At Home Empress Scones

A few weeks ago I went to Victoria, BC with my mom and in addition to seeing the lovely gardens and the Royal BC Museum, we went to the Empress Hotel's High Tea. 

EmpressScones

The courses of High Tea include finger sandwiches, scones with jam and clotted cream and sweets along with the Empress tea blend. I was so taken by the scones that once I got home, I decided to try and recreate them.

Ingredients:

EmpressScones
  • lbs & 4oz flour

  • ounces sugar

  • ounces butter (hard, cubed)

  • ounces baking powder

  • ounces golden raisins

  • 6 eggs

  • 16 ounces whipping cream

  • 1/8 teaspoon salt (pinch)

  • Rolling pin

  • Measuring tools

  • Large mixing bowl

  • Pastry brush or unused paint brush

As always, I prefer to do baking by weight as it is more accurate. I cannot emphasize how worthwhile the $25 for kitchen scale has been. I did not include the raisins in my first go-around but will definitely in the future.

Recipe:

  1. Crumb flour, butter, sugar, baking powder, and salt either by hand, with a fork or pastry cutter
  2. Add 5 of the eggs, separate the 6th and add the white to the batter. Reserve the 6th yolk for the egg wash.
  3. Stir in raisins
  4. Add cream and mix into a smooth dough, place in fridge for 20 minutes to firm up
  5. Lightly four a pastry board and rolling pin
  6. Roll out to half inch thickness
  7. Lightly flour a biscuit cutter (or the edge of a drinking glass) and cut out scones, re-rolling to use all the dough. If the dough gets too warm and hard to work with, you may need to put it back into the fridge for 10-15 minutes.
  8. I recommend putting the cut scones into the fridge or freezer for a few minutes before baking
  9. Whisk the reserved egg yolk with 1tbs (or less) of water and wash the top and sides of each scone using a pastry brush (or unused paint brush)
  10. Bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes or until golden brown on top
"Crumb" the dry ingredients with the butter by pushing them into the fat with finger, fork or pastry cutter

"Crumb" the dry ingredients with the butter by pushing them into the fat with finger, fork or pastry cutter

Final dough

Final dough

1/2" thick roll out

1/2" thick roll out

Egg wash

Egg wash

EmpressScones

These are delicious, particularly with jam. I only wished that I could have made clotted cream to go with them but it turns out that's really difficult to make. Which is probably for the best, given that if it weren't I would eat only that for breakfast, lunch and dinner. It would be painful, but oh so worth it.

 

Let me know how your version of the Empress Scones turns out on Instagram with #bettybetatester. Coming soon: posts on canning fruit, tinting mason jars and a body butter roundup... so stay tuned!

Betty Goes Cheap: Throwing a Party

Throwing a Party on the Cheap

I love having friends and family over to my house; cooking, drinking and socializing. What I don't love is having the break out the credit card to do it. This spring I threw a few get-togethers, one was an Easter Beer-Hunt (it's exactly what it sounds like) and the other was a surprise 60th Birthday party for my mom. I knew what kind of party I wanted those to be so I knew I'd have to balance my anal retentive attention to detail with my bottom line.

Doing two parties a few weeks apart seemed daunting, but by making the decor and menu very similar it became much more manageable. I also swear by doing parties potluck style where I make the entree, one side, a dessert, and provide basic beverages and ask guests to bring additional sides and beverages. This cuts down on the total time and money you will be spending. Also no one wants to spend an entire party chained to the stove. 

Menu

I went with mostly things that could be made ahead of time so that on the party day, I could just plate, have a glass of wine, and enjoy my company. Things like the dinner rolls, mayonnaise, cupcakes, pie and burger patties can all be made during the week before the party so you're just spending an hour or two after work each day prepping rather than scrambling day-of. That left me just with cooking the meat, frosting the cupcakes and preparing the green veggie... all totally do-able. 

  • Make-your-own Sliders
    • Easter: spicy pulled pork (another brilliant recipe from Pioneer Woman
    • Mom's Bday: Beef & sage (from Rachael Ray) and Lemon salmon (via AllRecipes)
    • Both with homemade dinner rolls from King Arthur Flour
    • Condiments like BBQ sauce, garlic/herb mayonnaise, ketchup, etc (I had fun making my own mayo with the tried-and-true Julia Child recipe
  • Green vegetable
    • Easter: steamed asparagus with lemon hollandaise (via Better Homes & Gardens)
    • Mom's Bday: green salad with a simple vinaigrette 
  • Dessert
    • Easter: Lemon cupcakes with raspberry buttercream. I use Joe Pastry's version with a tbs of vanilla and 4oz of raspberries. I also found the whisk attachment to be better on the cupcake batter in this case instead of the paddle
    • Mom's Bday: Same cupcakes as well as a cherry pie (because my dad LOVES pie)... if the idea of making pie is scary, don't worry, you're in good company and there will be a pie-baking post coming later this summer
Raspberry Lemonade cupcakes... they're a thing of beauty!

Raspberry Lemonade cupcakes... they're a thing of beauty!

Decorations

As far as decor goes, my favorite things are: 

  • Plenty of fresh flowers for every vase I own on every stable surface I can find (my local farmer's market or Trader Joe's seems to have the best selection and price)
  • Fun and springy table linens or plates. Most of mine are from Cost Plus World Market, TJ Maxx or Ross as well as a few choice finds from local vintage and secondhand shops. If you aren't picky about matching, finding great deals becomes much easier and much more fun
  • Depending on the event, I've always got tons of candles around (to keep all of the vases company...)

For my Mom's birthday, I added another element to my standard decorations by making a trio of brightly colored pennant banners.

To start, I went to the craft store to gather my supplies. Both Michael's and Joann's regularly have sales on scrapbook paper, but even the regular price is pretty reasonable

  • two sheets each of 12"x12" scrapbook paper in green, pink, blue, yellow and a multicolored floral
  • a roll of cream grosgrain ribbon
  • a roll of double-sided tape
  • white eyelets (optional)

To make the pennants:

  1. Using a pencil and ruler, make tick marks every 3" along one side of the paper, draw a line parallel 9" from the ticks. Use the ruler and the tick marks as guides to draw 3 isosceles triangles, allowing you to get 3 pennants per page
  2. Decide the order of the colors you picked by laying the pennants out on your work surface. You'll also want to determine how much ribbon should go between each pennant. (For reference, I chose to space them 5" apart)
  3. Using the double stick tape, tape the ribbon along the top edge of each pennant in your chosen order. I ended up making 3 pennants of 3 different sizes to fit over my dining room window, the doorway from living to dining room and over the fireplace.
  4. Finally, the optional step to punch holes at each corner of the individual pennants and set and eyelet. I did this because I want to keep using these and I thought the eyelets would extend their lifespan (or, rather more likely, I was watching BSG and got carried away). 
I used tiny clothespins to pin pictures of my Mom and family to the banner over the fireplace

I used tiny clothespins to pin pictures of my Mom and family to the banner over the fireplace

I am inordinately inordinately happy with how these turned out and can't wait to use them over and over. I have a feeling they will be super versatile as you can certainly add letters to them or make it in any color combo you can think of.

The Verdict

Ultimately I am happy with how this plan turned out. The menu is nebulous enough to fit with almost any occasion and the ingredients are themselves fairly cheap. In the end I think I spent around $100 for the menu/ingredients and $40 on the decorations. It's also important to remember that buying the most expensive ingredients isn't what makes the food good, it's how you prepare it and the company it is enjoyed with. This may sound nutty coming form someone who blogs about the details, but truly, all of this is about the fun, not about the stress of perfection. Try not to get too bogged down in the things that at the end of the day, not even you will care about or remember. 

 

Share your spring get-togethers, good buys and ways to keep the fun without breaking the bank at #BudgetBetaTester! As always, leave me your comments, questions and suggestions below, on the social media or via email (curiousdressmaker@gmail.com)

The First Annual Friendsgiving

Hello, dear reader! I have to ask your humble apologies for my extended absence the last several months... I can only say that despite my lack of posting, I have not been idle. This last year has been filled with plans for a new path (studying and taking the GRE and applying to graduate schools) as well as my usual too-much-sewing-for-hire at this or that theatre, not to mention moving into a new house.

The important bit, however, is that here I am! The bitch is back and ready to get cooking, crafting and carousing. So hold on to your hats, ladies and gents, because here is my first annual Friendsgiving!

The roasted pig and I

The roasted pig and I

The Menu:

  • Cider-braised pork roast (my contribution-- recipe later in the post)
  • Roasted root vegetables
  • Sweet potato & dried fruit casserole
  • Ham-hock gravy 
  • Mashed potatoes
  • Classic stuffing
  • Stuff'n Muff'ns (they're just as delicious as they sound)
  • Spinach salad with goat cheese and walnuts
  • Fall vegetable couscous
  • Rolls from the Macrina bakery
  • Mulled hot cider
  • Lots and lots of wine
  • Vegan mixed berry pie
  • Pumpkin cheesecake

Instead of placing all the trouble of feeding 14 people on ourselves, we decided to opt for a potluck style affair. We set up and sent around a google doc so that everyone could sign up for a dish and to ensure nothing was forgotten or doubled up on.

After we got the menu under way and the invitations sent (nothing too fancy... just a Facebook invite), we set to the fun part of gathering a delightful combo of kitchy and classic fall decor.

Sideboard with plates, glasses, napkins, flatware, and beverages

Sideboard with plates, glasses, napkins, flatware, and beverages

Cornucopia, indian corn anda fall floral arrangement

Cornucopia, indian corn anda fall floral arrangement

Table set with all the fixings!

Table set with all the fixings!

Now for the pork! I found the recipe on Better Homes and Gardens' website and decided on it after looking at several similar ones. I have never cooked pork on my own (read: without my Gran) before, so I read up on many ways to roast or braise pork before going ahead with it. I found the Pioneer Woman's info on roasting pork to be particularly helpful as well as amusingly written. Her recipes are pretty much aways awesome and basically idiot-proof.

Ingredients

  • 1 3.5 - 4 lb boneless pork top loin roast (tied)
  • 3 cloves garlic, cut in thin slices
  • 1tsp course salt
  • 1tsp dried rosemary, crushed
  • 1/2 tsp coarse ground pepper
  • 3 med apples, cored and cut into wedges
  • 1/4cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/4cup apple juice
  • 2tbs lemon juice
  • 2tsp dry mustard
Purchased the pork loin from our local Bill the Butcher

Purchased the pork loin from our local Bill the Butcher

Ultimately I followed the recipe exactly as printed, excepting that once the meat was fully cooked, I removed it as well as the roasting laurel (silicone riser that allows more air-flow around the meat) from the dutch oven and reduced the juices on the stove top until they were a little more the consistency of sauce and spooned it over the pork once it was plated with the roasted veggies and apples.

Roasted root vegetables, pork loin, and apples

Roasted root vegetables, pork loin, and apples

It was one of the happiest dinners we've ever thrown-- whether that was due to the excessive food, drink or heat from the oven, who can say?

Obligatory fuzzy selfie!

Obligatory fuzzy selfie!

As always, I'm dying to hear what you think so please leave a comment or shoot me an email at thecuriousdressmaker@gmail.com. Upcoming posts include a holiday crafting roundup, holiday decor, Christmas cookies, as well as the saga of my recent move! Also expect to see some new features showing up soon.