Ashton Hallis set in a stately historic home on the outskirts of Cambridge, England, a setting that provides many opportunities for exploring English cuisine. I love English food— when people complain about it, I just don’t understand! In the novel, young Nicky becomes especially focused on scones, crumpets, gingerbread, and biscuits—what the English call cookies— reflecting my own culinary obsessions. Nicky enjoys these treats on a daily basis, courtesy of the bakers at Ashton Hall’s café, who indulge him.
Any Ashton Hall book club meeting should include scones with clotted cream and jam. The British are constantly debating whether the clotted cream or the jam should go on the scone first. When I lived in England, I was drawn into countless discussions about this during afternoon tea with English friends, and the question is discussed in the novel when Hannah meets her American friend Lizzie at the Orchard Tea Garden in Grantchester. After extensive taste-testing of my own, I have a firm opinion on the question, but I don’t want to tell you until you’ve had a chance to experiment!
Enjoy this Fruit Scones recipe from the National Trust, an organization that protects British historic homes. Their website offers recipes, sweet and savory, and this version of their scones, with currants and chopped dried apricots, is my favorite.
Adapted from the National Trust's recipe for Fruit Scones.
To make self-rising flour, add 2 teaspoons of baking powder to each cup of all-purpose flour.
2 3/4 cup self rising four (see note)
½ cup (8 tablespooons) soft butter, cut into small pieces
3/8 cup sugar
½ chopped apricots and/or currants (see note)
1 egg, beaten
5 ounces milk, plus additional for brushing on scones
Strawberry jam and clotted cream, for serving
Heat oven to 400 F°. Cover a baking sheet with parchment paper. Add the flour and butter to the bowl of an electric mixer and mix on low until the mixture resembles fine crumbs. Mix in the sugar and dried fruit.
Add the egg and gradually mix in 5 ounces of milk to make a soft dough. Turn on to on a floured surface, Knead lightly roll out thickly to a ¾- inch thickness. With a 2 ¾ inch biscuit cutter, cut circles and transfer the scones to baking sheet. Knead the trimmings and continue rolling and cutting additional scones
Brush the top of the scones with a little of the remaining milk. Bake for 10–15 minutes until well risen and golden brown. Serve warm, split and topped with jam and clotted cream.