My life in scones and the ubiquity of Double Devon Cream

   

There is nothing that better complements a homemade scone with strawberry jam than a dollop of double cream or clotted cream.* The combination is a truly astonishing taste treat. I love it so much that whenever I go out for tea I could easily pass up all the other treats on offer in favor of more scones with jam and cream.

Oddly enough, when I had my first scone with cream and jam on my first trip to England in 1989 I didn’t really like it. When I bought it, I assumed (wrongly) that the cream would be sweet like American whipped cream or the kind of cream you might find in a filled doughnut. So when I bit into it, I was somewhat startled and disappointed by the taste. (In retrospect I think this particular scone–bought in a cafeteria like cafe at the Bull Ring Centre in Birmingham may have had too much cream on it, overwhelming the sweetness of the jam.) Not having enjoyed that scone experience, I didn’t bother to try it again for the rest of my six weeks in England.

And then.

On the flight back to the U.S. they served a mass produced, cellophane-wrapped little scone already pre-jammed and creamed. Being someone who worries I am never going to get enough to eat on trans-Atlantic flights, I tend to eat everything I am given. So I popped that scone in my mouth despite my previous bad experience. Much to my surprise it was amazingly good. It was like the clouds parted from my palate and I finally understood what a scone with jam and cream was all about. As I looked around the cabin of the plane hoping someone might hand theirs over for me to eat, I began to think of the fact that I could have been eating scones everyday for six weeks. Oh the humanity! What a lost opportunity.

How exciting then to see jars of Devon Double Cream for sale in a grocery store in Minnesota a year or two later. It wasn’t even a high-end, or speciality grocer. It was just your normal, everyday, run-of-the-mill grocery store. Being able to find the cream in the US meant that I didn’t have to wait around for trips to England to satisfy my craving for a cream tea. Since that first siting I have noticed the inroads that The Devon Cream Company has made in the U.S. market as it began showing up in more and more places.

This summer I was astonished at the number of places I saw it for sale. I’ve tried to make sense of its apparent ubiquity. Here in DC, I reasoned, there are lots of foreign nationals from all reaches of the once vast British Empire. Perhaps they are the ones buying all the double cream. After all, an Anglophile baker like myself only buys it maybe twice a year. But then on our road trip up to Maine this summer, it seems like I saw it everywhere we went–even in rather small retail outlets that have a limited selection of products. I even found it on the island of Islesboro with its tiny (albeit somewhat gourmet) grocery store. (Even more interesting is the fact that I totally took it for granted that I would be able to find it while we were in Maine. Even though I measured out the dry ingredients for scones at home and took the mix along with me to Maine, I just assumed that I would be able to find double cream and that I didn’t need to buy it in DC ahead of time.

As I rejoiced in being able to find the product so easily while travelling this summer, I couldn’t help but wonder who in the US is buying this stuff other than me, and what are they using it for? Are there really that many Americans baking scones**? Or maybe it has a really long shelf-life*** and low turnover so its ubiquity doesn’t necessarily mean that tons of units are being sold.

Perhaps I shouldn’t even be asking why. I should just be thankful that it is.

* Clotted cream is 55% milk fat, whereas double cream is 48%. (Either one is gorgeous on a scone.)

** Americans baking scones frighten me a little. To me a scone is a rather plain affair. I usually make mine with dried currants (never raisins). They are meant to be tasty vehicles for jam and cream. They are not meant to be the star of the show. No giant triangles laden with blueberries or chocolate or other nonsense for me.

*** I just found out on The Devon Cream Company’s website that the product does indeed have a long shelf-life of twelve months. UPDATE: It is specially vacuum-packed so its unopened shelf life is 12 months. Once opened the decay process begins like with any cream.

[9/24 Update: I just discovered a blog actually called My Life in Scones]
  

18 thoughts on “My life in scones and the ubiquity of Double Devon Cream

  1. Steph September 23, 2011 / 2:57 pm

    Oh man, I love a good “cream tea”. Clotted cream is simply divine, and something I'm sure Tony rues me ever having introduced him to. I don't think it's all that readily available in Nashville, however, we can buy it at Whole Foods, so on the odd occasion when we're looking to break the bank (and our waistlines!) that's where we head…

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  2. StuckInABook September 23, 2011 / 3:16 pm

    12 month shelf-life?! Wow! I wouldn't keep cream longer than a few weeks, is that just me being paranoid, or is this product special?

    I loved the long conversation that my jam/cream first question sparked on Facebook. I also love that I knew it would!

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  3. Karen K. September 23, 2011 / 8:20 pm

    I love scones — I just made some the other day, in honor of our quarterly Jane Austen society meeting. I don't add anything to them but I do brush the tops with egg wash and sprinkle them generously with sugar before baking, so they have a nice sugary crust on top.

    I'm not a fan of double cream (lactose intolerant, sadly) but I do love lemon curd. I always say I'm going to make it and then I never do. I'll have to get around to making it for our Jane Austen birthday party in December

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  4. Aarti September 24, 2011 / 12:39 am

    You are so right. Scones are the best. I don't really think the English did much right, food-wise, but they make up for a lot with scones. I find scones in the US (generally just really big, fat cookies) to be woefully inadequate.

    I did NOT KNOW that clotted cream was sold here. Do you also buy scones? Or do you bake scones? I just got some FABULOUS preserves at the grocery store that I bet would taste wonderful with scones and cream… what aisle is it sold in?

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  5. Susan in TX September 24, 2011 / 7:11 am

    Ooo, where in the store would one find this? In the dairy section? You just made me hungry!

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  6. music-books-steve September 24, 2011 / 9:15 am

    Aarti is correct in observing that most American scones are really big fat cookies. I haven't been in England since I was a kid, but I'm a scone purist who cringes at things like “double-chocolate raspberry mocha” scones (OK, I made that up, but it's typical).

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  7. Kim September 24, 2011 / 2:03 pm

    I agree about the fancy scones–give them to me with currants, I love them plain and dry. Hoping that Trader Joe's stocks the cream but if not I'm guessing I can find it at Whole Foods or maybe AJ's (in Phoenix). Thanks, Thomas for another enjoyable post.

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  8. Thomas at My Porch September 24, 2011 / 5:28 pm

    Steph: I am amazed that I say no to it as often as I do. I would love to have it more frequently.

    Simon: I updated the post, it only has a 12-month shelf life before the vacuum seal is broken. I somehow missed your FB post on the jam/cream sequence. I think I tend to do jam first.

    Karen: Lemon curd is wonderful on scones. I made it myself once and was surprised how easy it was.

    Aarti: I don't buy scones in the US I make my own. I recently found a recipe for English Scones in the NYT that works really well–better than the one I had been using for years.

    Susan: In the dairy case. Often next to gourmet cheese.

    Steve: Your scone flavor may be fictional but I have seen varieties just as bad.

    Kim: You should be able to get it at Whole Foods and I would be very surprised if AJs didn't have it. By the way i LOVE AJ's. When we visit my parents and we cook dinner we always make a special trip to AJ's so we don't have to make do with the Albertson's near their retirement community.

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  9. FleurFisher September 24, 2011 / 5:51 pm

    Devon clotted cream is indeed wonderful, but Cornish is better – and richer!

    It's actually not difficult to make clotted cream, so I'll dig out the traditional recipes and post them sometime.

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  10. Margaret Evans Porter September 25, 2011 / 11:47 am

    When at uni in Devon (within driving distance of Cornwall) I was able to debate with myself the relative merits of Devon v Cornish cream teas. It's a draw.

    I know of at least 2 others living Stateside, addition to you, who keep the Devon Double Cream-makers in business: my mother and me. It used to be a rare find, now it's an easy score and we take it for granted.

    I agree about “scones” as defined and baked in the US. Always best to bake one's own!

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  11. Desperate Reader September 25, 2011 / 6:30 pm

    American baking v British baking is one of the times that I realise there really is a language barrier. You have cups of things and sticks of butter and odd things in scones – which sound nice but not like scones. We have stuff I take for granted. If it wasn't almost midnight I'd go and make scones right now though because there is no better tea accompaniment:)

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  12. GeraniumCat September 26, 2011 / 7:50 am

    Hmm, a mistake maybe to read this over a dull lunch, I now want scones and cream. My mother in Devon used to post cream to me every Christmas, it was always a special moment when it arrived, except the time when it didn't show up until after New Year 😦

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  13. Ti September 26, 2011 / 1:40 pm

    I find all of my “scone supplies” at Cost Plus. Do you have those by you? They have Devon Cream and an array of jams along with Lemon Curd which I adore.

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  14. rhapsodyinbooks September 26, 2011 / 11:00 pm

    So glad to hear you would never put raisins in your scones, but WHY do you think CURRANTS are any BETTER? I feel that anything that could possibly be mistaken for a rat dropping should not be included in a pastry. And then there's the whole question of whether it is advisable to eat something advertising itself as “clotted” or “curdled” …. It just doesn't sound aesthetic. In fact, it sounds a bit like an autopsy report.

    Nevertheless, I shall take your word for it that you can concoct delicious vessels for jam and cream (clotted or non) since my only recent experience in your company involved wonderful conversation but a rather dried crumbly smashed up ball of oatmeal that was full of little rat-like droppings rather optimistically designated as raisins by observers. (Although, I should confess to set the record straight that you were not responsible for my acquisition of the alleged pastry.)

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  15. ArchitectDesign™ September 27, 2011 / 9:44 am

    I've always seen it in the grocery store and wondered what it was. Other than on scones -what else would you do with it? Also – what is the ratio of cream to jam that you suggest? I'm dying to try it now.
    PS: you were right, I started the book you sent me and wasn't able to put it down yesterday. I'm nearly finished already!

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  16. Thomas at My Porch September 27, 2011 / 1:13 pm

    FluerFisher: I would think to make clotted cream one would need a cow.

    Margaret: It sounds like a great idea for a travel itinerary: comparative tastings of Devon v Cornish cream teas. Reminds me of the copious Whoopee Pie tastings I did this summer in Maine.

    Hayley: At least measurements translate from one country to the other. I am not sure if the funky flavors do (or should).

    GeraniumCat: You must have been bereft when the cream didn't show up. One year John's mother's fudge didn't show up at all!

    Ti: I am not sure if we have Cost Plus or not. But now you are the second one to mention Lemon Curd and it has been so long since I had any…

    Jill: Unlike you, I like raisins. However, they don't have the same property as currants and so are not good, in my humble opinion, in scones. I agree with you about the rather repulsive sound of “clotted”. After Frances and I left you we stopped back at Teaism so she could get shortbread for her kids and I bought a six-pack of the salted oatmeal cookies with the offending raisins. My only complaint about them was that I wished they had had more rasins in them.

    Stefan: The ratio of cream to jam is a personal preference. But I will say that the cream layer should never be less than thick. Based on comments here I don't think anyone else knows what to do with it other than scones either. I am glad you are enjoying Bricks and Mortar. I thought that if you didn't like the book you would at least appreciate the aesthetic value of the Persephone edition itself.

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  17. mary October 4, 2011 / 5:59 pm

    I am appalled by this talk of currants and raisins, which would never feature in an English scone. Fruit scones are made with sultanas.

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  18. mary October 4, 2011 / 6:04 pm

    PS Clotted cream is great on strawberries, or indeed on any pudding. And when I briefly lived in Cornwall, the ice-cream man used to dollop it on top of ice-cream cones. Highly recommended.

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