This time last year I was putting plans into place for an early Christmas present for my mum and sister. I definitely prefer to give ‘experience’ Christmas presents rather than material gifts where I can, mainly because at the end of the day, most people already have everything they need. Memories of nice days out will last forever though.
I was in secret talks with my dad organising a surprise Christmas afternoon tea at the Orange Pekoe in Barnes. It was all planned out, from dad playing chauffeur and driving them both up to the coffee shop, where I’d be waiting ready to meet them at the door with a sumptuous Champagne Christmas afternoon tea already ordered.
We had a lovely afternoon; three girls sipping on bubbles and enjoying the endless delights of the multiple courses of afternoon tea served up. It was lovely to catch up properly, gossip away and indulge just a little (ok, a lot) on the beautiful sweet and savory treats.
I always particularly enjoy the warm scones, smothered in thick clotted cream and topped with sticky strawberry jam. Or, jam topped with cream depending on your technique! It really is the ‘pièce de résistance’ of any afternoon tea and the essential component that could swing an average afternoon tea into a fabulous one.
In my opinion scones should be served warm from the oven, still slightly steaming as you pull them open. This makes them the perfect dish to bake at home served up immediately at the kitchen table. No need to try and distract yourself like you normally have to after you pull out a batch of brownies or cake from the oven, leaving them to cool completely in the tin, which of course is the ultimate punishment to any baker!
With a weekend ahead and minimal plans in the diary beyond a bit of Christmas shopping (did I just admit that I’m in full Christmas shopping mode already?) I thought coming home mid afternoon to bake some damson jam scones to keep me going till dinner sounded just about perfect. I doubt Will would put up much resistance either.
I came across a peach jam scone recipe in the Outside Tart cookbook and conveniently I had in the fridge a batch of mum’s homemade damson jam. This was definitely a sign I’d come across the recipe I was looking for.
Having never made scones before I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect. I read through the recipe and I felt well warned that the batter would be sticky due to the addition of the jam through the mixture. And sticky it was! I found it very difficult to cut it and ended up using a biscuit cutter to try and shape the scones into something resembling a circle. The method in the recipe book even went as far as to say ‘they can sometimes even look like a real mess, but they are delicious, so who cares?’ And they were definitely right!
As I said, I opted for more traditional looking scones, rather than the triangle shapes in the recipe picture and probably should have made them a little thicker going into the oven as the additional weight of the jam in the batter means that they really won’t rise up.
But, to be honest, I just didn’t care. I really couldn’t believe how good they tasted. I was shocked! Not that the recipe would deliver a delightful scone, but more that I could!
The top had a lovely crunch because of the sprinkling of demerara sugar on top. And when you cut them open, the dapples of damson jam could be seen against the steaming warm crumb. They were beautifully light, flavorsome and when smothered in thick cream and a spoonful more of jam, I was in heaven.
Spoil friends and family this Christmas and invite them over for afternoon tea and serve them the most divine damson jam scones.
Damson Jam Scones
Makes 8 round scones
400g plain flour
150g granulated sugar
1 ½ tbsp of baking powder
¼ tsp salt
115g unsalted butter, cold and diced
40g damson jam (this is a damson jam recipe you can follow) or steal some from my mum’s jam cupboard
Preheat the oven to 200 degrees C
Line two baking sheets with baking parchment.
Using an electric mixer, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt.
Piece by piece, drop in the butter and mix on a low speed until it is unevenly crumbly.
Remove the bowl from the mixer and stir in the damson jam, followed by the buttermilk.
Once the dough starts to come together, put it on a floured work surface. Please note the jam does make the dough very sticky, but don’t panic!
Pat the dough as best you can, until it’s about 2cm thick. It might be easier to place a piece of cling film on top of the dough when rolling or patting down.
Cut the scones into the desired shape and transfer to the prepared baking sheets. Make sure they are well spread out on the baking sheet as they will spread a little on baking.
Sprinkle some demerara sugar on top if you’d like to have a crunchy top.
Bake the scones for 18 to 20 minutes or until they are golden brown and firm.
As I said earlier, because of the jam, they may not rise as much as usual scones, but really who cares?!
Serve warm from the oven with some whipped up double cream or clotted cream if you’re feeling particularly indulgent, and more damson jam.
Oh… and a glass of bubbles if you’re feeling decadent.