easy-peasy cheesey scones

From my many afternoon teas, it is well known that I do love a good scone – smothered in clotted cream and jam (in that order), and I have a recipe for plain scones here.

However, that is not where my scone love ends.

In fact, when I was still living with my parents, my dad (a huge cheese eater) used to love cheese scones, so this is something that I learned to make very young. This really is the easiest recipe in the world – and is a great way to use up the last bits of any hard cheeses you have clogging up the fridge.

I haven’t made them for years, but made them yesterday, and The Girl immediately fell in love with them!  I have to admit, I couldn’t remember how thick to roll them out to, so experimented to gauge – hence why mine are varying heights in the photo!

Yummy cheesey goodness
Yummy cheesey goodness

Ingredients (makes about 8 scones)

220g self-raising flour
50g butter, cubed (at room temperature)
80g mature cheddar, grated (although you can use up any hard cheese you have)
150ml milk
1 tsp mustard powder (or slightly more if you prefer it!)
pinch of salt
a little extra grated cheese for the tops!

Method

  1. Heat the oven to 220C/200C fan/gas 7.
  2. Put the flour into a large bowl and rub in the butter until there are no lumps of it left.
  3. Add the salt, mustard and cheese and stir well  before adding about 3/4 of the milk. Add the rest of the milk slowly until it comes together as a soft dough – you may need a little more than 150ml, but you may need a little less!
  4. Dust your surface with a little flour and roll the dough out to about 2cm thickness.
  5. Use a plain cutter and don’t wiggle it when you press the scones out – this tends to stop them from rising properly.
  6. Lightly flour your baking sheet before placing the scones onto it. You don’t have to leave much space between them – they should grow up rather than out!
  7. Sprinkle your extra cheese onto the tops of the scones and put into the top of the oven for about 12-15 mins – they should be well risen and a lovely golden colour.

I love them about 5 minutes out of the oven, split open with some naff spread like Dairylea or Seriously Strong and a bit of ham.  But they do keep OK in an airtight container to have the next day (if you have any left over!)

Advertisements

afternoon tea, podium restaurant, london hilton park lane

Back in November, I bought a Time Out 2 for the price of 1 voucher for a Confessions of a Chocoholic‘ afternoon tea at the Podium Restaurant.

Luckily it had a long time til the expiry date, and me and my friend finally got round to using it on Wednesday.

I have had a chocolate afternoon tea before, at Claridges – and I was definitley looking forward to having a similar experience!  Of course, it was totally different, but not any less fabulous!

Open sandwiches
Open sandwiches

So, first of all, (after being served with our champagne – and very nice it was too!) we were given our sandwiches – unlike any that I’ve had in the past, we were presented with a beautiful plate each of open sandwiches – egg mayonnaise & cress, smoked salmon & horseradish, cream cheese & cucumber, ham, mustard & tomato and prawn marie-rose.  We could have had any combination we asked for 🙂  they were lovely and fresh and, being open, they weren’t too filling.

A Tower of Delights
A Tower of Delights

I almost always go for the Assam tea, but felt daring – so for the first time ever I tried Lapsang Souchong (delicious and unbelievably smokey) – which they brought with the main attraction – look at that!  Doesn’t it all look amazing?

In the words of The Orb - these were little fluffy clouds!
In the words of The Orb – these were little fluffy clouds!

The scones were warm, fluffy and light.  We got one chocolate chip one each (which also had a couple of crisped rice bits in them) and one plain and one fruit.  As well as clotted cream and extremely strawberry jam that had obviously been made on the premises, there was a gorgeous kind of praline chocolate mousse.  Scones with chocolate (and clotted cream) – I can NOT stress how good this tastes.  I mean really, chocolate and scones, who knew?!  It sounds so wrong but it was oh so right!

The middle tier was lovely but the least exciting – a Battenberg (and neither of us like marzipan), two small cupcakes (and again, neither of us are that keen on American-style cupcakes – I mean, what is it with all that icing? why do they need it?) but these were quite nice as they had little surprises in the centre.  The sachertorte was VERY scrummy though. Chocolatey and rich.

How pretty do they all look?
How pretty do they all look?

The top tier was the star of the show – a choux bun filled with a chocolate orange mousse and topped with an iced shortbread butterfly; a white chocolate pot filled with chocolate  mousse and raspberries; a macaron that reminded us of those chocolate limes that you used to get in sweetshops; a rhubarb and custard meringue on a stich and a marshmallow ‘ice cream’ in a cone on a stick, both in a glass of sherbert topped with little edible balls and finally a white chocolate ganache/mousse slice filled with cherries that had been soaked in kirsch (I think) and coated in something crunchy.

It was all absolutely amazing – tasty, gorgeous and surprisingly not too sweet.  Fantastic 🙂

So, we were getting ready to leave, happily full but not uncomfortably stuffed when the waiter came over and asked us if we had finished.  I said yes thank you and continued, so he asked again, did we not want any more?  I was shocked – was there another course or something that we weren’t expecting?  And then he pointed back to the tower and asked if we wanted it wrapped.  It was only then that I realised that the glittery ‘wooden’ board that the top tier of goodies had been on was in fact chocolate!  A block of dark chocolate.

I did indeed want to take it home, so he disappeared for a few seconds and then came back with it all packaged in a lovely little box for me to bring home.

Posh Doggie Bag
Posh Doggie Bag

All in all, it was a wonderful experience.  I would thoroughly recommend it.  The ‘Confessions of a Chocoholic’ Afternoon Tea at Podium Restaurant is £29.50 usually, or £37.50 with a glass of champagne.

“afternoon” tea, caffe concerto, tott crt rd

Caffe Concerto Tott Crt Rd
Caffe Concerto Tott Crt Rd

After my disasterous afternoon tea at the Doubletree by Hilton, I was rather wary of the fact that I had another Groupon voucher that was about to expire.

However, I had paid almost half the price for this one – £17 for two of us, and Caffe Concerto are one of the few places that serve afternoon tea pretty late (up til 7pm), so it appealed to a catch-up with my late-working friend, and our love of the naughtiness of ‘afternoon tea for dinner’!

With trepidation, I wandered into Caffe Concerto in Tottenham Court Road, one of a chain of about 13 restaurants around London I believe, even though I had never noticed them before!

These were not the sumptious surroundings like the hotels where I’ve had afternoon tea before, being more of a café / restaurant / coffee bar, but it was all sparkly, clean, bright and nicely decorated.  I was immediately put at ease by the staff who were extremely warm and friendly.

When my friend turned up, we were asked for our choice of teas /coffees / hot chocolate (note that Doubletree – choice!) and pretty quickly our three tiers of loveliness were brought out.

2012-11-28 18.56.20
Three Tiers Of Loveliness

I was so relieved when I saw it – the sandwiches looked fresh and inviting, and there was half each of three rounds, there were TWO scones each and although there were only three cakes, they looked amazing.

The sandwiches were smoked salmon, cucumber and cream cheese and egg mayonnaise – crusts cut off, bread nice and fresh and plenty of filling – nothing out of this world, but very pleasant.

The scones were seductively warm, light, extremely well risen, and we had one fruit and one plain each.  Also, they were obviously aware of the size of their pots and people’s love of cream and jam as the waitress had specifically said “If you want any more cream or jam, just ask me”, and we did ask for another little pot of jam, which was brought quickly and with no fuss.

Caffe Concerto specialise in their cakes I believe, and we were given three random ones – I noticed that the people around us all got a different selection, which I actually thought was a nice touch.  we had a lovely chocolate gateau, a kind of lime cheesecake mousse  that was very scrummy and my favourite, a little apple & blackberry tart topped with crumble and sliced almonds.

On to of that, we had a teapot each, which we got two cups out of, and then we had another teapot each – and being the sad beast that I am, I got very excited because their little teapots were the best pourers I have come across in ages!  There is something rather sublime about a well-designed teapot!

I have to say though, one of the best things about Caffe Concerto was the atmosphere, it was relaxed and perfect for the girlie catch-up we were having and the staff were absolutely fantastic.  They couldn’t be more helpful, they were smiley, friendly and totally approachable.

Also, the food that was coming out for dinner looked really good for the price and the kitchen smelled amazing!

At a normal price of £42.95 for two, it isn’t the cheapest I’ve seen BUT it is good, fresh, the staff are fantastic and it’s a far more relaxed atmosphere than some.  seeing as they have branches in shop-heavy areas (including Westfield!) it’s the perfect place for a shopping-day treat.  And if you manage to get a deal like I did, you just can’t go wrong!

Afternoon Tea Menu
Afternoon Tea Menu

afternoon tea, doubletree by hilton west end

I have been putting off writing this review as I really haven’t wanted to revisit my experience.  If I hadn’t had such great company I would have been absolutely livid that I had wasted half a day’s holiday from work for this.

Yes, I booked with a Groupon voucher, but many of the afternoon teas I have experienced over the past couple of years have been through Groupon, and I haven’t had a bad experience until this one!

First of all, let’s have a look at what I was expecting from Doubletree by Hilton West End.

Groupon offer details from Doubletree by Hilton West End

So, we arrived, and I have to say, the setting is lovely.  The reception is very elegant, and the lounge bar where afternoon tea is served had a contemporary open fire, and was very tastefully decorated in aqua, charcoal, black and silver.  All very nice so far.

It was buzzing and almost every table was occupied.

I wasn’t even asked for my name to confirm my booking, I handed over my voucher and our waitress informed us that she was very sorry as they were extremely busy.  That didn’t sound great, but there seemed to be quite a few staff, so I wasn’t too concerned at this stage.

We were brought our ‘Brut Cuvée’ which was my first surprise.  I honestly thought that Brut Cuvée would be more dry, but this was extremely sweet, almost like a sparkling dessert wine.  I assumed that I must have been wrong (which does happen occasionally) , although it really wasn’t too pleasant.

We then waited at least half an hour for everything else to arrive.  When they brought our tiered stand of goodies, the waitress said “I’ll just bring your tea – English breakfast is OK isn’t it?”…and then rushed off.  being English, we weren’t going to make a fuss, but I thought that this was far from the ‘selection of teas, coffees or herbal infusions’ that we were offered.  And this was the first time I hadn’t been offered a menu or choice!

And this is what we were brought.

The ‘pomp and circumstance’ promised by Hilton

Sandwiches

Expected: Freshly cut finger sandwiches, such as smoked salmon or cucumber and cream cheese, make for mouth-watering savoury morsels

Received: Three small fingers of extremely thinly cut cucumber (no cream cheese) and what I assume was flavourless turkey and cranberry.

Sweet treats

Expected: sweet pastries, toasted tea cakes, and fruit cake will sweeten up the selection.

Received: something a bit like a fondant fancy, but nowhere near even as good as Mr Kipling, sickly sweet. A strawberry tart that seemed like it had been frozen – the pastry was soggy, the strawberry was more like sweet jam and there was barely any creme patissiere.  There were also two mini eclairs that were nice enough, but the moisture on the plate had soaked into them and one of them had been on its side so the chcolate had melted off in the damp and onto the tart.

Scones

Expected:  a sugary finale of clotted cream and fruit preserves adorning warmed, pillowy scones.

Received: one scone each, which is the stingiest I have ever experienced.  I have to say, the scones were actually very nice. However, there was no jam at alll given to us and we had to ask for it.  this wasn’t a mistake, as the people on the tables each side of us had exactly the same problem.

On top of that, the teapot didn’t even hold enough to completely fill our two teacups, so we had to keep asking for another pot, which was always slow in coming – in fact we asked three times for one.

I have never been so disappointed by an afternoon tea.  It didn’t feel special at all, although the surroundings and atmosphere were lovely.  And this was Hilton – I name I expect to be associated with luxury and a bit of glamour!

I really don’t know what to think about it.  Part of me wants to write to Hilton to complain, but I don’t know what I would expect to get out of it.

All I could do was apologise to my ‘date’ – he expected far better than what he got!

the great scone debate

Can anyone NOT like scones with clotted cream & jam?

As you may have noticed, I am a total fan of afternoon tea.  Once you get past the sandwiches, this will ALWAYS bring up the great debate of ‘which comes first’?

So…what do YOU prefer??

afternoon tea, bea’s of bloomsbury (mar 11)

Bea's of Bloomsbury

I took The Girl on a rather decadent day out last month, and it included our favourtie Sunday past time – afternoon tea!

This time, I had booked up at Bea’s of Bloomsbury.  I had heard great things about them, but never been myself.  We went to what  (I assume) is their original branch in Theobald’s Road.

It’s a lovely little place, but IS very ‘compact and bijou’, especially if you are sat near the counter as we were.  Luckily, on a Sunday in that part of London, there isn’t much passing trade, so we weren’t disturbed.  The décor is contemporary and sophisticated and a little quirky.  It comes across very much as a cake shop rather than a ‘tea room’ if that makes sense.

We were given a choice of teas and brought our selection of savoury baguettes.  These were 3 each of a third of 3 different baguettes.  They were very nice, but a little more ‘trendy’ than the traditional finger sandwiches that you get, so The Girl wasn’t quite as keen.  They did tell me what they were, but i can’t for the life of me remember – but *I* liked them. One had chorizo and peppers in, and as far as I’m concerned, chorizo makes everything better!

Then came the exciting stuff.  the scones and cakes!

Cakes!! (And scones)

Oh my – this was an absolute treat, and my hips expanded about 2″ just looking at the serving plate.

Of course, there were the obligatory scones, jam and clotted cream.  These were lovely and light, but obviously not the intended stars of the show.  Bea’s has a display absolutely bursting at the seams full of cakes, cupcakes and other glorious baked treats, and this is where they excel.

We had 2 cupcakes – one vanilla & raspberry and one chocolate fudge.  They were light, full of flavour with beautiful frosting.  We then had a selection of mini meringues, marshmallows, brownies, blondies, chocolate & almond biscuits and killer brownies.

What a glorious sight!

If you like your cakes, this is the place for you – they were all so well made, so full of flavour.  The marshmallows were a welcome addition too – I loved those as they’re not something you usually see with an afternoon tea.  however, the sheer amount of ‘cake’ became a bit much after a while, and felt a little heavy.  We couldn’t finish and ended up taking some little biscuits and a brownie home for The Man.  I think that a little fruit pastry or a lighter more mousse-like cake would’ve been a relief.

However, at just £17 each you can’t really complain – and if you go prepared there really isn’t anything not to like. It was all top-notch!

quick and easy fluffy scones

I am not intending to include loads of recipes all of a sudden, but I have just made scones using the same recipe I’ve been using for a couple of years, and seems to yield gorgeous results every time!  I love the fact that I can go from no scones to scones in less than half an hour.

Yummy yummy scones!

Ingredients

  • 350g self-raising flour , plus more for dusting
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 85g cold butter , cut into cubes
  • 4 tbsp golden caster sugar
  • 150g pot natural full-fat yogurt
  • 4 tbsp full-fat milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 egg beaten with 1 tbsp milk, to glaze

Method

  1. Put a baking sheet in the oven at 220C/200C fan/gas 7. Put the flour, salt and baking powder into a food processor, then whizz in the butter until it disappears. Pulse in the sugar, tip into a large bowl, then make a well in the middle.
  2. Warm the yogurt, milk and vanilla together in the microwave for 1 min or in a pan; it should be hot and may well go a bit lumpy-looking. Tip into the bowl and quickly work into the flour mix using a cutlery knife. As soon as it’s all in, stop.
  3. Tip the dough onto a floured surface, then, with floured hands, fold the dough over a few times – just enough to create a smoothish dough. Press out to about 4cm/1½in thick, dip a 7cm cutter into more flour, then stamp out 4 rounds, flouring the cutter each time. Squash the remainder lightly together, then repeat until the dough is used up. Brush tops with egg wash, scatter flour over the hot sheet, then lift the scones on. Bake for 12 mins until risen and golden. Best eaten just-warm, or on the day.

Notes

  • I pronounce it scone as in gone!
  • It has to be clotted cream first and then good strawberry jam on top!
HAS to be clotted cream and strawberry jam

Oh, and in case you wondered, my gorgeous antique cake stand folds up into a thin circle thing, and came from Battlesbridge Antique Centre where I go at least a couple of times a year! (The little sticky-out but at the top is actually a cafe!)

Battlesbridge Antiques Centre

afternoon tea, bloomsbury bar & restaurant

Happiest when eating!

I have an offer that I got with a subscription which enables me to have 2 for the price of 1 Afternoon Teas at Radisson Hotels in London (and we all know how much I like afternoon teas!)

As I had told The Girl that I would take her to the Biritsh Museum on Sunday, I booked for us to go to The Bloomsbury Bar & Restaurant whch is part of the Radisson Edwardian Bloomsbury.

When we got in ther, the staff were very accomodating – but this was hardly surprising as it was completely empty – in fact, there was only one other couple in the restaurant the whole time that we were theer.

I was impressed that they offered The Girl the option of having hot chocolate instead of tea (which she eagerly took up), but was less impressed that I was offered ‘tea’ and not given a choice of teas on a menu like elsewhere.

Our tea and chocolate were brought to us, and The Girl was very flattering about hers, and then they brought out our stand of goodies.  Our scones were wrapped in a cloth to keep them warm, which I thought was a nice touch, although obviously less aesthetically pleasing!  Two of the cakes on the top though looked particularly scrummy – and we had a decent-sized portion of cream and jam for our scones.

I was extremely disappointed in the sandwiches – they were so dull!  Plain cucumber, plain smoked salmon, plain ham and egg mayonnaise.  I ate the smoked salmon even though I don’t usually like it, and it didn’t really bother me as it tasted of nothing at all.  In fact, the bread was even so cold, that I was wondering whether they had all been frozen at some stage! They are also loaded with butter, and The Girl doesn’t really like butter much – and this almost looked like it had been sliced into onto the bread. NOT a good start at all.

So, we started on the scones.  They were large and light and still warm, but both sultana scones which is unusual.  The cream was unfortunately almost solid and more butter-like than unctious clotted cream, but the jam was full of strawberries and had a good flavour.

So, onto the top tier.  There were two very elaborate oval creations and then 4 triangular slices of lemon drizzle cake and two of chocolate fudge cake.  The lemon drizzle cake was lovely and moist and lemony, and the chocolate deep and rich and sticky.

White chocolate mousse and raspberry

The two elaborate cakey creations were very much the stars of the show.  The first (above) was a light yet rich white chocolate mousse, with a layer of raspberry puree on top and a disc of raspberry jelly inside, with a soaked sponge on the bottom.  This was extremely yummy – apart from the white chcoolate shards on the outside, which tasted a little on the ‘cheap cooking chocolate’ side!

The other one, which was similar you can just see in the top pic.  This was (I think) a delicate lavendar-flavoured mousse (at least, that’s what it tasted to me) with a strawberry coulis that oozed out from the centre.  They were both extremely yummy.

The staff, although semmingly attentive, didn’t ask if I wanted a refil when I finished my pot of tea – although when i took a couple of pics, one guy asked me if I wanted a pic of the two of us, which we did – but unfortunately he took it out of focus *sigh*.

Overall, for what *I* paid (just under £20 for the two of us), it wasn’t too bad…but then I paid the same at The Montcalm, and I think the quality was much better there.

I now have to decide whether to try a different Radisson!

afternoon tea at the montcalm

The Girl was very impressed

A few months ago, I had bought a Groupon voucher £19 for afternoon tea for two at The Montcalm.  It was expiring on 31st March so I was rapidly running out of time to use it!

So, I rang them during the week to see what time I could get in at the weekend – and the only time was apparently midday on Sunday.  So I booked it and crossed my fingers that The Girl would behave herself so that I could take her for her first ever afternoon tea.

She was a very good girl on Saturday, so we woke up late on Sunday (well, clocks went forward!) and quickly made our way up to Marble Arch.

The Montcalm is a gorgeous boutiquey hotel, just off of Marble Arch, between Oxford Street and Bryanstone Square.  On one of those many streets of its type in Central London, where you step off of the main road and enter a little idyllic world that you would never have realised was there if you weren’t looking for it.

The staff were all very friendly, completely prepared for the Groupon voucher (which is always a bonus!) and actually seemed to be extra professionally to The Girl, which really made her day.

We had our tea menu and I went for the house blend, which I always do.  And then they delivered everything.

Afternoon tea @ The Montcalm

As you can see, unlike my TLSee Afternoon Tea @ The Howard last month, it was pretty minimalist.

The sandwiches were a lot lighter, and there were less of them (cheese & cucumber, ham, egg & cress), and again, we had half as many scones (one plain, one fruit), but they were light and yummy.  The little cakey bits were gorgeous little bites of loveliness – and nothing like the heavier cakier ones that I’ve had before.

The Girl thoroughly enjoyed it all and did a bloody good job of being ladylike, which I was most impressed with, until the moment she happily chomped down on the chocolatey-topped cake and dicovered to her horror that it was actually coffee flavoured buttercream inside.

Oh how I laughed.  she was very discreet, and just handed over the rest of it to me – which was great as coffee cakes are lush, and there’s not enough of them in the world which haven’t been tainted with walnuts!  i gave her half my macaroon, so she was happy then 🙂

All in all, a far lighter afternoon tea, lovely surroundings, perfect as a pit-stop if you’re shopping on Oxford Street and don’t want to be weighed down after eating too much cake!

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: