There’s this thing that everybody LOVES in Taiwan. There’s this thing that people do there with great enthusiasm around 2 to 5 o’clock in the afternoon EVERYDAY, which will make you reasonably believe for a second that nobody seems to have a job in this little country. There’s this thing that they adore SO passionately, booking for a table on the weekend at a “hot spot” would ridiculously put you on a 2 months wait list. In fact, economists who see an economic recession in this little island would ponder when they witness these relatively expensive but persistently packed space teaming with “spending power”, and wonder where these people earn their dough by having nothing better to do but THIS THING on a Tuesday afternoon.
There’s this thing called, the afternoon tea.
Don’t mistake this afternoon tea with the Brit’s. It’s nothing elegant like that. Afternoon tea in Taiwan is an unapologetic, explosive, WHOPPING MONSTER-BUFFET. Usually offered by fancy hotels, these GINORMOUS buffets are contests of let’s-see-who-can-jam-more-cuisines-around-the-world-into-one-space. For example, the American salad bar sitting right next to the European cold-cuts that’s side-by-side with some Japanese sushi; the Indian curry bar getting cozy with the Taiwanese street-foods extravaganza, the roast beef station getting a bit of steam from the Cantonese dim-sums… Then of course, the beverage station sharing a corner with a dizzying array of mini desserts (gotta have the MINI desserts…). It sounds obnoxious. It sounds absurd. But if done right… it’s kind awesome.
What makes this abscenity awesome is that these foods are to anybody’s surprises, generally pretty great. But more importantly, the foods only serve as a backdrop of the true purpose of such activity – to gossip. Yes. Time to talk enthusiastically about who’s who, and what’s what, and I-bet-she-injected-something-into-her-chin-lately. Gossiping is a national sport. You can take away the dignity but you can’t take away the gossip. Because gossiping is, let’s be honest, awesome. Gossiping over a treasure trove of everything delicious is… super awesome. It’s Sex and the City meets Man vs Food. So you can bet that every time I travel back, I’d be invited to join one of these events and I psych with expectations.
I know you must be thinking that after dedicating such length to describe the awesomeness of such invention, this post must be about an awesome thing I ate there. Well, no. It’s the opposite. It’s about what did NOT happen. Two weeks ago on my trip back, I participated in the WORST afternoon tea EVER. So bad that literally everything on my plate was only borderline-edible. I was angry. I was mad. My only precious afternoon-tea event was ruined by bad food which made me want to take back what I said about the food being the backdrop. Because without something yummy, even the conversation seemed less juicy. I felt robbed of my much-anticipated “catch-up” with friends whom I REALLY wanted to “catch up” with… And among all those inedibles, there was scone…
“I can’t believe how bad the food was! How dare they call that a SCONE?” I ranted to my mom.
“Well, isn’t good scone hard to make?” She argued.
“NO, they are NOT! They are easy! I’ve made plenty of good sco…….” Oh holy shit, I haven’t…..
I’ve made plenty of BISCUITS, yes. There was this, and then there was that. Oh let’s not forget this, which came before that. But I realized that technically, I haven’t made “scones” yet. What’s the difference between a scone and a biscuit? After some efforts being made on Google, I couldn’t help but wonder: is scone just an eggy biscuit? The addition of eggs in the wet ingredients seems to draw the line between these two categories, which would otherwise be… basically the same. To prove to mom that I can make scones better than the I’m-not-going-to-name-it 5-star hotel with a W, I must make me some scones now. This should be no biggie for a biscuit fanatic, and because most scones seems to focus on the sweet side, I decided that I’m going to push for a savory one consisting of ingredients I think would marry well together. The result? Rich and pungent. Let’s just say I wouldn’t mind spending a whole afternoon exchanging “lively conversations” over these scrumptious snacks. I wouldn’t mind it one bit.
Servings: 8 scones
- 80 g of cubed, frozen butter
- 2 cups of all-purpose flour
- 1 tbsp of baking powder
- 1/2 tsp of salt
- 1/8 tsp (or a pinch) of freshly grated nutmeg
- 1 cup (loosely packed) of crumbled blue cheese
- 1 cup (tighly packed) of grated carrots
- 2 tbsp of chives, diced
- 1 large egg
- 1/3 cup of heavy cream
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Egg wash for brushing
Cut the butter into cubes and freeze it for 30 min before using, and make sure the oven is readily preheated on 450ºF/230ºC BEFORE starting the dough.
Crumble the blue cheese, grate the carrots and dice the chives. Place in a big bowl and set aside. Combine flour, baking powder, salt and nutmeg in the food processor bowl. Add the frozen butter and pulse until the butter is cut into small bits the size of barley. You can also do this with a pastry cutter by hand. Combine the flour mixture with the blue cheese and carrots. Whisk the egg and heavy cream together, and add to the flour mixture. Use a spatula to fold it together until JUST combined. Some lumps are fine.
Dust your hands and the dough with flour, and shape the dough into 8 round balls. Don’t panic if the dough sticks to your hands. Just keep dusting it with more flour and it should be fine. Place them on the baking sheet lined with parchment paper with at least 2″ (5cm) of space in between. Brush the top with egg wash and sprinkle with black pepper.
Bake in the oven until puffed and golden brown, approx 15 ~ 20 min.
PS: Once cooled down completely on a cooling rack, these can be wrapped in plastic wrap and kept in the freezer. To reheat, bake in a 400ºF/200ºC oven for 20 min, or until heated through.