This year, I had an idea that I would band together with likeminded people to create a civilized alternative to the bowl. I would enlist them for Super Scone Sunday*: a tea party with no television in sight, just delicious scones and spreads, hot tea, interesting conversation, in a beautiful spot.
Three girlfriends signed on to help. I borrowed my friend Polly’s crew of fun, tea-loving friends as guests. Polly’s dear friend, Astrid, provided the light- and art-filled family-owned cottage in which to hold the tea. My girl, Regina, offered to help with the nuts and bolts of party production. Without these generous key figures, I would have been literally out in the cold, experiencing solitude, which can be fun, but not as much fun as drinking tea with your people.
As I’ve mentioned before, I have opened up my party giving to a more cooperative model. It’s more sustainable and ultimately more satisfying if everyone who wants to contribute can bring their creativity to the event. Being a guest is a contribution, too, like musicians needing an audience. With apologies to Hillary, “It takes a village” to make a wonderful tea party.
I have also learned to leave room for spontaneous magic. Certain things must be coordinated for success and there is no replacement for proper planning, but you can’t plan synchronicity, happy accidents, or kismet. Guests brought beautiful, complementary cookies and small pastries, nothing duplicated. Astrid had previously made beautiful spring arrangements that could not have been more appropriate. I brought a vintage tablecloth in shades of blue which went perfectly with the napkins and blue china that we found in the cottage. The mismatched champagne glasses we found included charming saucer-style champagne glasses as well as more practical flutes. Lovely!
I decided to make three flavors of scones and three spreads and let the gals bring the sweets. I chose parmesan-chive, currant orange, and toasted pecan maple as my scone flavors. I made lemon curd, balsamic onion jam, and chutney for chutney cheese spread to accompany the scones. I freestyled two basic scone recipes into these varieties. Scone dough is pretty forgiving of additions and hacks. When adding wet ingredients, such as fresh berries or cheese, just remember that the dough may be stickier, but resist the urge to add too much additional flour, as that can make the scones less tender and flaky. This website, Myteaplanner.com, offers two basic free scone recipes which can be found here: Free Basic Butter Scone recipe Cream Scone recipe The chutney cheese spread recipe is here: December, 2016 blog with chutney and chutney cheese recipes
The chutney cheese spread turned out to be the hit of the party. Spread on the parmesan-chive scone, it delivered savory but not too spicy flavor. I enjoy making my own chutney, so I generally have some on hand. It lasts in the fridge for a long time and water-bath cans beautifully for longer storage. But purchased chutneys can indeed be used successfully. Major Grey’s chutney is the traditional used in British cooking with Crosse and Blackwell the most recognized brand. Closer to home, Stonewall Kitchen makes a good version and is widely available.
When I was done with my spreads (they all can be made ahead) and the scones were cut and safely waiting in the freezer for baking, I could not resist making at least one sweet; I just couldn’t! Shortbread is arguably the most iconic tea time cookie as well as my personal favorite. Nothing is better than perfectly plain shortbread with a cup of hot tea. That said, the baker in me had to mess with the recipe. I added a teaspoon or so of Penzey's ground ginger and a knob of peeled, grated fresh ginger to the dough and baked a minute or two longer. If your ground ginger is a bit elderly or not the best quality, perhaps add a bit more and then promise yourself you’ll get fresher spices anon.
I encourage you to take every and any holiday or happening and make it your own. We needn’t be stuck with things how other people want them; we have the power to transform and enhance our experience while creating something beautiful for others: afternoon tea to the rescue. Go, Team Scone!
* I’d like to give a shout out to Sweet Remembrances Tea Room in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania for the great name, Super Scone Sunday. I haven’t been there personally, but if in the area, I would most definitely stop in for tea. Anyone who comes up with such a grand title, has to put on a fab tea, eh? Here is a link: Sweet Remembrances Tearoom
If anyone does go there for tea, do drop us a comment.