I am very excited to be a part of the Escape with Dollycas’ Great Escapes Virtual Book Tours today! When I saw the book, A SCONE TO DIE FOR by H.Y. Hanna, I immediately knew I wanted to be a part of the review team. An adorable cover, a clever title, a great story and a recipe for Traditional English Scones…oh yum!
A graduate of Oxford University, Gemma Rose moved to Australia to be a career woman. After eight years she felt discontented and moved back home to Meadowford-on-Smythe, her hometown near Oxford, and opened Little Stables Tearoom. Her mother is appalled that she’s not using her esteemed college degree, but Gemma is finally happy with what she’s doing in life. Her new tearoom is starting to attract more customers, including busloads of tourists. Unfortunately, an “ugly” American tourist visits her tearoom one afternoon. Rude and belligerent, Brad Washington creates havoc in the tearoom and upsets her talented yet sensitive chef, Fletcher. Gemma is relieved when Brad finally leaves, carrying a bag of the tearoom’s scones with him, and hopes that’s the last they’ll see of him.
The next morning when Gemma shows up to open the tearoom, she finds Brad in her courtyard. Unfortunately for him, he’s dead with one of Little Stables Tearoom’s scones stuffed into his mouth. The police soon rule that it was murder and her tearoom is closed for a couple of days while they investigate. The investigator who is assigned the case is none other than Devlin O’Connor, her old boyfriend, and as much as she’d like to forget, she can’t stop thinking about their time together in college…and at times makes a bit of an adorable fool of herself.
The police don’t seem to be making any progress in finding the killer and when a local tabloid prints stories about Little Stables Tearoom’s scones being “killer”, business dries up. After sinking every penny she had, Gemma can’t afford to not have customers, so she determines she needs to follow up on clues that she’s found and find the culprit herself in order to save her business. The clues, however, leave her with many people who would have liked the brash man dead and when her main suspect turns up murdered, the stakes move even higher.
I enjoyed A SCONE TO DIE FOR for so many reasons. The author, H.Y. Hanna, is British and her writing takes on the charming quaintness of an England village. She uses a variety of English colloquialisms, that while unusual to Americans, lends an authenticity to the story. Fortunately for those of us who don’t quite know what some of the words mean, H.Y. Hanna has included a Glossary of British Terms at the back of the book, which is entertaining reading on its own. I enjoyed so many of the characters featured in the mystery: the four “old biddies” who hang out in her tearoom and want to help solve the crime; Gemma’s mother, who can’t quite understand her daughter but steps up when she’s needed; to the cat “Muesli”, who steals Gemma’s heart…and I hear has a more prominent role in Book 2 of the Oxford Tearoom Mysteries. It’s called “Tea with Milk and Murder” and is available now as well. The plot kept me guessing the entire time, while the ending was a complete surprise.
Now back to those Traditional English Scones…. Years ago my husband and I spent three weeks driving through Great Britain, spending the majority of our time in villages similar to Meadowford-on-Smythe and in numerous tearooms. My most favorite part of the day was late afternoon when we could relax in whatever tearoom we stumbled across and nibble on delectable scones and sip steaming hot tea. I made H.Y. Hanna’s recipe at the back of the book for Traditional English Scones and thought they were amazing! I shared some with friends who had spent considerable time in England and received two thumbs up from them as well! I also made some Devonshire Cream, aka Clotted Cream, which is traditionally served with scones. I’ve included a link below with a couple ways to make it…all it is is heavy cream with some patience, which then produces an ethereal accompaniment to scones and jam! I’ve also included a video tutorial (at the bottom of the page) on how to make these delectable scones… they may seem intimidating, but aren’t that difficult at all.
Thank you to the author for allowing me to share her wonderful book and delicious recipe! And be sure to scroll to the bottom for a chance to win a $50 Amazon gift card provided by H.Y. Hanna!
Traditional English Scones
Scones have a long history, originating in Scotland in the 16th Century, and are said to have taken their name from the Stone of Destiny where Scottish kings were once crowned. They are a “quick bread”, a bit similar to Southern “biscuits” in the United States. the original version was triangular-shaped, made with oats and griddle-baked rather than baked in the oven. They have since become one of the highlights of British baking – no traditional English afternoon tea would be complete without warm scones with jam and clotted cream!
A great debate rages in the United Kingdom over the correct way to pronounce “scone” – those in the North say it should rhyme with “cone” whilst those in the South insist that it should rhyme with “gone”. Meanwhile, people have come to blows over whether you should put the cream on first and then jam… or the jam first and then the cream!
There is now a huge variety of scones, both sweet and savory, made with dried fruit, nuts, vegetables, cheese, chocolate chips – and even a recipe with lemonade! This is a recipe for a traditional English plain scone, but it can be modified with the addition of your favorite treats.
500 grams all-purpose flour (approximately 4-1/4 cups or 17.6 ounces)
4 teaspoons double-acting baking powder*
1/2 cup caster sugar (super fine sugar)**
125 grams butter, room temperature (1/2 cup + 1 tablespoon or 4.4 ounces)
150 ml full fat milk (just under 2/3 cup)
2 eggs beaten lightly
Egg and milk wash for the “egg wash” to glaze the scones***
Preheat the oven to 250C / 400F
Sift the flour and baking powder into a large mixing bowl (this is important to add more “air” to the mixture).
Rub the butter into the flour mixture with your fingers – it is important to coat the flour with butter as much as possible. Keep doing this until the mixture has the consistency of fine breadcrumbs.
Add the sugar to the mixture and mix well with your fingers.
(This is the stage when you can add in extra ingredients such as raisins and currants, if you wish.)
Add the eggs and some of the milk – do not add all the milk at once; go slow and check that the dough does not become too wet otherwise the scones will “drop”.
Mix well with your fingers until the dough forms a ball.
Tip the dough onto a floured board, scatter some more flour on top, and then knead lightly. It is very important not to over-work the dough otherwise the scones will become very hard.
When the dough looks smooth, gently pat it out (or use a rolling pin) into a thick slab, about 1 – 1.5 inches thick. This is one of the secrets to great scones – not rolling the dough out too thinly.
The dough should now be rested for at least 30 minutes – unless you are using a single-acting baking powder. Some chefs say that resting the dough for hours, even overnight, is the secret to getting really light, fluffy scones.
Using a cutter of your choice, stamp out the scones from the dough. Be careful not to twist the cutter as you are pressing it down – only twist it gently at the very bottom to free it.
Roll up any leftover dough and spread it out again – keep cutting out scones until you have used up all the mixture.
Place the cut rounds onto the greased baking tray or baking paper.
Brush the tops with the the egg and milk wash – this will give them a lovely golden glaze.
Bake in the hot oven for about 12 – 15 minutes.
Cool the scones on a wire rack.
Serve warm with some jam and butter or clotted cream!
*”Double-acting” baking powder contains both cream of tartar and baking soda and causes the dough to rise only after heat is applied. If you use single-acting baking powder (which rises immediately), then you must not leave the dough to “rest” but must cut the scones and bake them immediately.
**If you don’t have super fine sugar on hand, run regular granulated sugar in the food process for a minute or two.
***I used 2 teaspoons egg taken from the recipe’s beaten eggs and 2 teaspoons whole milk. You don’t need to waste an entire egg for this. A little goes a long way.
Devonshire Cream / Clotted Cream
2 – 4 cups heavy cream (raw, unpasteurized if you can find it – regular pasteurized will work…just make sure it’s not ultra pasteurized)
Click on this link to WikiHow for using the oven or the slow cooker.