Wow! Spring has sprung and my garden is gorgeously filled with tulips and other spring flowers, so I think it’s time to treat family and friends to a spring tea.
I picked a bunch of the dried lavender flowers from last year, added some new growth, chopped it all fine and added it to one of my favourite scone recipes — delicious!
Scones are best served warm and fresh, split open, and topped with either lemon curd or thick homemade jam and clotted cream (Devonshire cream or crème fraîche). Originally from Devonshire County, England, Devonshire cream is a thick, buttery cream often used as a topping for desserts and it adds a nice finish to any scone.
Any kind of small tea sandwiches like egg, fish or asparagus wraps will be appreciated. Many teas offer fresh strawberries and a variety of pastries. An afternoon tea on a weekend is not a difficult thing to arrange and the kids, and grandmas in particular, really enjoy the effort.
Lavender Strawberry Scones
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
4 tablespoons sweet, unsalted butter
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons fresh lavender or 1 teaspoon dried culinary lavender, coarsely chopped
2/3 cup milk, plus extra for glaze
1 cup chopped fresh strawberries, sliced
Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Lightly spray a large baking sheet with vegetable-oil cooking spray.
In a large bowl, sift together flour and baking powder. With a pastry blender or two knives, cut butter into flour mixture until particles are the size of small peas or fine bread crumbs.
In a small bowl, combine the sugar and lavender. (Save a small amount of lavender to sprinkle on top of the scones before baking.) Stir the sugar/lavender mixture into the flour mixture. Add enough milk to make a soft, sticky dough. Turn dough out onto a well-floured surface. Cut dough into 1-inch thick rounds with a cookie cutter. Scones can be cut into any shape. Use a drinking glass to make circles, or cut into squares or wedges with a knife. Dip edges of the cutter in flour to prevent dough from sticking. Don’t pat the edges of the scone down; leave cuts as sharp as possible to allow scones to rise in layers.
Place scones on prepared baking sheet. Brush top of each scone with dash of milk and sprinkle with reserved lavender and sugar. Bake for approximately 10 to 12 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from oven and let cool. Serve with jam, whipped cream or Devonshire cream, and the sliced strawberries. Makes 12 scones.
Mock Devonshire Cream
3 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 cup heavy whipping cream
In a large bowl, combine cream cheese, sugar and salt; stir until well-blended. Stir in whipping cream. With an electric mixer, beat mixture until stiff. Store in refrigerator. Makes approximately 3 cups or enough to serve 12.
Cucumber Tea Sandwich
1/2 seedless cucumber, peeled and very thinly sliced (about 32 slices)
1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup coarsely-chopped watercress leaves
16 slices best-quality white bread
Salt to taste
1/2 cup alfalfa sprouts
In a small bowl, combine butter and watercress; spread on one side of each slice of bread. Lay cucumber slices onto the buttered side of eight slices of bread.
Sprinkle the cucumbers with salt. Cover each with 1 tablespoon alfalfa sprouts and top with the remaining slices of bread, buttered side down. Carefully cut the crusts from each sandwich with a long, sharp knife after the sandwiches are filled. Cut the sandwiches in half diagonally and then cut in half again. If desired, decorative shapes can be made with cookie cutters. Yields 8 whole sandwiches, 16 halves or 32 fourths.
Note: Choose the best-quality white or wheat bread as possible. Never serve end slices. Freezing the bread before cutting and then spreading makes for easier handling. Place cucumber slices between layers of paper towels to remove excess moisture. This recipe is nice with a little smoked salmon as well.
Lemony Lemon Brownies
3⁄4 cup flour
3⁄4 cup granulated sugar
1⁄4 teaspoon sea salt
1⁄2 cup unsalted butter, softened
2 eggs, large
2 tablespoons lemon zest
2 tablespoons lemon juice
For the tart lemon glaze:
1 cup icing sugar
8 teaspoons lemon zest
4 tablespoons lemon juice
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease an 8×8 inch baking dish with butter and set aside.
Zest and juice two lemons and set aside. In the bowl of an electric mixture fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the flour, sugar salt, and softened butter until combined.
In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs, lemon zest and lemon juice until combined. Pour it into the flour mixture and beat for 2 minutes at medium speed until smooth and creamy.
Pour into baking dish and bake for 23-25 mins, should turn golden around the edges. Allow to cool completely before glazing. Do not overbake, or the bars will dry.
Glaze: Sift the icing sugar and whisk with lemon zest and juice. Spread glaze over the brownies with rubber spatula and let glaze set. Cut into bars and serve. Perfect served with fresh strawberries and dollop of whipped cream.
Cathi Litzenberger is The Morning Star’s longtime food columnist, appearing every other Wednesday and one Sunday per month.