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Dining In: Tea and scones

The return of “Downton Abbey” – as a movie this time – and fall, are reminders that the pleasure of a pot of tea served with finger sandwiches, scones and something sweet should not be missed.

Both upstairs and downstairs at Downton Abbey someone is always rustling up pots of tea in times of crisis or happiness. Upstairs the tea is served in English porcelain, while downstairs they have large earthenware teapots designed to serve a crowd. Either is perfect for an enjoyable cup of your favorite brew.

Scones transcend the idea of class and are paired with tea upstairs and downstairs; a scone (rhymes with gone or tone, depending on where you are) is a Scottish quick bread that is found throughout the British Isles. It takes its name from the Stone of Scone, where kings were crowned when Scotland still had them. Easy to bake, the varieties are endless; they can be made savory or sweet with added fruit, nuts, cheeses or herbs. Some are heartier, made with using oatmeal, while other are more refined, made with flour.

A full tea such as those served at Tilly Mint’s Tea Room in Souderton or Teaberry’s in Flemington, N.J., usually includes scones, finger sandwiches, soup or salad, dainty sweets and a pot of tea. Your home tea can be anything you like, served simple or fancy.

This basic scone recipe from could be served at afternoon tea at Downton Abbey. Serve scones warm with jam and/or clotted cream or butter.

Cream Scones
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons sugar
2½ teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons cold salted butter, cut into pieces
1 cup plus 1 tablespoon cold heavy whipping cream

1. Preheat oven to 350°F.

2. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.

3. In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt, whisking well. Using a pastry blender, cut butter into flour mixture until it resembles coarse crumbs. Add 1 cup cream, stirring until mixture is evenly moist. (If dough seems dry, add more cream, 1 tablespoon at a time.) Working gently, bring mixture together with hands until a dough forms.

4. Turn out dough onto a lightly floured surface. Knead gently 4 to 5 times. Using a rolling pin, roll dough to a 1-inch thickness. Using a 2-inch fluted round cutter, cut 12 scones from dough, rerolling scraps as necessary. Place scones 2 inches apart on prepared baking sheet.

5. Brush tops of scones with remaining 1 tablespoon cream.

6. Bake until edges of scones are golden brown, approximately 20 minutes.

7. Serve warm.