This post marks Day 7 of Miss Ginsu's 2008 Advent Calendar. To find other days and other projects, use the calendar page to navigate.
Somehow, we Americans tend to fixate on the Victorian era, particularly in London, as the point on the time-space continuum for maximum holiday revelry. I think we can blame Dickens for this.
These days, we don't travel in open sleighs, we don't open the shutters and throw up the sash to spy St. Nick on the lawn, and you won't catch us wearing furry beaver muffs or lighting lanterns around our homes unless it's for reasons of historical romance, but these visions all somehow seem holiday-appropriate to us.
Ice skating at 72nd Street Lake, Central Park, 1894, (from NYC Parks & Rec)
I won't argue with this oddity, but I'll offer that even though the classic English Tea Scone is not in any way fixed on the holidays, it certainly seems to be an appropriately festive addition to the landscape.
Superb English Tea Scones (Makes 10-12)
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
6 Tbsp butter
1/3 cup currants (optional)
1 large egg
1/3 cup milk or cream
Additional milk or cream (for brushing)
Sugar (for sprinkling)
1. In a mixing bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder and salt.
2. Cut in the butter with a pastry blender or a long-tined fork until the mixture resembles coarse cornmeal.
3. Whisk together the egg and half & half.
4. Mix the wet ingredients with the dry ingredients just until they hold together. Form a ball with your hands and turn the ball onto a floured work surface.
5. Heat oven to 400°F and lightly roll the dough into a 1/2" thick disc.
6. Cut disc into 10-12 wedges, and move the wedges to an ungreased baking sheet, 1" to 2" apart.
7. Brush each wedge with milk or half & half, then sprinkle with sugar. Bake until lightly browned, about 12-15 minutes.
Serve the warm scones alongside your favorite preserves and Devonshire cream, if you can get it. (If not, you can fake up a faux Devonshire cream by whipping 3 oz cream cheese, 1 tsp powdered sugar and 1 cup cream until thick and smooth. Cover and chill at least 2 hours.)
You'll want to gather some friends, iron your grandmother's linens and brew up a nice hot pot of tea to serve with your scones, of course. Coffee just seems... improper.