One of the great Hong Kong institutions is afternoon tea at the Peninsula Hotel – the HK equivalent of tea at The Ritz, I imagine. Alas, the price tag means it’s not something to be indulged in regularly, but that just makes it even more special. In contrast to the elegance of the affair, I always think the exterior of the hotel looks a bit grim:
But the lobby, where afternoon tea is served daily, is the very height of sophistication, and I enjoy it as much for the atmosphere as the food. It’s always fun to observe the locals too, who barely seem to touch the food (or if they do, use a knife and fork to eat everything, scones included) and seem to be mostly there just for the prestige of it all.
As a devotee of afternoon tea, I am of course a lover of scones. Usually I’m quite happy with my traditional recipe from the good old Be-Ro book, but sometimes I like to branch out with a different flavour or shape. I’ve heard very good things about Dan Lepard’s baking book Short And Sweet, and when I saw this recipe on The Guardian website I had to give it a try. Texture-wise, they could have been a bit better, but in terms of taste, the scones were spot on – with the sweet, strong (but not overpowering) waves of vanilla, and a nice nutty taste from the crunch of almonds on the top. The only change I made from the original recipe was to change it from three teaspoons of vanilla extract, to two of vanilla and one of almond, to really bring out the nuttiness. I didn’t have any cream in, but served them with cherry Morello jam, with the aim of making it a Bakewell scone – highly recommended.
Vanilla Almond Scones
by Dan Lepard
400g plain flour, plus a little extra for dusting
3 tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
50g unsalted butter, chilled and diced
225ml natural yoghurt
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp almond extract
2 tbsp caster sugar
75ml double cream
1 egg, beaten
1. Preheat the oven to 220C and line a baking tray with greaseproof paper. Combine the flour, baking powder and salt into a bowl, then add the cubes of butter and rub in until it resembles breadcrumbs.
2. Stir the yoghurt with the vanilla extract, almond extract, caster sugar and cream, then tip this into the flour bowl and combine until the mixture just forms a dough.
3. Lightly flour your work surface, and pat the dough to about 3-4cm high.
4. Cut scones from the dough using a round, 6cm cutter, and place them 3-4cm apart on the tray. Brush the tops with beaten egg, press a few flaked almonds on each and bake for 12-14 minutes, until lightly brown on top.