As you are no doubt aware, this months IMBB
is being hosted by Clement from a la cuisine!
That’s the site where the photos and recipes where the photos will literally cause your eyes to burst out of their sockets and splat against the monitor, all whilst you salivate your mouth silly with an unwavering wish to be eating what he’s eating. Yeah, that one, you know it, right? Back to the matter at hand, tea was decided to be the theme of the event this month. Let’s sandwich a poem in;“We had a kettle; we let it leak:Our not repairing made it worse.We haven't had any tea for a week...The bottom is out of the Universe.”~Rudyard Kipling
What better way to get a little bit of a casual article rolling than some gentle, relaxing poetry. Picture the scene. You could just imagine sitting down on your sofa with a nice cup of tea whist reading that poem, or some of Kipling’s other works. I was doing the exact same thing the other week, only except I was drinking Dr Pepper, because I don’t like tea. Which is very strange in England; I am often met with scrunched up faces, befuddled by the mere conception that somebody isn’t delighted by the thought of ingesting the world’s only drink that has a cup invented – and named - specifically for using to drink it. If you’re thinking wine right now, I would just like to mention that that’s a glass, not a cup. Plus, tea cups need to complete the exciting ensemble with the addition of a fine tea saucer. Does wine get its own saucer? Hell no it doesn’t.
These fancy cups and plates aside, I still didn’t like tea and this was causing a huge problem for a cooking event that was very much focused on those loathsome leaves. There I was, sitting down in the middle of the night, the radio wailing out some non-offensive alternative-but-not-really (Coldplay’s always a good choice for these days) and I was in a panic. My hands were trembling, my lips were dry and I was considering just giving up on the whole thing. Just thinking about it left me physically drained and emotionally vulnerable. Then I remembered that this was all for IMBB #17 and I missed out on EoMEoTE #8 (Drama Queen Dramafest Dramatisation Edition) and toned it down a bit.
On Clement’s original post, he tells us that he wants us to share our “tea rituals and experiences”. Granted, I could scurry around a field of cookbooks, find something fancy looking that uses some tea and whip up a accompanying article that states that I’ve known this dish for years and swear by it, but that, my friends, would be lying. As it stood at the beginning of the month, my only tea ritual and/or experience is putting it into my mouth and wanting to spit it back out again. I suppose I could also include rubbing tea over paper to make it look aged for various craft projects when I was 11 years old, but I don’t think that’s really IMBB material.
So, what does tea mean to me? I mean, really. A quick wander around town and a look at the little tea shops scattered about the local scenery and its clear; Cream Tea. Not actually a drink combination of cream and tea, instead a little (traditionally mid-afternoon) dish of scones and a fine cup of tea, to bide you over until dinner time. Well, you can also have tea with crumpets or a bun. Hell, even a cake. Or, just biscuits. After a while you’ll probably be having it on its own. Or I’m sure I would if I liked the stuff. I’ll go with Cream Tea though, because I’ll be damned if I don’t love cream.
Cream teas were concocted in Devonshire by monks in the tenth century. No, seriously; some historians have manuscripts with all it written on, so it must be true! Apparently the monks’ monastery was raided by Vikings and stuff which set them back at bit so they enlisted the help of some local guys to help patch it up and fed them bread, clotted cream and jam. Which I’m sure was nice for them; these days a plumber is lucky to get an average cup of tea or coffee. How tea factored into the equation is likely another story, but one that has a simple answer; we can plonk tea alongside anything. Over the years the cream tea has bled out of Devonshire and around the country, taking up prominence in both Cornwall and Devonshire. Here in Dorset, there are plenty of cream tea options out there, just like at almost any decent church fete or community function nationwide. Basically, they’re not hard to get hold of.
All that history has probably left you a little hungry. So let’s have a look at the components in a cream tea. To make a really great one, we don’t need any fancy recipes or overly complicated cooking techniques, but we do need some tip-top quality ingredients. The first few things you’ll need to sort out is the cream and the tea. Clotted Cream is essential, so we’ll have to get some of that. You’ll also want a tea with a full body (I am informed by tea-drinkers that an Assam blend is a super choice for this) and your favourite strawberry jam. For a more authentic ‘olde England’ taste, make – or buy - an apple and strawberry jam. Apples were commonly used in the jam making process because of their copious supplies of pectin, a required element in the construction of any self-respecting jam. Once you’ve made/got yourself all of that, you can move onto the most crucial ingredient; the scone. Now, scones and crumpets are the quintessential English stereotypical food that we all eat whilst wearing our tweed jackets and speaking about the queen in our puh-rah-oh-pah English. I fear that people outside of our little island do not eat as many scones and crumpets as they should, because they taste great. Maybe we’ll cover crumpets another time, but today we’re all about the scone. It’s a wonderful little thing, the beautiful love-child of the cake and the biscuit (cookie?)
Coincidentally, ‘scone’ rhymes with ‘gone’. Let’s not forget this.
Makes 5 scones, so 10 scone halves. One scone is usually more than enough for one person.
I’m leaving a recipe for jam out of this, because I think experimenting with jams and the like is part of the fun of getting a good cream tea. A quick search around on the internet or a rummage around the local store and you’ll be able to find something you like.
If you can get hold of a good quality clotted cream, then go for it. If not, then have a look at the kind of cream you can get hold of. Is it pasteurized or not? If you can, then it’s strange that you can’t get hold of clotted cream, but you can make real clotted cream. If not, then you’ll be able to make something 95% like clotted cream by doing the following with 2 cups of double (heavy) cream. The yield of this is 1 cup, so you’re going to have to kiss 1 cup of it away in the long run. Its ok, clotted cream is twice as delicious. The stuff will keep for about 3 days, by the way, but there’s a good chance it won’t last that long anyway.
1. Place cream over a simmering double boiler until the cream has reduced by about half (to 1 cup). The time this will take will vary on all those annoying outside factors that affect stuff, so keep your eye on it. You’ll know it’s done when it has the same texture as soft butter and a hard, golden crust on top.
2. Transfer this to a bowl – yes, including that crust – and let sit for two hours. Then cover and refrigerate for about 18 hours.
3. Before serving, stir that crust into the cream.
- 250g self-raising flour
- 1 tsp baking powder
- pinch salt
- 45g unsalted butter, cubed and softened
- 1tbsp caster sugar (plus extra for glaze)
- 50g sultanas (raisins are ok)
- 1 large egg
- 100ml milk
- Preheat oven to gas 4/350 F/180 C. Line a baking sheet with some baking paper. Soak sultanas in warm water for about ten minutes. Drain and pat dry.
- Sift flour, baking powder and salt into a bowl. Add the cubes of butter and use your fingers to integrate the butter into the flour. Lift your hands out of the bowl as you rub the butter and flour together, to let the mixture get its floury hands on plenty of air (that helps when you bake)
- Stir in the sugar and sultanas and gently combine
- Beat the milk and the egg together, then make a well in the middle of the flour mixture and add about half of the mix. Stir in lightly with whatever apparatus you like to stir with. The less stirring you do at this stage, the better rise you’ll get on those tasty scones later on, so be gentle! Add more milk, if required, until the dough is smooth and not sticky. Turn out on to a floured surface and roll out – gently – until the mix is about 2cm high.
- Using a 7cm cutter, cut as many scones-to-be out of the mixture as you can. Re-roll and try and get a couple more, if possible, and then put them on the baking sheet. Brush with any leftover milk mixture (just use some milk if that’s all gone) and then sprinkle caster sugar on top.
- Bake in oven for 20-25 minutes, or until golden brown. Put on a wire rack and leave to cool for 15 minutes. Serve within the hour, as a truly great scone is still warm.
Whilst you assemble your scones, brew up your tea (if it’s an Assam blend, it’ll take about 3-5 minutes to steep. If not, well, you’ll just have to follow what your packet says, won’t you?) To assemble, slice the scones horizontally and put a thick dollop of clotted cream on, followed by a generous blob of jam onto each half. Serve alongside your tea and enjoy.
A cream tea is all well and good, but it’s not really what you’re after in an IMBB, is it? Most of the baking comes from making the scone, which doesn’t include any tea whatsoever. The whole thing smacks of “make something without tea and then slap a cup of tea against it afterwards”. Granted, there’s years of tradition and entire British counties who swear by it, but it just lacks the whole ‘cooking with tea’ bit that I’m sure people are more interested in. The only thing we can do is go back to the kitchen and knock up something else.
So, somewhat contrary to what I was saying earlier, I went exploring my cookbooks
for a good something that I could base a tea recipe off of. Which leads me to the following question; who likes doughnuts?
Chocolate Tea Truffle Doughnuts
- 80g dark chocolate (60% solids)
- 40g unsalted butter
- 3tbsp double (heavy) cream
- 1tsp tea leaves
- Bring butter and cream to a boil in a saucepan and then add the tea leaves and let steep for five minutes
- Break chocolate into small chunks in a food processor
- Pour the cream mix through a fine sieve over the chocolate and then discard the tea leaves. Stir the cream into the chocolate until smooth and then refrigerate for 2 hours, or until firm.
- To make the truffles, use a melon baler (or other similar spoon) and take a scoop out of the mix. Gently roll into a ball with your hands and then transfer to another bowl and chill in the fridge until ready to be used.
- 10g yeast or 2tsp dried active yeast
- 150ml tepid milk
- 25g caster sugar
- 400g strong white flour
- 2tsp salt
- 40g unsalted butter
- 2 eggs, beaten
- Ready your yeast in the milk. If using dried yeast, throw a pinch of sugar in there as well to get those yeast all revved up.
- Sift the flour and salt into a bowl, and then add the butter. Mix the butter into the dough with your fingertips until the mixture looks like breadcrumbs (you know the routine, right?) Mix in the sugar, and then make a well in the centre.
- Pour the milk mix into the well, as well as the egg (minus two tbsp for later). Mix to combine.
- Transfer onto a floured board and then knead until the dough is soft, smooth and elastic. This takes about 8 minutes with my hands. Then place into a lightly oiled container and leave to rise in a warm, humid place until doubled in size.
- Punch the yeast down, leave to rise again for about 20 minutes and then roll out the dough to 3-4mm. Using a 6cm cutter, make 40 circles of dough.
- To assemble the doughnuts, place one truffle on one piece of dough, then apply a light brush of the egg mix (were you wondering when we were going to use it?) around the edge of the dough. Press another layer of dough over the top and then seal with your fingers. Repeat this twenty times and you’re done.
- To cook these bad boys, heat up a deep fryer/fry pan/fry utensil to 180 degrees C and cook for about a minute and a half each. Let cool on a wire rack for a minute and then toss in caster sugar.
These doughnuts were delicious. They have a gentle tea taste that works great with the chocolate, and deep fried dough is so good it's in a world of its own. I definitely recommend knocking up a batch of these when you have the time.
Now all I’m left with is the million dollar question; did this IMBB unlock the door to tea for me? Well, in some respects, yes. The tea I had with the cream tea was nice – certainly drinkable – but it’s definitely not going to become part of my daily like. Cooking with tea, however, was much more successful. I’m eagerly anticipating the other entries into this IMBB to gather some great recipes (fingers crossed for a nice tea-smoked chicken recipe) so I can further enjoy the stuff. Which - I would like to think - is what things like IMBB are all about.