A New Era

“You had better explore to Donwell,” replied Mr. Knightley. “That may be done without horses. Come, and eat my strawberries. They are ripening fast.”

‘Emma’ -Jane Austen

I have been a fan of sweets since I was young, but lately we’ve been challenging ourselves to reserve sweets for one day a week only. I’m accustomed to indulging in after-dinner dessert on the regular, so this switch has been an adjustment. I haven’t really been jonesing for sugar as much as I thought I would, but I definitely notice a difference. We recently got distracted and thrown off course, but Monday is a new day and starts a new week. For a few of my last “off course” moves, I enjoyed a guilt-free night out with my girls to watch the new Downton Abbey “talkie” a couple months ago. I dove into a big bag of buttery popcorn and washed it all down with a large Dr. Pepper. The next day, inspired by the film, I stirred together some fresh Strawberry Crumble Scones after seeing the recipe in a recent issue of Better Homes & Gardens Magazine.

If you order a scone in an American cafe, bakery, restaurant, or coffee shop; you will invariably receive a cloyingly sweet confection that only resembles a traditional English scone by shape. Maybe. You won’t get any cream or jam with it either. Thank goodness. They’re already plenty rich and sweet here! A real English scone is more akin to our American biscuits than the cakey-muffin-like confection called “scones” here. I have made both the conventional as well as the saccharine varieties. I tend to prefer the less sweet version (shocker, I know), but these strawberries-and-cream quick bread treats really test that preference.

Thought to have origins in Scotland, the crummy-crumbly scone has become ubiquitous on every cream or afternoon tea services across the pond and even here stateside. Clotted cream and jam are the time-honored accompaniments, but these scones possess both cream and fresh strawberries along with a generous helping of streusel. It initially felt a little sacrilegious to coat the surface of the tender, delicate treats. It was so much “sweet” in fact that I didn’t even add anything else when they emerged from the oven. I merely scooped one fresh out of the pan and enjoyed them as-is — and tried not to burn the roof of my mouth in the process.

On the whole, the summery combination of strawberries and cream makes me think of another austere English standard – Wimbledon. Since the first match of the first tournament, strawberries and cream has been a staple of Wimbledon. The combination of their being in season and trendy, made them a popular, cooling refreshment for spectators that just stuck and eventually became iconic. That Wimbledon’s most famous concession has remained the same price since 2010 is quite an impressive feat. This is due to heavy investment in sourcing local berries from Kent. The idea for strawberries-and-cream scones isn’t so far-fetched now, is it?

An Alpine strawberry grown today in the Elizabethan Garden at Kenilworth Castle and Gardens. Image courtesy of English Heritage.

Fun fact, the modern strawberries we know today is actually a hybrid of two species. One of these species is predominantly right here in North America. The other species hails from Chile. The hybrid species was developed and cultivated in Brittany, France in the 1760s. Another interesting thing to note is that the South American variety of strawberries were actually white and some were even yellow! The “berries” also not technically berries, but they are in fact fruit. Some may say that apple pie is all-American, but now I’m starting to think it’s strawberry jam instead.

I’m pretty fond of making strawberry jam. It’s easy, forgiving, and always delicious. Many of my friends’ babies are known to polish off a jar or two. I recently made a (very) small batch of blackberry jam from our trip to a local blackberry farm. Blackberries may grow like weeds here in Texas, but strawberry jam is far and away easier than blackberry jam. I typically serve my strawberry jam with giant, homemade buttermilk biscuits, but I also thought it would complement these scones quite nicely and would really amplify the creamy strawberry flavor!

Back to scooping scones fresh and piping-hot out of the pan… I have a confession to make. I’ve never actually hand-formed and scored homemade scones. I’ve made scones plenty of times, but I use a scone pan. I know this may sound like cheating, but the scone pan is just so perfect and takes alot of the guesswork out of forming and cutting. Why wouldn’t you use one if you had the option?! I do know someone who prefers to form hers by hand. No judgement here, but you can pry my scone pan from my cold, dead hands. It’s like having a stand mixer. Grandma may have mixed her cakes by sheer vigor and some serious guns built by years of home-keeping tasks, but I’m still using my stand mixer as much as I do have an appreciation for going back to the basics.

Pops of fresh strawberry hobnobbing with crunchy bits of toasted walnuts differentiate this recipe well from the average sweet scone recipe. Added texture is always a good idea in my opinion. Giving a dessert any kind of dimension this way, keeps the palate engaged and interested. It takes a dish from “good” to “better.” I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had a bite or two of a perfectly tasty dessert only to be wanting “something more” out of it. Some type of something to break up a too one-note dish. The streusel topping aids this, but frankly, the scones don’t really need it. If the recipe had never called for the streusel topping, the scones would have been just fine. So throw caution to the wind and don’t use it. Or throw the streusel on there. You do you. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed either way. None of my girlfriends were disappointed with their goodie bags.

What side of the scone fence do you fall on? Sweet or plain?

Currently Reading: Sam Houston and the American Southwest by Randolph Campbell


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