For generations the question of how to prepare the perfect scone for cream teas has led to disagreements, especially between the English counties of Devon and Cornwall where scones are traditional. In Devon they put the cream on first and then the jam, whereas in Cornwall the jam is applied first, then cream on top. No less dispute has raged over the pronunciation. The word derives from the Scots Gaelic word ‘sgonn,’ meaning ‘cake’ and pronounced to rhyme with ‘gone.’ However, some English people think from the spelling of the modern word that it ought to rhyme with ‘cone.’ Another issue concerns how thick the scone should be. A colleague of mine used to cut scones into three slices, claiming that this way he could eat more cream and more jam with them. Science has now provided possible answers. The research was commissioned by Rodda’s Cornish Clotted Cream, so discount possible bias.
Dr Eugenia Cheng now claims to have the final word with a mathematical formula which is a victory for the Cornish. Dr Cheng, a senior lecturer who often uses food to explain complicated maths, broke down the cream tea into its three key elements: scones, cream, and jam. The resulting formula suggested ratio of 2:1:1 (by weight) – so the average scone, weighing 70g, would require 35g of jam and 35g of cream. She concluded that clotted cream is better than whipped cream, because of the excessive volume size of whipped cream required. The total thickness of the scone, with all its elements, should be around 2.8cm, to allow it to fit in your mouth easily. Jam, due to its density, needs to be first as the cream could cause the jam to run off.
They serve really scrumptious scones with clotted cream and jam at the Old Bridge Hotel in Huntingdon, where I often used to eat them sitting outside next to the river on sunny afternoons. I ate them (and still do occasionally) sliced in half, with each half spread the Cornish way with clotted cream on top of the jam, and eating each half separately. Mmmm.
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