The Old Fashioned Way: Clotted Cream and Scones

The Old Fashioned Way: Clotted Cream and Scones on The History Kitchen #English #vintage #recipe

I have, and always have been, a voracious reader of English novels, and I’d often come upon references to “a cream tea.” This, I believed, was tea with cream in it until I reached the part where the characters tucked into scones and clotted cream. When I first traveled to England I had clotted cream myself, in a little teashop in Devon.  It’s what heaven would taste like should heaven have a taste, I thought. And, as is my usual process, I then wondered how such a thing was made.

To American ears, clotted sounds like something’s gone wrong.  To us, clotted refers to a bodily healing process, so it’s hard to make the leap to something tasty.  But in England, clotted simply describes the look of the cream as it clings together.  Once you bite into a golden scone spread thickly with this unctuous concoction, dotted with fresh sliced strawberries, you won’t care what it’s called because it is simply delicious. Clotted cream is also called Cornish cream and Devonshire cream (a nod to its geographical origins). Each area will claim that their clotted cream tastes different from any other. Devon’s cream’s flavor supposedly arises from the peat fires it is cooked over. I have to assume this is the way it once tasted historically, because in the UK today burning peat is frowned upon. Cornwall’s cream is said to have a coarser texture. Incidentally, Cornish Cream was awarded the EU’s Protected Designation of Origin status in 1998. In the past, clotted cream was also called clowtyd, clouted, clowted, and clawted.

The Old Fashioned Way: Clotted Cream and Scones on The History Kitchen #English #vintage #recipe

In Devon, the clouting of cream goes back to the Tavistock Abbey estates in the early part of the fourteenth century. Because they had no churns to make butter, they scalded their milk. The resulting clotted cream was stirred and then made into butter. During the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries in Cornwall, clotted cream and butter became the best ways to preserve milk. Later, in British dairies, farmers’ wives would set out a bowl of cream to “settle” for several hours. They would then scald it and let it simmer overnight on their kitchen ranges. As it cooled the next day, the thick, yellow cream was skimmed off and layered into a bowl. Countries other than England also enjoy clotted cream. In Serbia it’s called kajmak, in Turkey it’s kaymak, and in India it’s malai. Clotted cream is often described as having a nutty flavor, which is achieved by cooking the cream without boiling it

Clotted cream is hard to find, if not impossible, in the United States, but it is simple to make. It takes a lot of cream to make a small amount of clotted cream. Hmm, you might say, as you survey the small amount of clotted cream that is yielded, but understand that clotted cream is really the cream of the cream of the crop. A pint of cream makes a little less than half a cup of the good stuff. If you’re cooking for a crowd, plan accordingly and make multiple batches!

Here is a recipe from Cornish Recipes Ancient & Modern by Edith Martin, published by the Women’s Institute in 1929:

Use new milk and strain at once, as soon as milked, into shallow pans. Allow it to stand for 24 hours in winter and 12 hours in summer. Then put the pan on the stove, or better still into a steamer containing water, and let it slowly heat until the cream begins to show a raised ring round the edge. When sufficiently cooked, place in a cool dairy and leave for 12 or 24 hours. Great care must be taken in moving the pans so that the cream is not broken, both in putting on the fire and taking off.  When required skim off the cream in layers into a glass dish for the table, taking care to have a good “crust” on the top.

Here’s a simpler recipe, along with a recipe for a traditional English scone. Top a freshly baked scone with clotted cream and berries, and prepare to swoon!

The Old Fashioned Way: Clotted Cream and Scones on The History Kitchen #English #vintage #recipe

Clotted Cream and English Scones

Clotted Cream Ingredients

  • 1 quart (4 cups) heavy cream

You will also need

  • A double boiler or heatproof bowl and saucepan, pan of ice water

English Scone Ingredients

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 4 tbsp unsalted butter, diced
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 5 tbsp milk
  • 1 egg beaten, to glaze the tops of the scones

You will also need

  • Mixing bowl, baking sheet, butter or parchment for the baking sheet, rolling pin, biscuit cutter or water glass
Total Time: 10 Hours
Servings: 1 cup clotted cream, about 1 dozen scones depending on size of your biscuit cutter

To Make Clotted Cream

  • In a double boiler over medium heat bring the cream to 175 degrees. If you don’t have a double boiler (and I don’t) place a heatproof bowl over a saucepan of water. Stir a little so that the cream heats evenly. Once you reach 175, bring up the temperature—180 to 200 degrees. Keep that temp for about 45 minutes to an hour. At this point the cream will take on a cracked, yellow skin. Next, remove the bowl or top of your double boiler and settle in a pan of ice water to cool quickly. Cover with plastic wrap and stow in the fridge overnight. Then carefully skim the clotted cream off the top with a shallow spoon and layer it into a bowl. It will keep for about a week in your fridge. Use the rest of the cream as you would regular cream (it will be thinner than heavy cream, but can still be added to beverages).
  • The Old Fashioned Way: Clotted Cream and Scones on The History Kitchen #English #vintage #recipe

To Make English Scones

  • Preheat the oven to 425 and prepare a baking sheet with butter or parchment paper. Sift the flour, baking powder and salt together and then work in the butter. Make a well in the middle and then add the egg and milk. Mix to form a soft dough.
  • Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and then knead quickly until the dough comes together. Roll out the dough to an inch thick, then cut into rounds with a biscuit cutter or water glass. Move to the baking sheet and brush the tops with the beaten egg. Bake for 8 minutes or until golden.
  • Serve your clotted cream with strawberries or jam on a scone, a slice of pie, or anything that lends itself to cream.
  • The Old Fashioned Way: Clotted Cream and Scones on The History Kitchen #English #vintage #recipe

Research Sources:

Thorne, John (1996). Simple Cooking. North Point Press, New York, NY.

McGee, Harold (1984). On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen. Scribner, New York, NY.

Trewin, Carol (2005). Gourmet Cornwall. Alison Hodge, Cornwall, UK.

Lane, John. In Praise of Devon: A Guide to its People, Places, and Character. Green Books, Cambridge, UK.

Mendelson, Anne (2008). Milk: The Surprising Story of Milk through the Ages. Knopf, New York, NY

About Sharon Biggs Waller

Sharon Biggs Waller writes about historical and vintage cooking techniques for The History Kitchen. She is a historical young adult novelist and freelance magazine writer for Urban Farm, Hobby Farms, Hobby Farm Home, and Chickens. Viking/Penguin will release her debut historical novel, A Mad, Wicked Folly, in 2014. Read more...

Comments (46)Post a Comment

  1. The first scones I ever had were in of all places Idaho! This small restaurant served them and it was love at first bite. The ones I have had since were dry and icky. This looks like it may be the same as the Idaho ones!

  2. Is clotted cream supposed to be the British version of American cream cheese? Looks more like cottage cheese beaten a bit and with perhaps that sour type of taste. Tell me if I´m wrong.

    1. Lauren, if you click through you’ll see the process for making clotted cream. It’s a thicker, clotted version of heavy whipping cream. The flavor is creamy, not cheesy or sour.

    2. Clotted Cream is 55% milkfat. The fat content is so high that it starts to clot. Clotting is just the cream globules combining to make curds, which are also the lumps in cottage cheese. The long heating time necessary for it to get to the 55% (or so) milkfat stage causes it to take on the characteristic flavour.

      Cream types are all basically made the same way and defined by their milkfat content. Common types of cream in the UK alss include double cream, which is 48% milkfat; whipping cream, which is 35% milkfat; single cream, which is 18% milkfat (this is the grade of cream immediately after separation and does not involve any reduction; half cream (aka half and half), which is 12% milkfat by the addition of whole milk to decrease the milkfat content.

      All these creams can be made from whole milk, preferably raw, though pasteurised is acceptable, but never using ultra-pasteurised milk (it will barely coalesce, aka clot, at all).

      Cottage Cheese is actually a soft, unaged cheese, that involves the same low heat as making heavier creams but involves the addition of rennet (creates large curds) or white vinegar or lemon juice (creates small curds) to cause it to acidify and curdle. The rennet method is slightly slower, but the result is less acidic. If the curds are washed, then it is sweet cottage cheese. If the curds are unwashed, and thoroughly drained, and often pressed into a dense lump, it is farmers cheese. If the milk is first ripened (mildly soured) and then processed to be farmers cheese, it is called Quark… and so on.

    1. Cos clotted cream is completely different to whipped cream! You could use whipped cream in a cream tea, (Scones, Clotted Cream, Strawberry Jam and tea with milk) but the Cornish would frown on you and possibly accuse you of ‘cheating’. It simply doesn’t taste the same. The real question with a cream tea is do you put the jam or the clotted cream on the scone first??

  3. Writing this from London, England. Marks and Spencer do lovely scones. Clotted cream is sold everywhere in supermarkets. The proper way to have it is to split the warmed scones in half across. Spread jam on it first then add a big dollop of clotted cream to top it all. Perfect with a strong cuppa (tea with milk). Utter delight. In the US, if clotted cream is difficult to find, use thick cream and whip it up. Pretty close to the real McCoy.

  4. Excellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 stars
    Clotted cream is not the equivalent to creamed cheese american style, far from… Clotted cream is 100% cream taken from the milk, if anything it is similar to the Italian mascarpone in looks and taste but not as creamy and is classed as a curd cheese and not cream. I am from the west country and have eaten clotted cream all my life, it’s the best :-), my mum is from devon and bestowed the clotted cream eating habit on me from a very early age, as in clotted cream and strawberry jam sandwiches :-) YUMMMMM

  5. Hi im from Devon , where cream teas are very popular also in Cornwall and depending where your from ie ; Devon or Cornwall depends on how you eat cream teas in Devon they put the cream on first then jam , in Cornwall its the jam first then the cream .

  6. Ever so glad Marks & Spencer is back in Amsterdam! Will visit them soon for the christmaspudding, mince pies and all other lovely british food.
    Clotted cream is not for sale in Holland too, but its easy to make. Mix 100 ml creme fraiche with 200 ml mascarpone, very gently, use a wooden spoon (no machine!) if you do well, you have a nice lobbed clotted cream within 10 minutes.

  7. Excellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 stars
    Clotted cream was recently listed as one of the 120 top items of British cuisine. See link to en.wikipedia.org.
    Subsequently it was ranked as the least healthy of those items, which translates to: it is delicious and good for you. Try it once at least.

  8. Hi, third time making clotted cream. This time it’s gone a bit bitty is it because fatty layer on bottom when I put into another container?

    Thanks for receipt…

  9. Since I live in Thailand and cream is not available here, apart from imported whipping cream. Whatever that is. I have looked for a recipe using pasteurized milk, which I can buy with 40% fat content . So the ancient recipe you so readily overlooked printed above your double cream recipe, to produce clotted cream, looks to be my best bet. Though, if it were clarified a bit more for me to use in my kitchen, I would be obliged to you. As I am dreaming of a lovely cream tea.

  10. Making clotted cream is very easy, if you can get non-homogenized milk – either direct from your dairy farmer or gourmet grocery stores.
    In a shallow pan bring the milk to a boil at medium heat, at which point a layer forms on the surface. Cover it with a wire mesh (we use a splatter screen) and let it cool a little before putting it in the refrigerator for several hours to overnight. We usually get about a half inch thick layer of clotted cream which can be carefully skimmed off the top.

  11. I’ve never need to use a doyble boiler this long before – almost all the water boiled off and nearly ruined my pan! The cream looks good, though, it’s out in the fridge for tomorrow morning!

  12. As a British person, I’ve tried my fair share of cream teas: scones with clotted cream/jam and a cup of tea – with milk. Heavenly! Although I’ve never tried to make the cream myself, I’m pretty sure it shouldn’t look like the cream you show in your pictures (I would send it back if someone served me that – sorry if that sounds rude). The cream definitely should NOT be runny. It should be thick, spreadable and hold it’s form. Check out the wiki page (link to en.wikipedia.org) to see what it should be like. It should be a white, smooth, fluffier version of butter. If you try to spread jam on top of the cream here (as is the proper Devon way) you’ll make a complete mess. The cream should be thick enough that you can spread jam on top and it all stays together on top of the scone. No drips!! Sorry if this sounds condescending, but one shouldn’t give the wrong perception of something that is a British classic.

    1. JK, this blog is called The History Kitchen, we explore old fashioned methods of food preparation. Sharon is outlining the old fashioned farmhouse way of making clotted cream. It won’t look like the clotted cream sold in shops in jars because it is skimmed from fresh cream, hence the drips. It’s just a different method of producing the same product; the clotted cream you see here is actually more traditional than the thicker spreadable form you’ve grown accustomed to. For a thicker cream you could strain the gathered clotted cream through a few layers of cheesecloth. It is delicious either way.

  13. I tried the scone recipe last night, and I think there’s some kind of mistake printed here. I ended up with six super-tall scones that were uncooked in the middle. After about ten minutes of bake time, I lowered the temperature to 375, ripped them in half, and baked them uncooked sides up for another 8 minutes. I would advise rolling them to a *half* inch thick before cutting them out with a biscuit cutter.

    The taste was fine, though!

    1. Hi Elyce, thank you for the feedback. Sharon, who shared this recipe, is out of town at the moment but she will double check the recipe when she gets back and let us know if there is a misprint. Sorry your first try wasn’t quite right, glad the flavor was nice!

  14. I usually by Devon cream in a jar from World Market for about 8 dollars. Today I tried your recipe to go with some bakery scones, and the clotted cream is heavenly! Less expensive and so much better tasting than store bought.Thank you so much!

  15. I hail from the UK and now live in Australia. In all my time living in my home land I do not recall eating scones warm. I hate them served warm which is what happens in Oz all the time. The same with muffins.

  16. I’m from Devon and well remember my aunt (a farmer’s wife) making clotted cream from raw milk in an enamel bowl. The cream was skimmed off with a perforated metal disc and, as you say, has a thinner, slightly runny component to it. The taste was devine and different from even the best shop-bought cream now, which tends to be too thick to spread. As to whether it’s jam or cream first, in Devon where I lived it was always jam first. I think the person who mentioned the cream needing to be thick enough to spread jam on hasn’t tried traditional clotted cream.

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