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Scones

Afternoon Tea: Lemon Squares, Half-blondie/Half-brownies, Crunchy Top Scones

“There are few hours in life more agreeable then the hour dedicated to the ceremony known as Afternoon Tea” – Henry James, The Portrait of a Lady

A dining experience that has come back into vogue in the last few years, the rebooted 21st Century Afternoon Tea can sometimes fall between being a stuffy, mock-aristocratic pastiche, or a doilies and egg sandwich “granny chic” event. This article lists a couple of the best options for Afternoon Tea around Ireland.

The key to hosting a successful Afternoon Tea at home is a diversity of sandwich fillings served on a selection of breads, a variety of tea (and coffee) options, and a selection of bite-sized cakes! Tray bakes are your best bet, as they can just be cut into slightly smaller portions then you would normally serve.

I’ve previously blogged about the Half-blondie, Half-brownies – the other treats in the photo are Lemon Squares from The Hummingbird Bakery cookbook, and Crunchy-Topped Sweet Scones from Darina Allen’s Ballymaloe Cookbook.

LEMON SQUARES

Preheat the oven to 170degC.

For the base, put 290g plain flour, 70g icing sugar, a pinch of salt, 230g unsalted butter and 2 tsp grated lemon zest in a freestanding electric mixer and beat until the mixer resembles breadcrumbs. Press the dough together with your hands, then press it evenly into the base of a deep baking tray, lined with baking parchment. Bake in the preheated oven for about 20 minutes, or until light golden. Leave to cool, with the oven left on, while you make the topping.

Put 210g caster sugar, 3 eggs, 100ml freshly squeezed lemon juice and 3 tsps grated lemon juice in a bowl and whisk with a balloon whisk until well mixed. Pour carefully over the baked base and return to the oven. Bake for 20 minutes, or until the edges are golden brown and the top has set. Leave to cool completely, then cover and refrigerate overnight.

CRUNCHY TOP SWEET SCONES

Sieve 450g plain flour, a pinch of salt, 25g caster sugar, and 1 and a half heaped tsp of baking powder into a large bowl. Cut 85g butter into cubes, toss in the flour then rub in the butter. Make a well in the centre. Whisk 3 eggs with 215ml milk, add to the dry ingredients and mix to a soft dough. Turn out onto a floured board.

Knead lightly, just enough to shape into a round. Roll out to 2.5cm and cut into scones with a ring cutter. Put on a baking sheet. Brush the tops with egg wash and dip each one in granulated sugar. Bake in the oven for 10-12 minutes until golden brown on top. Cool on a wire rack.

Serve split in half with jam and a blob of whipped cream.

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Mascarpone and Brown Sugar Scones

After a brief cooking hiatus, I made a batch of these extra rich scones from the previously-praised Baking Made Easy by Lorraine Pascale. Perfect for a weekend afternoon tea!

Preheat the oven to 210degC. Dust a large baking sheet with flour (I also put some baking parchment on the tray to prevent the underside of the scones from burning).

Put 340g self-raising flour, 1 tsp baking powder, a pinch of salt, 80g of cold, cubed butter and 2 tbsp of soft brown sugar in a food processor and pulse until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Add 80g mascarpone and pulse again for 3 seconds.

Pour the mixture into a large bowl and make a hole in the centre, then pour in enough milk to make a soft dough and stir with a knife. Use both hands to bring the mixture together, and squeeze, making sure any dry bits get picked up. It may seem like a crumbled mess but keep squeezing and the dough will come together. Knead lightly for a few seconds just to make the dough smooth and then roll out quickly on a lightly floured surface to about 2cm thick.

Cut out rounds using a 6cm round cutter and place them on the prepared baking tray. It’s important not to twist the cutter whilst doing this or the scones won’t rise evenly when baked.

Brush the tops with beaten egg and bake in the oven for 10-12 minutes, or until the scones are nicely risen, firm and golden brown. Remove from the oven and leave to cool a little on the tray. Serve warm with butter, jam, whipped cream and a big pot of coffee!