Although they can be eaten at any time of year, summer is the season for cream teas: for scones and strawberries and clotted cream. Or jams.
It’s also the time of year when fierce battles are fought over the “right” way to eat one: cream or jam first?
For the avoidance of any doubt, it’s simple: cream, then jam. Cream takes the place of butter and why would you put jam on before butter?
This year, though, I haven’t been making scones, which aren’t native to the Westcountry so shouldn’t really be a part of the Westcountry Cream Tea. Instead, I’ve been making the Split, which is a plain, slightly sweet, bun split open and filled with cream and jam. Because what else should go in it?
Splits are made in both Devon and Cornwall, although, as always, there is a slight difference. As far as I can discover, it’s a difference of size: Cornish splits are larger than Devonshire splits. Oh, and names: in Devon, they are also known as Chudleigh buns or cakes.
I’m actually partial to clotted cream and jam on sliced white bread, the fluffy sort that otherwise tastes of cardboard. Apparently, there is a reference to the eleventh-century monks of Tavistock Abbey providing their workers with a meal of bread, cream and jam. This is, by the way, the earliest, currently known, reference to what has become the Cream Tea.
The difference between the split and any other plain white bun is that the split is made with plain flour, not bread flour, so it’s lighter and softer. And works beautifully with cream and jam. There’s also a variation called Thunder and Lightning, which is cream with golden syrup or treacle. I think I could pass on the syrup, but a split with treacle and cream sounds oh so delicious!
Lemon curd and cream is another combination which works well.
I’ve been using Nigel Slater’s recipe, although halved because M and I couldn’t get through 10 in one sitting and they really don’t keep. It is, however, a really easy recipe. I’ve been using fresh yeast, because that’s all we could find at one point during lockdown, so that’s what we’ve got.
I haven’t made the plum jam that Slater accompanies his recipe with, though, but one day I shall have a go at making clotted cream. The only reason I haven’t yet is because it requires baking cream at a low temperature for about 12 hours. Which is a bit long to leave the oven on (even at 80C), and I don’t have a fireplace with embers I could leave glowing overnight.