The Harlem Tea Room’s Scones

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There was a time when I would purchase  any magazine whose glossy cover caught my eye.  Food, home improvement , self-improvement, fashion, lifestyle, parenting,  relationship, you name it, if the magazine cover was shiny with topics that appealed to me I bought it.  At the beginning of each month, at the exact time new issues would appear, I’d run to my local book sellers and grab up every new issue that caught my eye.  I would leave the store happy as can be with my magazine booty, all excited to run my fingers through crisp, clean, never touched  pages .  Always excited wondering what new recipe I’d find, and all the tons of information just waiting to be discovered.   I never considered getting subscriptions from most of them  because some times I don’t like a particular months theme. I don’t like January issues; Eat right! Lose weight! New year! New you! Healthy! Low fat! And February’s theme doesn’t  interest me either (duh-Valentines Day).  March and April could be hit or miss.  I did faithfully subscribe to O magazine and Martha Stewart Living.     My home soon became overrun with all these magazines and no matter how neatly and creatively I displayed them I knew it was time for most of them to go.   One day  I sat down with all my piles and went through them to see which could be kept and which could be donated. All the magazines I purchased from the bookstore had to go but first I ripped pages of my favorite recipes out  and then put those magazines off to the side to be recycled.   I was definitely keeping my 1997 recipe for  Bobby Flay’s famous bbq chicken quesadilla’s,  ripped from some magazine and tucked neatly into a plastic sleeve.  I eventually cancelled my subscriptions to O magazine and Martha Stewart Living, deciding I would keep all the MSL issues (by this time over 15 years worth and one issue from 1992!) and donate all the O magazines to a womans shelter-minus the food sections.   Even though O magazine was not a food magazine it had the best food recipes and food stories.   Because those  food articles had their own section in the magazine the missing pages would not interrupt the reading flow of the excellent articles.  At least I hoped it wouldn’t.

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More purging was needed when Oprah decided to compile most of the recipe collections from her past magazines into one cookbook.  There was no need for me to keep all those pages I’d ripped out.  Sorry women’s shelter.  With some regret I recycled all the articles and recipes  that I’d carefully clipped out and had put neatly into a 3 ring binder like my own little O cookbook.  I kept only one page.  It was a short article from the November 2005 issue about a young woman from Harlem who after college returned there to open a tea room at the height of the new Harlem renaissance.  The article was accompanied by a short recipe for scones that were aptly named The Harlem Tea Room Scones.  I had made those scones and honestly I don’t know what I loved more the easy recipe for the most moist delicious scones you’d ever put to your mouth  or the story that accompanied them about a woman who followed her childhood dream and opened a tea room in her beloved neighborhood where three generations of her family had lived. I adored how she adopted the age-old tradition of English tea complete with little sandwiches  and introduced it to Harlem.  Her neighbors loved it also, they were grateful she had opened a restaurant in Harlem when she probably could have easily opened it in any neighborhood further downtown.   Sadly,  the Harlem tea room is no longer open.  It closed a few years after the article first appeared in O magazine.  I am so glad I kept this article and did not toss it out with the others.  Although the recipe for the scones does appear in the cookbook, the entire article does not.  Maybe I kept the article because I made notes in the margin from the first time I made these scones (perfect scones! I shaped into squares!), maybe I kept it so I’d have the story of how someone found success following their dream.

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After a recent search on Yelp! I found out I’m not the only one looking for the return of the Harlem Tea Room.  Many have left comments wishing the owner well and hoping she returns to open the tea room or a new restaurant.  According to the article in O magazine the owner has an entrepreneurial spirit so I’m sure she’ll be back. In the mean time I have the Harlem Tea Room’s Scones and now you do too.

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The Harlem Tea Room’s Scones

8 tablespoons cold, unsalted butter, cut into small pieces, plus extra for baking sheets

3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking soda

2 teaspoons cream of tartar

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 cups sour cream or buttermilk

1 egg beaten, or milk for brushing scones

Variation: raisin scones-add 1/4 cup sugar to dry ingredients.  Stir in 1 cup raisins or currants after combining butter and flour mixture.

Variation::after combining butter and dry ingredients, stir 1 1/2 cups grated cheddar cheese and 1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme into flour mixture before adding sour cream.  Sprinkle tops of scones with additional 1/2 cup grated cheddar cheese before baking.


Preheat oven to 450 degrees.  Coat two baking sheets with butter.  Sift flour, baking soda, cream of tartar, and salt into a large bowl.  Add butter, using your fingertips to combine until mixture is  just moist and dough begins to stick together.  Gather dough into a ball and knead lightly until fully integrated.

Place dough on a floured work surface and roll out with a floured rolling pin to 3/4 inch thick(you could also use your hands to gently pat the dough out). 

Dip 2-inch round cutter into flour and cut out scones as close to one another as possible.  Place on baking sheets, with space in between; let stand 10 minutes.  Brush tops with egg, and bake until golden brown, 10-12 minutes.  Remove to wire rack to cool.

Serve warm with butter, clotted cream, fruit preserves, jam or honey. 

Makes about 1 1/2 dozen.  NOTE: I used a larger cutter so I got less but bigger scones.


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