Sunday, February 23, 2014

Welcome our guest, Deb Crombie!

 Please welcome our 
fabulous guest, Deb Crombie!

New York Times Bestselling author Deborah Crombie 
has written fifteen novels featuring Scotland Yard Superintendent Duncan Kincaid and Inspector Gemma James. She lives in Texas with her husband, two German shepherds, and two cats, and travels to England frequently. Her 16th Kincaid/James novel, To Dwell in Darkness, will be published by William Morrow in September 2014. 
The trade paper release of The Sound of Broken Glass comes out Tuesday!!
Take it away, Deb!

A Proper Scone

I mentioned crumpets the other day on Facebook, and it was clear from some of the comments that many Americans don’t know exactly what a crumpet is. The closest description I can come up with is that crumpets are sort of a cross between what we Americans call English muffins, and what Americans call pancakes. (British pancakes are different, too, but that’s another story…) Crumpets are slightly spongy, firmer than a pancake, and filled with little holes that are perfect for butter. You can butter before or after you toast (I prefer before) then top with some really good jam. A perfect tea-time snack!

Which brings us to scones. I think I need to set the record straight. While the baked pastries you can get at Starbuck’s or La Madeline or Panera are good, they are not proper British scones. A British scone is much more like an American biscuit, but a little sweeter. They often have fruit in them—raisins or currants—and should be served with clotted cream (that’s another story, too) and good jam, preferably strawberry.  If you don’t have cream, butter and jam will do.

This is my favorite scone recipe, from The Laurel’s Kitchen Break Book, published way back in 1984. (The copy in the photo is my second. I wore the first one out, in the hippie-mom-baking stage of my life, before I ever wrote a novel. One of the most charming things about this book are the woodcut illustrations.) 

As these scones are made with whole wheat, you might find something similar in a British health food café. In our house, we have them most often for Sunday brunch, but if there are any leftover they will keep for a day or two. You can split and toast them to have with your afternoon tea.


2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1 teaspoon baking soda*
1 teaspoon cream of tartar*
½ teaspoon salt
1 or 2 tablespoons brown sugar (I use Succanat) or honey
2 tablespoons cold butter
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons buttermilk at room temperature (I usually add a little more.)
½ cup currants (you can substitute raisins. Currants are better, but I’ve had a tough time finding them in the stores the last few years.)

*If you don’t have cream of tartar, use ½ teaspoon baking soda and 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder.

Preheat oven to 375. Dust a cookie sheet with flour.

Sift flour, soda, cream of tartar, salt, and sugar. (If you use honey instead, stir it thoroughly into the buttermilk.)  Grate the cold butter into the mixture and blend with a pastry cutter or your fingertips until the mixture is like oatmeal flakes.  Stir in the buttermilk and currants, and mix gently and quickly until barely blended together. Immediately turn out onto the floured cookie sheet and pat into a circle about ¾ inch thick, 8 or 9 inches across. Cut the circle into wedges, four or six as you see fit, and place immediately in the hot oven.
Bake about 20 minutes. Serve at once.

Make a pot of tea, grab a good English mystery, and enjoy!

[From Daryl / Avery] ** By the way, the picture is of a gluten-free version of the scones. Delish!


  1. Hi Debs! welcome to MLK. I had a hippie baking and cooking phase too, but mostly wore out my Moosewood cookbooks:). Would love to join you for tea today! xo

  2. Oh, lovely! I particularly like the way the (used to?) serve them in England, with clotted cream and strawberry jam. Addictive! And I agree with you about the currants--they're smaller and more delicate than raisins. But I do often find that I have to soak them briefly before using them, or they don't soften during cooking.

  3. Oh memories of scones at tea in the UK! Welcome to Mystery Lovers Kitchen, Deb, and thanks for this delicious recipe.
    I love love love your books!



  4. Deb, I remember a wonderful afternoon in the Mayflower hotel in London with my husband. Rain, rain, go away. We ordered afternoon tea with scones and watched cricket all afternoon. Lovely memories!

    Daryl / Avery

  5. Any chance you can post the gluten free recipe? I'd love to try these.

  6. Hi everyone! Lovely to be here! Sheila, they do still serve them with clotted cream and jam. Sometimes in stores in the US you can get these little jars of Devonshire clotted cream--have you seen those? But it never tastes right to me. I'm just wondering if creme fraiche might make a good substitute, as most good supermarkets now carry it. I'm going to make the scones this morning, so I may have to try that.

    Daryl, thanks so much for having me, and I'd love to see the gluten-free version, too. (And I told you yours would be prettier than mine..)

  7. I remember enjoying scones and clotted cream at tea in London. Absolutely delicious. I look forward to trying your recipe for the "real" version. The ones they sell here are so gigantic and way too sweet. And thanks for many wonderful hours reading your books!

  8. Thanks, Peg! My favorite place for a proper afternoon tea in London used to be the Basil Street Hotel, just down the street from Harrod's. Alas, a couple of years ago the old hotel got turned into something much too swanky for the likes of me. I'll have to find a new favorite. For a really fun afternoon tea in London (more upmarket than the old Basil Street) I recommend Sketch, just off Regent Street. There are several restaurants, but you want The Parlour. There are some photos, but I think they could do better!

  9. Delightful. I remember going to London years ago (back just after the dinosaurs) and ordering tea for during the intermission at the theatre. A lovely tray was brought to my seat with a tea pot, strainer, and scones or biscuits, depending on the theatre.
    Pure heaven. When I visited again some years later (only about 5 years) the loose tea was gone and tea bags were used everywhere I went. Sigh.
    Thank you for helping me remember.

  10. Thanks for joining us today, Deb. Even way out here in the country we have a store that sells Devonshire clotted cream. I've never been a big fan of American scones, so I'm very eager to try this recipe. They look delicious!