As England wakes up after a week of royal celebrations following the weekend’s momentous Diamond Jubilee, Australia prepares for its own mark of regal respect (or perhaps just weekend away) with the Queen’s Birthday June long weekend.
Sure, any self-respecting monarchist knows her actual birthday is in April, but hey, there’s no need to get too specific. The point is, we love our public holidays down under and this one – as we roll the pseudo-birthday and 60 years at the throne into one – feels extra special, for monarchists at least.
At Broadsheet, we can’t think of a finer way to pay our respects than to crack open a freshly baked scone and brew a pot of English tea.
Fortunately, at The Victoria Room Tea Salon at Westfield Sydney in the CBD, scones and high tea are the order of the day, any day of week. These guys take their scones so seriously that they have their own menu, which features 10 mouth-watering varieties including lemon, pistachio and currant, white chocolate and cranberry, lavender, pumpkin and ginger, and cheddar and thyme – baked fresh to order every day.
Chef Joe Gambacorta let us in on three of his favourite tips on how to make the perfect batch, and gave us a recipe:
Firstly, keep your ingredients cold. This will help create delicious, buttery, flaky scones. Your butter should chip when you cut it into chunks and it’s a good idea to measure your milk or water and pop it in the freezer for 10 minutes before you start.
Rest the dough for 10 minutes before cutting it into scone shapes. Cover it with a tea towel or a sprinkling of flour to stop it from drying out as it rests.
Don’t over-bake your scones. Over-baking for even a minute or two will dry your scones out. As soon as the edges begin to turn brown, remove them from the oven. Immediately, place the scones on a wire rack—the hot pan will continue to dry the scones.
So let’s quash our republican ambitions, at least momentarily, while we honour this corgi-loving monarch, who has not only endured turbulent political times, but an implosive family and gaffe-laden husband, to become England’s longest reigning Queen.
Chef Joe’s Date & Orange Scones
800g self-raising flour
1 tsp cinnamon
½ tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
150g unsalted butter, chopped and chilled
150g caster sugar
zest of 4 oranges
1 tbsp vanilla essence
300g (10.5 oz / 2 1/3 cups) dates, chopped
milk for glazing, extra cinnamon for dusting
Preheat the oven to 180C. Line a flat baking tray with greaseproof paper. Sift together flour, cinnamon and baking powder, and then add salt. Using fingertips, rub in chilled butter. Add sugar and orange zest and rub further until mixture resembles breadcrumbs.
Make a well in the centre of the flour mixture and slowly pour in the milk with the vanilla. Working quickly, take the flour into the centre using a fork to make soft dough. Form into a soft ball with floured hands.
Turn out the dough on a floured board, add the dates, give it a few turns and gently roll out with a floured rolling pin to a 2.5cm thickness.
Cut into rounds with a 5cm scone cutter making sure not to twist the cutter. Place the scones on the prepared tray approximately 2.5cm apart, brush with milk to glaze and dust with extra cinnamon and bake for 15–18 minutes or until golden. Turn out onto a wire rack to cool slightly
Serve with Italian-style orange marmalade or your favourite preserve.