I say “West Country” very carefully whilst also taking my life in my hands. Let me explain: You can have a Cornish cream tea or a Devon cream tea and both counties claim to be the source of the original cream tea.
Make no mistake – this is not just friendly rivalry between neighbouring counties – people take this very seriously indeed even though both teas consist of a scone, jam and clotted cream.
A Cornish cream tea should use Cornish Clotted Cream which has Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) status from the EU providing it has been made from milk that is produced in Cornwall and the cream has a minimum fat content of 55% (so not exactly a health food!). A Cornish cream tea also has to be constructed in a particular way – scone first then jam and finally a liberal scoop of cream on top.
In Devon it is always scone first then cream with jam on top. Devon has applied for PDO status for its cream tea but it is unlikely to be approved for what is, essentially, just a particular way of assembling the individual items.
If you have never had clotted cream you should rectify that situation right now. It is made by slowly and gently heating cream and then leaving it to cool in shallow pans until it clots and thickens and a rich, yellow crust forms. It is thick, unctuous and delicious. In the past I have been served a cream tea with whipped cream which is wrong and even with aerosol cream which should be a hanging offence!
Now, you know where I live and you know where my loyalties lie so I only ever make a Cornish cream tea. I buy locally made clotted cream and usually have a jar of homemade jam in the cupboard – although not necessarily made in my home! But whilst people are worrying about the order in which these items are assembled I have to say I am generally more concerned about the quality of the scone.
Over the years I have been served some diabolical scones; dense, chewy and oversweet, rock like or just dry and tasteless. It is one of those items which does not seem to survive the processes needed for commercial production and even small scale bakers seem to get them wrong.
One reason for this is that scones are best eaten as fresh as possible and they really don’t keep for more than a day or two. In fact they are traditionally eaten warm from the oven.
If you want a perfect scone try using the recipe below – I can say it is perfect in all confidence because it is my mum’s recipe and she has been using it for many years. It is simple and failsafe and makes the perfect base for the perfect cream tea – wherever you are.
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