Last week I was treated by the historic Biltmore Hotel in downtown Los Angeles to their classic English afternoon tea. If you’ve never had a classic afternoon tea, you need to experience it, and the roaring twenties era Biltmore is the place to do it. Every inch of the hotel is carved, muraled, frescoed, tapestried, guilded, mosaic’d and generally so eye-poppingly gorgeous that it’s easy to forget you’re in Los Angeles. I almost forgot to drink my tea!
If you’re looking for something special to do for Valentine’s Day, this would be fabulous. The tea room is the lobby of the original hotel, and so it’s fittingly grand, complete with a burbling marble fountain in the center and a grand staircase.
The highlight of any afternoon tea, besides the tea, is the array of tiny treats that comes with it, and I always zero right in on the scones and clotted cream. (That’s them on level two of our tiered tea tray.) Clotted cream, if you’ve never had it, is a very thick rich spreadable form of heavy cream that was first invented ages ago by some very smart British farmers. It’s not like whipped cream, or cream cheese, it’s not like butter…it has a unique decadent consistency and a wonderful soft flavor. It’s quite thick and spreadable, and when you slather it on a freshly baked scone there is no better thing in the world.
The little pot of clotted cream that we got at the Biltmore had me craving more, and happily I made the most astounding discovery…you can actually make clotted cream at home in your own kitchen. No more tracking it down in specialty stores and paying big bucks for the imported stuff. My homemade clotted cream was actually way better (and a whole lot fresher) than the British stuff I usually buy.
This is an amazing process, I hardly had to do anything, and I end up with a ton of the richest, silkiest clotted cream I’ve ever had. I used 2 pints of cream, poured them into a baking dish, and left it overnight in a 180F oven (the lowest my oven will go.) In the morning I let it cool and then refrigerated it for the rest of the day.
Then I scooped it into jars, which was a little sloppy at first, and put them back in the refrigerator. Any little bit of liquid gets absorbed right into the clotted cream after you put it in the jars, and by the next morning when I had it with my scones, it was absolutely to die for.
I can’t say enough good things about this project, the results far exceeded my expectations and it was absurdly easy. The only catch is that you can’t use ultra-pasteurized cream, which is cream that’s been processed for a longer shelf life. Many stores only sell ultra-pasteurized cream, so you have to search a bit for regular cream. I found mine at Whole Foods. Just read the labels… if it doesn’t say ultra-pasteurized on the label, you’re good to go.
You will definitely want to make scones to go with your clotted cream. I have lots of recipes for scones on the blog, but this time I made Jennifer’s Cardamom Vanilla Cream Scones, and they were wonderful. Jen doesn’t use any egg in her recipe like I usually do, and I have to say I really liked the texture of her scones. And how can you go wrong with cardamom and vanilla? I highly recommend them.
- 2 pints heavy cream (not ultrapasteurized)
- a heavy casserole dish
- set your oven to 180F
- Pour the cream into the casserole dish. It should come up about 1-3 inches on the side.
- Set the dish, uncovered, in the oven and leave undisturbed for 12 hours. Be sure to leave the oven on the whole time. I do this overnight.
- Remove the dish from the oven and set to cool. Then cover and refrigerate.
- The next morning scoop the thickened cream into a jar or jars, and cover and put back in the refrigerator. You can use the leftover cream for baking..
- Spread the clotted cream on freshly baked scones.