Six Meals a Day
Fans of the writings of Tolkien and his Hobbits (the Minions of his day) are no doubt familiar with the necessity for not only breakfast, lunch, and dinner but also second breakfast, elevenses, and afternoon tea as well. Was this decadent concept of “six meals in a day” the invention of the Hobbit author?
And laugh they did, and eat, and drink, often and heartily, being fond of simple jests at all times, and of six meals a day (when they could get them).
— J.R.R. Tolkien, "The Fellowship of the Ring"
You may give Mr. Tolkien credit for the second breakfast. And elevenses has been around since… well, since before there was time. But “afternoon tea”—for that, you can thank Anna, the Duchess of Bedford.
Please, Tell Us More About Anna
Anna, the Duchess of Bedford, had the dubious distinction of being “Lady of the Chamber” to Queen Victoria. As such, she was not only BFF with the pulse of the kingdom, but no doubt had more than a bit of sway in the establishment of customs of the day. According to history, once upon a time, Anna was visiting the 5th Duke of Rutland at Belvoir Castle. It was late in the afternoon—several hours after the midday meal and long before the evening supper. Feeling a bit peckish, she asked the servants for a spot of tea and some sweet bread or scones.
This afternoon's repast was so satisfying that it became not a one-time treat but rather a daily ritual. And thus was born the four o’clock teatime and the prerequisite scone.
Who Invented the Scone?
Were scones invented in Scotland, Ireland, or England? No one knows for sure. The first known mention of them in print is in 1513 from a Scottish poet. But what if those who first made them did not have writing skills? In the 16th century, there was no Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest, no weekly food columns in the daily newspaper, and no Food Network. A mostly illiterate populace would not and could not have recorded recipes for the daily nosh with tea.
What of Wales? Has anyone even considered Wales? The Welsh have a tradition of cooking small round loaves of bread in ovens or on bakestones.
And then some say that the name “scone” is from the “Scone of Destiny,” a place on which Scottish kings were crowned.
Still, others point to the Gaelic “sgonn” (rhymes with gone).
Wherever they originated, we know that scones were first made with oats, shaped in a round, cut into wedges, and then baked.
The scones available to Anna would have been oaten and dense, unlike the scones of today, which are light and fluffy—and there are so many choices!
WWQD (what would the Queen do)?
We can't even agree on how to pronounce the word "scone." Perhaps this little poem will assist:
I asked the maid in dulcet tone
To order me a buttered scone
The silly girl has been and gone
And ordered me a buttered scone.
Apple Scones With Apple Cider Cinnamon Glaze
Fresh diced apples are stirred into a buttery and baked with sugar and spice, and everything is nice. The cider glaze is an extra step, but please take the time to make it. You will be glad you did (and by the way, if there are any leftovers, it tastes wonderful on top of vanilla ice cream).
These are not your typical sugary-sweet scones. They are rich and flavorful with two kinds of cheese. They would be perfect at breakfast or brunch with poached eggs or at dinner with a hearty bowl of soup (tomato, perhaps) or beef stew.
White Chocolate Cranberry Scones
White chocolate and dried cranberries make me think of the holidays. You can bake these scones ahead of time and even store them in the freezer for unexpected guests or a family gathering.
I have one suggestion to make—these scones, as shown in the recipe, are perfect, but the addition of two teaspoons of grated orange peel makes them even "more perfect."
- 2 cups flour
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- 1 tsp. baking soda
- 1 tsp. salt
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
- 3/4 cup buttermilk
- 2 tablespoons Gorgonzola cheese
- Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
- Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a large mixing bowl.
- Add the butter and cut in until the mixture resembles a coarse meal.
- Stir in buttermilk and Gorgonzola cheese. Stir gently until the mixture forms a shaggy ball. Don't overmix.
- Turn out onto a floured surface. Knead 2 or 3 times.
- Divide dough in half and pat each into a circle. Cut each circle into 6 wedges. Place about 2 inches apart on an ungreased baking sheet. Bake for about 8 to 10 minutes or until the tester inserted in the middle of the scone comes out clean. Serve warm.
Double Chocolate Cherry Scones
I adapted the following from a chocolate scone recipe on the King Arthur Flour website:
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 2/3 cup whole-wheat flour
- 1/3 cup Dutch-process cocoa
- 1/2 teaspoon espresso powder
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup (8 tablespoons) cold butter, cut into 1/2-inch slices
- ¾ cups semisweet chocolate chips
- ¾ cup dried cherries
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 large egg
- Preheat oven to 375°F.
- Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- In a large mixing bowl, blend the flour, cocoa, espresso powder, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt; mix thoroughly.
- Cut in the butter with a pastry blender until the mixture looks like coarse crumbs.
- Stir in the chocolate chips and dried cherries.
- Whisk together the vanilla, egg, and milk.
- Add the liquid ingredients to the dry ingredients, stirring until the mixture is evenly moist. If the mixture seems dry, add another tablespoon or two of milk.
- Divide the dough in half, and place the two pieces onto the baking sheet. Pat them gently into two 6" circles, each about 3/4" thick.
- Cut each circle into 6 wedge shapes.
- Bake for 18 to 23 minutes until they lose their moist look, and a cake tester inserted into the center of one comes out clean or with just a smear of chocolate from a melting chip.
- Remove the scones from the oven, and transfer them to a rack to cool.
© 2015 Linda Lum