For years my critique group has been celebrating members’ birthdays with restaurant lunches. The pandemic scuttled that tradition. And after we could get together again, some members did not want to gather in public places. In response, we switched to lunches at members’ houses with the birthday girl ordering the food.
In November we tried something different–an elegant tea party at my house, dressed in
our tea-party best.
We set an opulent table, with traditional tea-party foods. Nancy Baggett and I made all the little sandwiches on the morning of the party. The only thin bread I could find was Pepperidge Farm Light Bread. In addition to being thin, the slices are also small, which is why a lot of the sandwiches are triangular. We made smoked salmon and cream cheese with dill, cucumber and cream cheese, egg salad, and deli corned beef with mustard, mayo, cheese and coleslaw garnished with a gherkin slice.
You can see we also have a fruit salad, mini cupcakes bought by Toby Devens, Nancy’s thumbprint cookies, and my homemade scones.
Here’s a scone closeup.
Since I’d never made scones, I followed my late mom’s recipe–with some modifications. Nancy Baggett and I joke about “the inevitable explanation” when serving a new recipe for the first time. This scone recipe has a lot of them. Mom called for milk. After looking at a number of recipes online, I decided to use half and half. I slightly increased the sugar. She called for apricot brandy. I couldn’t find any and subbed peach. (Note: if you’re looking for currants, Whole Foods has them.) And I clarified some of her directions. Another modification is the shape. Hers were round. The modern recipes I found cut the scones into wedges, which is obviously more efficient. You’ll notice this isn’t my usual recipe format, but her way of combining the ingredients and the directions worked. I think she’d be pleased that I’ve shared her recipe here. (And thanks to my daughter, Elissa Webber, for transcribing my mom’s handwritten version into an e-mail.)
Currant Apricot (or Peach) Scones
(Bake at 400F)
Soak 1/2 cup currants (or raisins) in 2-3 tablespoons of apricot liqueur (or 3 tablespoons of Apricot Brandy)
In a medium bowl combine 2 cups of flour, 3 tablespoons of sugar, 1/4 teaspoon of salt, and 1 tablespoon of baking powder. Mix well.
Cut 6 tablespoons of butter or margarine into small pieces. Add to flour mixture. With a pastry cutter or two forks, cut the butter into the flour until you have small pea-sized pieces.
Drain the currants. In a small bowl, combine the currants with 1/2 cup of half and half and 1 egg. Beat with a fork to mix. Stir the egg mixture into the dry mixture until combined.
Flour your hands and turn out dough onto a floured board. Knead 12-15 strokes.
Pat out to a seven-inch rounds. Cut into 8 wedges. (Start by cutting into quarters.) Lay out scones a small distance apart on a baking sheet and brush with half and half.
Bake at 400F, 12-15 minutes, until lightly browned. Do not overbake.
Cool scones on a wire rack. When thoroughly cooled, store in a closed container. Serve with a variety of jams and/or clotted cream. (I also used honey butter.) Scones can be kept for a few days at room temperature or up to a week, tightly sealed, in the refrigerator.
And here are the party girls showing off their festive outfits. Note that Amy Kaplan is wearing the Japanese tea kimono she made (even the shoes) for a science-fiction convention.
NY Times & USA Today best-seller, Rebecca York, is the author of over 150 books. She has written paranormal romantic thrillers for Berkley and romantic thrillers for Harlequin Intrigue. Her romantic-suspense series, Decorah Security, is set at a detective agency where agents have paranormal powers or work paranormal cases. She also writes an Off-World series where each story is a science fiction romance taking place on a distant planet in the far future. She also writes the Unbound series for Changeling Press.