I love afternoon tea and all of the tradition that goes with it – the bone china teacups and saucers, the silver spoons, lace tablecloths, sugar tongs, cake stands and little creamers, they all add to the drama of taking tea in the afternoon and hark back to a more elegant era where there was always time for tea.
As well as the accoutrements that accompany a good afternoon tea, nice though they may be, there is the food of course; dainty sandwiches filled with wafer thin cucumber slices, egg and cress or ham, fluffy scones with plump dried fruit, elegant tarts of the tiniest proportions filled with confiture and cream, cakes of all shapes and sizes and flavours – chocolate, coffee and walnut, lemon, orange, cherry and classic Victoria sandwiches. Then there are the pastries and tiny bite-sized cakes - éclairs, cream and jam filled choux buns and French fancies. It’s all a cacophony of colour and flavour, in the most restrained way.
Although an afternoon tea is an all year around pleasure, there is something almost lyrical about talking tea in the summer; moving the tea table outside, maybe under a tree, then using brighter linens as befits the season - engaging with ginghams and checks, as well as more rustic vintage china. I love the whole pleasurable experience of eating outdoors, when the British weather is kind to us that is, and an afternoon tea is a perfect way to while away an hour or two with cakes and tea.
Dainty pastries and fancies can be replaced with fruit pies, galettes or tarts, and sandwiches can be a bit more substantial, although you can’t beat an egg and cress sandwich. And when it comes to the scones, the mainstay of any afternoon tea, you can be a bit more adventurous, especially when stone fruits are in season, such as apricots, cherries and peaches.
I have several recipes for scones; being an “afternoon tea kinda gal” I collect them in the same way that others may collect porcelain or butterflies! My current favourites are Rose Lemonade Scones, made with rose lemonade for a subtle floral fragrance and taste. But I am also partial to a good cheese scone too, especially when using a regional British cheese such as Blue Vinny or Wensleydale Cheese.
But, the recipe I am sharing today is for a beautiful fresh peach scone with cream. Small chunks of fresh peaches are added to the scone mixture along with double cream – this gives the scones a wonderfully soft and light texture with the added luxury of small pieces of cooked peaches…….all that is needed to serve them is some butter and good home-made jam or confiture. These scones also travel well for picnics and make a special treat for lunch boxes; again, all that is needed is a bit of unsalted butter and a dollop of jam.
Peaches feature a lot on my menu as summer draws to an end; we barbecue them, bake them, jam them as well as eat them freshly picked from our peach tree, but, I must say that our new favourite are these delicious little peaches and cream scones. Scones are always best eaten on the same day they are baked, but if you find yourself with a few left over (unlikely!) then they freeze very well too – just pop them into a zip lock freezer bag and they can be defrosted in a trice by putting the frozen scones into a warm oven.
Although a dollop of cream is also nice with these scones, we find that the tartness of some home-made jam along with the creaminess of fresh butter is all that is needed, after all, there is no need to over gild the lily, or should I say over peach the scone! These can be made in under half an hour, and that means less time in the kitchen, and more time at the summer tea table under the trees! Enjoy!