The Rubbing Method (British Scones)

July 23, 2014

Often, when I’m sitting with the guests at the breakfast table, I learn something new.  Monday was one of those days.

When I’d spoken with Susan on the phone a couple of days prior to their reservation date, of course, I’d noticed her British accent right away, but we’d been extra busy and I didn’t think about it again.  Yesterday afternoon when she and her husband arrived, we chatted for a time and she told me that when she moved here from England, she quickly learned that Americans just didn’t do the whole Tea Thing properly.  (I certainly don’t, so I knew what she meant.)  This morning at the breakfast table we continued that conversation, and it hit me like a ton of bricks that I’d completely forgotten the tea shop reference from the day before.  Continuing our chat, she went on to describe how she’d thought about the idea of opening up a tea shop for many years and at age 39, she did exactly that.  And she did it for 10 years.  She described how everything was homemade and how much guests always appreciated the experience.  During this chat, my mind began whirling and my heart started sinking – further and further into the stew pot, since in our busy-ness (complicated by the installment of a new hot water heater which necessitated an entire basement clean-up on the day of their arrival), I couldn’t seem to get my mind around making a brand new sweet treat for breakfast.  Occasionally, I’ll use a couple of homemade scones or muffins from the freezer that I keep for emergencies, and this situation seemed to fit because the homemade cinnamon bun dough wasn’t going to work either.  (With Yating, our Chinese guest being here for 3 weeks, the time obviously had gotten away from me and the dough from the freezer wasn’t going to rise.  So no emergency help there.)  I rarely use the frozen left-overs for guests’ breakfasts, but they’re still lovely and guests seem perfectly delighted by them.  (We always get easy-to-please guests).  Soooo…..I’d put two of these previously-frozen blueberry scones alongside 2 pieces of buttered toast from the homemade bread that was fresh on their breakfast table.  But as I sat there, listening to the rubbing method – the first mixing method introduced to Susan in her “cookery” class when she was in about the 7th grade, where she’d learned to put her thumbs and little fingers together to gently rub butter into the flour mixture of quick breads and pastries by sort of fanning the mix from thumbs an little fingers onto each of the other fingers then back into the bowl, I knew I had but one alternative.  I’d have to rub out my egregious error of serving frozen left-over scones to a Scone Queen who’d only served fresh scones her whole life by confessing.  There was no way around it.  So that’s what I did.  She laughed and smiled all at the same time, with her eyes too, and I knew I would live to serve yet another breakfast after their departure.  And then I begged her for her British Tea Shop scone recipe, which she graciously recited for me.  I made them yesterday for our guests, who loved them, but ohmygosh, there were left-overs, even after I sent some home with them, had David deliver a couple to Miss Phoebe and the saving of some for David’s lunch.  Oh dear.  Only one thing to do.  Yep. They’re in the freezer.  You just never know when you might rub against a real emergency and need a real British Tea Shop scone.

Susan’s British Tea Shop Buttermilk Scones

4 cups King Arthur all-purpose flour

pinch salt

2 tsp baking soda

2 tsp cream of tartar

Rub in (or cut in with a pastry blender like I learned to do it from my mother) 6 T butter.  Stir in 1/4 cup sugar.  Stir in add-ins, like fruit or chocolate chunks (which I used yesterday).  Stir in 1/2 quart buttermilk.  (Susan said that if you find yourself without enough buttermilk, you can add some lemon juice to regular milk).  Cut out in rounds.  Brush with milk, then sprinkle with sugar (which I forgot to do but which I’ll certainly do the next time).  425 degrees – 15 min’s.

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