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What are Scones?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 16, 2024
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Scones are a type of rich, slightly savory pastry that is often served at breakfast or tea, especially in Britain. Traditional English scones slightly resemble American biscuits, as both use a flaky, dense pastry, but scones tend to be a bit sweeter, and also incorporate ingredients like dried fruit. Delicious when eaten warm, they are also served cold with a variety of toppings, including clotted cream, marmalade, jams, honey, and butters. These pastries are also made highly savory with ingredients like potato flour and cheese.

The term “scone” in reference to a pastry has been in use in Scotland since 1513, and is probably related to the Dutch word for bread. Scones are the most highly evolved in Scotland as well, suggesting that the food originates there. Scottish versions come in a number of guises, including soda scones, made with a savory mixture of flour, buttermilk, baking soda, and salt. The Scottish also make treacle, potato, and griddle scones, which are cooked on a griddle rather than baked.

A basic scone dough has flour, milk or buttermilk, eggs, butter, salt, baking soda, and sugar. The dry ingredients are whisked together until combined and then the butter is cut in with pastry knives. The butter is not permitted to melt, but is instead blended with the flour until it forms small lumps of flour coated butter. The buttermilk and eggs are mixed together and then added all at once to the flour/butter mixture. Everything is combined until it has just begun to draw together, leaving a slightly sticky, lumpy dough that is rolled out on a lightly floured surface. The dough is usually made in the shape of a round which is cut into triangles, although scones can also be cut into squares or made using a cookie cutter. The top of the dough is often lightly brushed with egg and milk before being sprinkled with sugar and put into the oven to bake.

Common additions to scones include spices like cinnamon, allspice, and nutmeg, or seeds like poppy and fennel. Many cooks also add lemon zest and dried fruit such as raisins, dates, or cranberries. More hearty scones include bacon or cheese, and some bakeries add more unusual ingredients like chocolate chips, fresh fruit, or cocoa powder. The baked scones are cooled on racks and served with tea or packed up cold to be eaten later. They are readily available in bakeries all over the world, although they are also easy and delicious to make at home.

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Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a DelightedCooking researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments

By Perdido — On Apr 07, 2012

I'm not very big on sweets, but I do love to make meat scones. I include a bit of precooked sausage or bacon in the dough, and the result is a full breakfast.

If I'm using sausage, I buy the kind you can crumble up easily. I cook it until it is no longer red, and then I add it to the dough. Then, it gets baked a little more inside the scones.

For bacon scones, I cook the bacon completely first. It needs to be crispy so that it can be easily crumbled into the dough.

Add a glass of orange juice on the side, and you have breakfast. Just two of these scones fill me up until noon.

By cloudel — On Apr 06, 2012

@OeKc05 – My grocery store has scone mixes that are so easy to make. I can cook, but I would rather do things the easy way.

I absolutely love the orange cranberry scone mix. All I have to do is add half a cup of milk to it and stir until it is blended. Then, I just pat it out into a round cake pan and bake it as directed.

For a little extra texture and flavor, I sprinkle melted butter on top of the dough, along with some granulated sugar. This makes the scones more like the kind you would get in a bakery.

I like to cut my scones into triangles that resemble slices of pie. Of course, you have the option of making them as small or as big as you like, and you can even use a cookie cutter to get odd shapes.

By OeKc05 — On Apr 05, 2012

I'm really no good at baking, and this saddens me, because I would love to try a scone. None of the bakeries near where I live serve them, though.

I've never even thought to check the baking aisle at my grocery store, though. Is it possible to find a scone mix? They have mixes for muffins and cookies, so it is feasible that there should be a scone mix as well.

I've never been able to grasp the whole concept of cooking, but I greatly enjoy eating pastries and other breakfast foods. I generally pick them up from a bakery, but I think I could handle making scones from a simple mix.

By lighth0se33 — On Apr 05, 2012

I will never forget the first time I tasted a scone. A bakery next door to where I work had sent over a basket of blueberry scones to thank us for our cooperation with them on a project, and since they were fresh, they were amazing.

The blueberries steamed when I bit into them. The scone itself had a slightly salty, buttery flavor that contrasted perfectly with the berries.

It was eleven in the morning when we got the scones, and everyone ate so many that none of us were hungry at lunch time. I know that we all secretly schemed to take the leftovers home with us, but there were none at the end of the day.

Mary McMahon

Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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