Finally, a place to speak the mother tongue.
After nearly a year
of sputtering out attempts at foreign languages, we've come to a place of English fluency.
The place where our own American language originated. The place where people understand dry humor!
|Curiosity killed the sheep...or it simply allowed the sheep to walk along eating grass.|
It feels good.
Sarcasm doesn't translate well into other languages, and I am throwing out so many built-up jokes with the new people I meet here that I can only assume they are actually becoming afraid.
|The beer garden at our current host's place, The Grampus Inn, an orca whale-themed pub ("grampus" meaning orca whale)|
But speaking of feeling good, we've anchored ourselves in a cozy room atop a traditional British pub serving "real ales" and surprisingly good, local food.
Grub is provided to us straight from the menu in exchange for a smattering of work throughout the day and two days off per week.
Luckily, our host "over-staffed" with volunteers, so the workload is quite light, leaving plenty of time to explore the Devon coast (that lies a mere 400 yards distant) or to simply take leisure time (a personal favorite) catching up on reading, writing, and beating John in backgammon.
|Care for a stroll?||
|A favorite walk with a taste of wildflowers|
But what's the use in trying to tell you about a traditional British pub if you don't first understand one of the basic building blocks of traditional British food and drink?
|I need three takers. Anybody?|
It's not tea with cream in it, and it's not tea-flavored cream.
It's tea with scones (rhymes with "johns"!), clotted cream
, strawberry (!) jam, sugar, a saucer of milk, and an extra pot of hot water in case you feel the need to dilute the brashness of black tea (and yes, you will be having black
tea with that cream, because what other tea exists in England??).
The name doesn't really make sense, but it's British and it's a tradition and that's just what it is, ladies and gents.
|Obviously the Brits are going to cut their scones circle-style, but as a crazy American you can cut any shape you please!||
|The first batch had a smoother top, probably because they were done by Bill the expert and he had added a bit more milk|
Tired from your hike? In need of a pick-me-up? Or maybe just in the mood for a healthy snack based on flour, butter, and sugar?
Well, look no further than the British Cream Tea, starring a perfectly baked scone (which, I suppose, is the British version of what we might think of as a dense southern-style biscuit) and tea. Black tea. With milk and sugar.
It is a cute tradition, I can't deny it. These polite Brits politely duck into the pub, throw polite looks around and settle finally upon you with a smile, "Might ye have any cream tea?"
Why of course
good sir, of course we have cream tea! And I know exactly how you want it because I know that you want it exactly how it has always been served according to British tradition. How simple, how orthodox!
|Could you say no to this tradition? Really?|
Health-wise, it's questionable . . . to say the least. I've warned you.
But damnit, it's tasty. And who wouldn't want to take a break for something called a "cream tea" even if the name doesn't fully make sense?
We were shown scone makery by a British master, Bill, our host here at the pub. The contents are amazingly simple and throwing it all together is surprisingly easy.
Just make a batch, put it in the oven, and while it cooks, make your second batch. Keep that system going for as many batches as you like, because these babies freeze for the long haul.
|Which babies freeze? THESE babies freeze! Baby freezing!|
(and yes, we broke the mold and made a star shaped scone, seen at the top of the scone pile. America!)
Cream teas for days . . . months . . . years
Once you get a hold of your jam, clotted cream
(ask a specialty store* or click that link), and black tea, all you need is a tasty scone. And fancy that, I have a recipe right here . . .
*I didn't tell you this, but conceivably you can substitute butter for clotted cream. But at least use a quality butter.
Authentic British Scones
self-raising flour (or regular flour + 1 tbs baking powder)
200g margarine or butter, room temperature & cut into chunks
350ml (about 1 1/2 cup) or less milk
Preheat oven to 220 C or 400 F
Sift flour (this is not just to remove impurities, but to allow air to get in there for a better scone texture), then combine with sugar, baking powder, and a dash of salt. If using a stand mixer flat beater
attachment, mix flour and sugar on low until combined, add butter and mix until combined, then slowly add milk until mixture just
begins to stick to itself, but isn't too wet. If mixing by hand, combine flour and sugar, then mix in butter. Make a well in the center and mix in milk until dough sticks together. The dough will be relatively set and just past the "crumbly" stage.
Turn dough on to a lightly but evenly floured surface and press
out (don't knead!) until you reach a thickness of about 3/4 inch. The goal is to just barely
flatten the dough out, so use your hands and don't over-knead.
Use a deep cookie cutter to cut out your scones, working quickly because once the milk hits the self-raising flour, the "raising" component in the flour is activated, so you want to get these babies into the oven asap to get the full effect. Gently press out leftover dough and cut more scones out.
Once scones are placed on baking sheet, brush tops with a quick sweep of milk or beaten egg.
Bake for nine minutes, take out and flip pan around, and bake nine minutes more.
|One bite of this and you're basically British|
Ideally (once you're at pro-status), you'll make another batch of dough during the first nine minutes, and when you open the oven door to rotate the first batch, you throw in the second batch, and so on.
Bake each batch for 18 minutes total, or until barely golden on top.
|Bill the scone master tests the texture||
|Have you ever seen a tray of scones this creepy?|
Cream tea away!
(follow me by e-mail
for more British adventures—yes, they do