Scones themselves are not particularly exciting—the layers of butter with flecks of lavender and the slight crunch of golden brown walnuts are delicious to be sure, but aren’t necessarily show-stopping baked goods like layer cakes or cupcakes—but in our household, what they are associated with is what is really exciting. In our household, scones mean one thing and one thing only: the return of Downton Abbey. For the past two years, my mom and I have hosted parties for the season premieres of Downton Abbey. All of the moms and daughters in our neighborhood come over for tea and scones and discuss the intricacies of the Downton staff and entail before settling in for the two hour season premiere.
Masterpiece Classics only airs one season of Downton Abbey every year, so naturally the scones must be good ones if they are only to emerge once every 52 weeks. Scones can be flavored by nearly anything, and in the past I’ve made ginger scones, maple scones, or plain scones, but I do think that my favorite is this variation, with crushed lavender flowers and chopped walnuts. They combine the best of American and British scones, for they use plenty of butter to add lift and tenderness, but the petite size is more conducive to fitting into Lady Mary’s evening gown that the typical American scone that spans the width of Violet’s (Maggie Smith’s) formidable hat. With a hot cup of strong (decaf) tea—it is a school night after all—and a spoonful of lemon curd, these scones are the perfect fuel for recalling the past seasons happenings before the new one begins.
The next episode will air on Sunday night at nine, and if you’re so inclined, whip up a batch of these scones, brew a pot of tea, and settle in to another hour of Downton.
Lavender Toasted Walnut Scones
Recipe adapted from Joy the Baker
Makes 16-20 scones
½ cup walnuts
3 cups all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
4 ½ teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon table salt
1 tablespoon culinary lavender
12 tablespoons (1 ½ sticks) unsalted butter, cold and cut into 1/4 inch cubes
¾ cup buttermilk, plus a few additional tablespoons for brushing the scones
- Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and preheat the oven to 425F. Place the walnuts in a small skillet over medium heat and cook until golden brown and fragrant, 5-6 minutes. Transfer to a cutting board and chop into pieces the size of mini chocolate-chips, then set aside.
- In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt, and set aside.
- Place the lavender in a mortar and pestle and gently crush to release the essential oils. If you do not have a mortar and pestle, place the lavender in a plastic bag and crush with the bottom of a heavy skillet. Set the lavender aside.
- Add the cubed butter to the dry ingredients, and work the butter into the flour with your hands until the butter is in pieces the size of small peas. Stir in the lavender.
- Whisk together the buttermilk and the egg, the fold the buttermilk mixture into the butter and flour, then the walnuts, and fold very gently until a mass of dough forms. Do not over-mix. Turn the dough out onto a floured work surface, and knead until any flour bits are absorbed, no more than half a dozen “kneads”. Pat into a large rectangle, about 3/8 to 1/2 inch thick. Using a sharp knife, trim he edges of the dough and then slice the rectangle into 16 even pieces. You may re-pat the scrapes and cut into 4 additional scones, if desired. Place the scones on the prepared baking sheets, 1-2 inches apart, then brush with buttermilk.
- Bake in the preheated oven until golden brown and risen, 11-14 minutes. Let cool on wire racks for at least 1 hour, then serve.