Monday, September 30, 2013

Something to Look Forward to...

Photo via here

I know that we have to wait until January, but there is something comforting about knowing this has started in Britain. I can't wait to see what mind is filled with possibilities. And, after last night's final episode of the television show Breaking Bad (I am a big fan), I am craving the relative peace and quiet and civilized pleasures of my favorite show from Britain. Ninety-seven days to go, but who's counting? 

Mother's Day Tea at the Peninsula Hotel, Beverly Hills
May, 2013

In the meantime, we may have to fortify ourselves with tea and scones to get through the long wait. There is rarely an episode of Downton Abbey that doesn't include afternoon tea. Here in Los Angeles many hotels serve beautiful teas. Meeting a friend or celebrating a special occasion over afternoon tea is a peaceful and serene experience that forces us to slow down and relax. It is one of my very favorite things to do.

 Christmas Tea for my Book Club at the Montage Hotel, Beverly Hills
December, 2012

 Tea and scones at home, December, 2011

But you don't need to go out for tea and scones. How about tea and scones in your own kitchen? You can easily enjoy this tradition at home. With October here, cooler weather and homey pleasures are coming up. This is a great time of the year to get into the kitchen and do some baking. One of my favorite recipes for scones is from Elizabeth Alston's book Biscuits and Scones. Easy and delicious, these can be whipped up in no time at all, making it easy to serve a batch of warm scones with your pot of tea. And your kitchen will smell heavenly.

I love the story that Henrietta Garnett tells in the memoir Charleston, Past and Present about her grandmother, the Bloomsbury artist Vanessa Bell, making scones.

"Tea was at five o'clock and, at about half past four, Nessa would go downstairs into the kitchen and put on the kettle. The kitchen was large, ill lit and rather gloomy. It had a concrete floor. Sometimes Nessa would make scones. She would stand at the kitchen table, remove her rings and hoik them up onto a nail above the sink, sift flour through her long fingers and let it drift into the pudding basin. She never spilled the ingredients; never made a mess. The recipe she used was not extravagant. It required a minimum of butter and lacked vanish of egg-yolk. They were plain scones and they were very good."

The story of this daily ritual with everybody stopping what they were doing and gathering for tea amidst all the bohemian chaos at Charleston is one I have always loved. And, really, it is as simple as that -- you can have warm scones from the oven in about an hour's time from start to finish.


Elizabeth Alston's Raisin Scones

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut up
1 cup raisins
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
Yolk of 1 egg
3/4 cup buttermilk
White of 1 large egg
Additional sugar for sprinkling

Heat oven to 375 degrees.  Put flour, baking powder, baking soda, nutmeg, and salt in large bowl; stir to  mix.  Add butter and cut in with a pastry blender or rub in with your fingers until mixture looks like fine granules. Add raisins and sugar; toss to distribute evenly.
Add egg yolk to buttermilk in measuring cup and whisk with a fork to blend. Pour over the flour mixture and stir with a fork until a soft dough forms.
Turn out dough onto a lightly floured surface and give 10 -12 kneads. Cut dough in half. Knead each half briefly into a ball; turn smooth side up and pat into a 6-inch circle. Cut into 6 wedges, but do not separate wedges. 
In a small bowl, beat the egg white with a fork until just broken up. Brush the top of each scone with egg white and sprinkle lightly with sugar. With a spatula, carefully transfer the two cut circles to an ungreased baking sheet. Bake 18-22 minutes, medium brown. Cool on a wire rack; after 5 minutes pull the wedges apart and cover with a dishtowel. This last step makes the scones especially tender.


And to go with those scones, my favorite tea. You can order it here.

Go here to watch the trailer for Season 4 of "Downton Abbey"

I looked at a few reviews (avoiding all spoilers) and they are glowing about this new season.


  1. One of the pleasures of being in London last week was seeing the premier episode! We snuggled down in our lovely hotel room, ordered up tea and biscuits, and felt incredibly guilty! Well, not really guilty. You'll love it all when it gets here! And really, for the life of me, I cannot figure out why they don't air them at the same time?? Can you? xoxo

  2. I'm thoroughly enjoying the new series of Downton. I don't think I'm giving anything away if I tell you that the clothes are just as beautiful as ever.

  3. Oh, my! The temptations you put before me, Sunday. Of course, I cannot wait until Downton Abbey airs here, but, waiting is half the fun, isn't it?, and those scones. Oh, my. I just came across a recipe, easy peasy, for wine jelly. It's on my agenda for making in the next few days. I think the jelly will need a scone, or four, to rest on.

  4. What a difference between Breaking Bad and Downtown, although both are so wonderfully written. I am a big fan of both also and am anxiously awaiting the return of Downtown. I will most definitely try your scone recipe. I have a favorite, but it never hurts to experiment. Thanks Sunday.

  5. I have a friend who has a bootleg copy of Downton, but I am going to wait until January to watch it. I like the excitement of watching it with millions of other people and the conversation the next day. At work, I am currently putting together a 'Waiting for Downton' display of books and movies that patrons can experience while they wait for January. I wish I could give them a cup of tea and a scone to go along with with books :-)

  6. Sunday,

    Good morning! I too am waiting for January to resume my Sunday ritual with my mother of watching Downton with a nice cup of cocoa! I love this show as well as many more on PBS and wish that there was more quality programs like it.

    I have heard of Breaking Bad but have not watched it, I think I may be the only one left in the US that has not watched.

    I thought of you recently while in Maine as I was at the Barbour store and they had a line of bags which were made in collaboration with the William Morris Foundation. They were fabulous!

    I hope that you have a great day!

    P.S. Do you have the cookbook, "Once Upon a Tart? It is named after the cafe by of the same name in NY and there are so many fabulous recipes in there, I think you might enjoy it. Another suggestion, is Plenty...not only visually stunning filled with scrumptious recipes.

    1. Elizabeth, I love Maine and I am so glad you had a chance to visit. Your post on Maine was wonderful! I don't have the cookbook but will look for it on your recommendation. I love the name!
      xx Sunday

  7. Will swop our British Downton, for your Homeland.....whoopie the new series starts tonight!!

  8. Can't wait for Downton, and I'm always ready to eat a scone!