This Saturday, at 5:30 in the morning, the "ladies" of my family, along with my friend and her daughters, will gather to watch the wedding of Great Britain's Prince Henry and his bride-to-be, Meghan Markle. No wedding, especially a royal wedding, would be the same without fit-for-a-queen snacks, and our party will be no exception. I will be making one of my favorite breakfast treats, using a recipe for scones courtesy of my good friend PattiAnn.
I admit to being an Anglophile, and confess this will not be my first early morning royal wedding, as I attended the weddings of Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer, as well as Prince William and Katherine Middleton … both while seated on my comfy couch wearing my royal pajamas.
I consider myself lucky to have visited Windsor Castle and toured St. George's chapel, the site of the May 19 nuptials. The chapel, also the place of Prince Charles and Camilla Parker Bowles wedding in 2005, is beautiful and located within the walls of Windsor Castle. As with many British churches, the chapel is in three sections. Meghan will begin her walk down the aisle from the back of the church, where most guests will be seated, and continue through the Garter Stalls to the front of the church and altar.
Personally, I found the Garter Stalls intriguing. There are wooden pew-like seats, typically where the choir sits, and the stalls include the crest of every Knight of the Garter or those who have been knighted by the Queen. One of the most interesting features is the plaque in the center of the aisle noting the burial vault of perhaps one of the most famous kings of England, Henry the VIII, along with one of his wives, Jane Seymour and their infant child dating back to 1547. If you watch the wedding, be sure to keep your eyes open for these details.
There will be a lot of tradition, along with pomp and circumstance, involved in this event, so I decided to add some distinctive touches to my wedding watching tradition. Of course, mine will include food.
I plan to cover my coffee table with a white tablecloth, dig out my cloth napkins and wedding cups and saucers, no mugs today after all this is a special occasion. We will have tea of course, and the coffee pot will be brewing for those who prefer ground beans to dried tea leaves. There will be sugar cubes and real cream to add to our warm beverages. No British special occasion would be complete without something to toast with, so we will also have champagne and Pimm's cocktails on hand.
Tiered trays laden with fresh strawberries, shortbread and other biscuits, we know them as cookies, individual Victoria sponge cakes, scones and our version of the royal wedding cake itself which will be lemon, elderflower with buttercream adorned with fresh flowers. Of course, there also will be clotted cream to spread on the scones. Cucumber sandwiches along with my favorite, extra sharp white cheddar and Branson Pickle, will also serve as a balance to our dessert fest. (For Penny's recipe for White Cheddar and Branson Pickle tea sandwiches, see http://www.dailyherald.com/article/20160119/entlife/160118954/)
One of the best parts of the menu will be the scones. I refer to them as PattiAnn's scones, because PattiAnn is the one who made them the first time I had them, but she is quick to give credit to Bon Appetite magazine. We have both added our twists to these delicious pieces of goodness and no matter the variety, they are always fantastic.
Flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and cream; simple ingredients that when gently mixed make a biscuit-like, rather than cakelike, scone. But that is where the simplicity ends. PattiAnn adds miniature chocolate chips, chopped pecans and toffee bits to hers, and then tops them with coarse sugar and a little flaky salt. I love hers, but have experimented a bit myself with lemon zest and blueberries, orange zest and chocolate chips or dried cranberries, golden raisins or currants and even minced crystallized ginger. As for variations, the sky is the limit, but be careful not to add extra moisture. One day I tried adding grated cheddar cheese, minced green onion and freshly cooked chopped crispy bacon with the result being delicious as well, but my favorites are still the sweeter variety.
I have now been making these for years and have developed a technique of my own. Place all the dry ingredients into a large bowl, slowly add the cream. Gently stir the mixture together, being careful not to over stir, or your scones may be tough. Shape, cut and place on a parchment-lined baking sheet, followed by the finishing touches: sprinkle with coarse sugar, and maybe a little flaky sea salt for the chocolate varieties, and voila. Just bake and eat.
They can also be made vegan by adjusting your "Add-ins" and substituting coconut milk for the heavy cream. I strain the coconut milk through a fine mesh strainer, reserving the water, and catching the solids. Then add back enough of the water to make 2 cups. I use two cans of coconut milk per recipe and find this trick necessary to make sure you are adding enough fat to the scones, mimicking the heavy cream.
So, if you too plan to get up early to watch the royal wedding, pre-measure your dry ingredients the night before and have your "add-ins" ready. The morning of the wedding, wake up a little early and pop them in the oven and you will have fresh treats to help you celebrate.
If you're not planning to watch the wedding, be sure to make these for your next brunch or lazy Saturday morning. They are tasty!
• Penny Kazmier, a wife and mother of four from South Barrington, won the 2011 Daily Herald Cook of the Week Challenge.