You are never too old for a tea party

I had a vivid image flashback the other day of porcelain blue silk dupioni upholstery stretched across a gloriously curved whitewashed frame all balanced on whittled legs of intricate swirls and spirals. A picture so beautiful, I remember feeling a little guilty at the time for plucking it from its privileged home among gilded china and muslin-draped canopy beds, nestled in fields of lavender, and tucking it into a my grade school yearbook full of big perms and bad bangs. I was just a little girl but a gorgeous chaise lounge, of all things, caught my eye and imagination on the delicate pages of my mother’s Victoria magazine.

It has been a long time since I thought of that coveted piece of furniture but I was wishing for that Victorian beauty, recently. It was just last week during a horribly hot afternoon when I should have stayed in the oasis of my air conditioned apartment. A few people carried umbrellas to shield the sun from their faces and it brought to mind a world filled with frilly parasols, fainting couches and afternoon teas. I thought how lovely it would be to lie down my listless body on my very own chaise lounge right there in the middle of Broadway to sip some (iced) tea and have a little snack. Yes, I was probably somewhat delirious from the heat, but I’ve also grown up reading my mother’s magazines in a Victorian house with a sister who loves all things Jane Austen and an aunt with an affinity for Royal Doulton china and antique furniture. I suppose all things considered, it was inevitable that we would be a family of tea lovers.

No matter if it is my mother’s birthday, my sister’s bridal shower or just a visit home, we use every excuse to throw a tea party. And when I traveled to London, I refused to leave until I had a proper British high tea, snacking on finger sandwiches and orange scented scones with clotted cream at The Orangery in the beautiful gardens of Kensington Palace. The British are really on to something with their daily tea time–a chance to chat and nibble and enjoy good company and a warm cup of tea. How can you not indulge the whimsy of eating things like crumpets and scones and treacle tart? Frankly, I get a little homesick for my family just thinking of it. So after my feverish flashback, I decided to whip up a batch of scones, make a cup of tea and call my mom.

The “peachy keen” scones I decided on come from Tea Time magazine, a fun little house warming gift from my aunt. It’s the first recipe I tried from those pages, and I’d say it was a sweet success. After the initial chopping of some sticky ingredients, the dough comes together rather quickly with cold butter and cream cheese cut into sugared flour and enriched with peach nectar, whipping cream and dried fruit. Glazed with more nectar and sprinkled with sliced almonds, they are ready for baking. The scones are best right out of the oven, warm and crumbly and riddled with pockets of chewy peaches and bits of sandy ginger. Sweet and spicy, they are a perfect match for a cup of tea and a lazy afternoon. So break out your parasol, languish on your chaise lounge (or your tiny window seat, or lawn chair or whatever you have), and enjoy.

Peachy Keen Scones from Tea Time

I had a little trouble finding dried peaches at first. If I were at my parents’ house (or had unlimited space in my apartment for every kitchen appliance I’ve ever dreamed of) I would have used a food dehydrator to dry my own sweet summer peaches. I did eventually find a bag of dried organic ones at Trader Joe’s.

Also, I don’t have biscuit cutters and found that a widemouth glass does the trick. You can also roll out the dough into a circle and cut it in wedges, like a pie.

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup unsalted butter, cold and diced
1 (3 oz) package cream cheese, cold and diced
1 (16 oz) package dried peaches, diced
1/4 cup candied ginger, diced
1/3 cup heavy whipping cream
2/3 cup peach nectar, divided
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup sliced almonds

Preheat oven to 375. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside. In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, light brown sugar, baking powder and salt. Whisk to combine.

Using a pastry blender, cut butter and cream cheese into flour mixture until mixture is crumbly. Add peaches and ginger, stirring to combine. Set aside.

In a small bowl, combine whipping cream, 1/3 cup peach nectar and vanilla extract. Add cream mixture to flour mixture, stirring just until dry ingredients are moistened.

On a lightly floured surface, roll dough to a 3/4-in thickness. Using a 3-inch biscuit cutter (see above note), cut as many scones as possible, rerolling dough scraps only once. Place scones on prepared baking sheets. Using a pastry brush, lightly coat scones with remaining 1/3 cup peach nectar. Sprinkle scones evenly with sliced almonds. Bake until light golden brown, 13 to 15 minutes. Store in an airtight container for up to 3 days or freeze until ready to use.

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