere.
I didn’t use to like it at all, but I’ve gotten into drinking a lot more tea over the past few years. I’m partial to spicy ones, both for flavor and because they really help cure some of my digestive woes.
Unsurprisingly, my favorite part of running a tea room would be the menu planning. Tea rooms menus feature all kind of dainty and delicious looking treats. I have yet to tackle making cucumber or watercress sandwiches. I still haven’t checked off the Victoria Sandwich Cake from my Baking Bucket List (soon come though). There is one staple from the tea menu that I’ve made my share of: the almighty scone.
I’ve been trying to bring my scone making technique up to par with my biscuit making one, especially as the method for making them is so similar. I have a whole post dedicated to laying out the steps for what I consider to be the best biscuits I’ve ever made. I intend to do one for scones too, but in the meanwhile I wanted to share a recipe I tested along the way to getting to Scone Nirvana.
It starts with one very crucial ingredient: heavy cream. Heavy cream not only helps with the crumb of the scone, the added fat in it helps with a higher rise. I also let the scone dough rest in the fridge overnight. It gave the gluten time to rest and firm up so that when I cut them out, the edges weren’t as easily compressed as they could be if they were still soft. They baked up so beautifully that I seriously considered leaving them plain, but I decided to go along with my original idea of trying out how they would hold up to a thin layer of icing. The answer, again, was beautifully.
If my whimsical tea room idea were a reality, this would without question be going onto the menu. Although they’re technically scones, the crumb is so delicate and fluffy that they honestly reminded me of a dense cake. The icing process does admittedly require some time and attention, but it’s worth it. They’re divine, with or without a cup of tea on the side.
Iced Orange Cream Scones
- 2 3/4 cups all purpose flour
- 1/3 cup sugar
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- 1/2 cup (8 tablespoons butter) frozen
- 2 large eggs
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- zest of 1 orange
- 2/3 cup heavy cream, plus more if needed
- 3 1/2 cups powdered sugar
- 7 tablespoons of water, enough to make a thin glaze
- orange zest, for garnish, optional
Combine the flour, sugar, salt and baking powder together in a bowl and stir together with a fork. Beat the eggs together with the vanilla in a small bowl with a fork and set aside.
Use the large holes on a box grater to grate the butter directly into the dry ingredients. Stir in the orange zest.
Make a well in the center. Pour in the beaten egg-vanilla mixture. Pour in the heavy cream. Use a large fork and a large rubber spatula to stir the mixture together. If it seems a little dry you may add additional heavy cream until it forms a shaggy dough.
Sprinkle a pastry mat, wooden cutting board or wax paper with flour. Turn the dough out onto the surface and pat a few times with your hands until it loosely holds together. (Don’t knead it too much or the warmth in your palms will melt the butter and cause the scones to be tough.)
Pat and roll the dough into a rectangle. Take the two opposite ends and fold them together like a business letter into thirds. Flip it upside down and pat & roll it into another rectangle, sprinkling the surface with flour if it gets too sticky. Repeat the folding process two to three more times before patting it into one final rectangle.
Wrap the rectangle in plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Place a shallow pan of water on the bottom rack of the oven.
Sprinkle your work surface with flour and unwrap the scone dough out onto it. Use a bench scraper or very sharp knife to trim the edges of the rectangle. Cut the remaining dough into squares, about 2″ each. Cut the squares into triangles. (You can also leave some as squares if you want to keep them a little bigger; the sizes here are up to you).
Remove the cut scones to a baking sheet you’ve lined with parchment paper, rather close to each other (it will help them rise higher). Place the pan of scones in the freezer for 30 minutes, uncovered.
Bake the scones for 15 to 20 minutes, or until they’re golden brown. Remove the pan from the oven, and allow the scones to cool right on the pan. When they’re cool, if you wish, you can cut each scone in half once again to make even tinier scones. Or, you can leave them as is.
For the icing: stir together the powdered sugar and enough of the water to make a glaze that is not so watery that it’s runny, but not too thick so that it won’t run down the sides of the scones.
Line another baking sheet with foil and a wire rack and set next to your bowl of icing.
Place a scone upside down into the bowl of icing. Gently lift it out, right side up and balance it on a spatula (the kind you’d use to flip pancakes) As the icing starts to run down the sides, use a fork to help spread it around evenly. Place the iced scone on the wire rack and sprinkle with orange zest.
Repeat process with the rest of the scones. Allow to sit for at least one hour, until the icing has hardened.