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Upcoming Ruskin Woman’s Club tea is steeped in tradition

The Ruskin Woman’s Club is a well-oiled machine when it comes to throwing a tea party. Its members are really organized, really coordinated and boy, can they bake a mean scone.

This year’s annual Christmas Tea, which has the theme Memories of Fun in the Snow, will take place Dec. 14 at the historic Ruskin Woman’s Club, 503 U.S. 41 S. There will be two seatings: noon and 2:30 p.m.

I thought planning a party for a few friends was tough. Try bringing together 160 guests for a formal afternoon of tea and delicacies.

Two years ago I helped at the event as a kitchen volunteer. After warming scones and arranging dessert platters, it took a trio of dishwashers just to tackle the mountain of dirty cups and saucers.

Committee chairwoman Sonja Council told me the club tries to bring back favorites that people really like. Classics like chicken and grape salad served on a sliced, Ruskin tomato, quiche, old-fashioned fruit cake cookies and red velvet cake have made regular appearances over the years.

But the main attraction for many will be the scones served with devonshire cream.

Scones are one of my favorite foods. Add a cup of tea and I’m in my comfort zone.

This year, apricot-orange cream scones will delight your pallet. They’re made by adding a fragrant flourish of orange zest, which makes the dried apricot-studded scones extra enticing.

As any tea enthusiast will tell you, scones are best served with a spoonful of rich cream, whether it be clotted or Devonshire.

If there is any time of year when a good cup of tea heartened by a plate of warm scones is welcome, this is it. There’s no reason not to embrace tradition, particularly when it’s topped with cream or jam.

Tickets to this event are $20 and can be purchased by calling Sonja Council at (813) 244-1015. The proceeds go toward the Ruskin Woman’s Club Student Scholarship Fund.

Lynn Kessel is a freelance food columnist and blogger. For more of her recipes, visit southshore.tbo.com and enter the search words Lynn Kessel or look for her blog at www.lynnkessel.blogspot.com.

Cranberry-Orange Cream Scones

3 3/4 cups bread flour

1/2 cup sugar

1 tablespoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 cups heavy cream, cold

1 cup dried cranberries

2 tablespoons grated orange peel

2 tablespoons milk

3 tablespoons coarse sugar for topping

Cut two 10-inch circles of parchment paper. Use one to line a 10-inch, round cake pan. Reserve the second piece.

Sift the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt together into a mixing bowl. Make a well in the center of the flour mixture. Add the cream, dried cranberries and orange zest to the mixture and stir by hand, only until the batter is evenly moistened.

Place the dough in the lined cake pan and press into an even layer. Cover the dough with the second parchment paper circle. Freeze the dough until very firm, at least 12 hours.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Prepare a baking sheet by spraying it lightly with cooking spray or lining with parchment.

Thaw the dough for 5 minutes at room temperature, then turn it out of the cake pan onto a cutting board. Cut the dough into 10 equal wedges and place the individual wedges on the baking sheet, about 2 inches apart. Brush the scones with milk and sprinkle with the sugar.

Bake the scones until golden brown, 30 to 40 minutes, and then transfer to cooling racks. Serve them warm or at room temperature.

Makes 12 to 15 scones.

Adapted from: “Baking Boot Camp: Five Days of Basic Training” by The Culinary Institute of America and Darra Goldstein

Easy Devonshire Cream

1 (3-ounce) package cream cheese

1 tablespoon white sugar

1 pinch salt

1 cup heavy cream

In a medium bowl, cream together cream cheese, sugar and salt. Beat in cream until stiff peaks form. Chill until serving.

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