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Unfortunate food trend: the "cornbread" scone.

Twice in the past week, once at a Peets Coffee and tea, and the other in a purchase from Lunardi's bakery, I have received items that appear to be scones, and are even labeled as such. But no. They are cornbread. Poorly made cornbread that crumbles into a dry sandy mess when you break off an end. Cornbread, that leeches every bit of moisture you have in you mouth, forcing you to gulp your tea in self defense.

To my mind, a "scone" is something that goes very nicely with tea, not something that should be served with a bowl of chile. Cornbread goes very nicely with chile. As a tea treat, not so much.

Cornmeal really has no business going into a scone receipe. Part of what makes a scone a "scone" is the creamy, slightly sweet, buttery texture that goes so well with an optional dollop of jam and a hot cup of good coffee or tea. If they are made with cornbread, they are not the same. They do not go with tea very well, even if they contain fruit. They just taste like dry cornbread with fruit. You could eat them with chile, and wouldn't even notice the fruit.

I have been returning these products and asking for a refund. I am always polite, since I know that the servers in Peets are not responsible for baking these things. Peets has always been very nice about refunding my money or providing a replacement. It would be much easier if they didn't LABEL these triangular cornmeal hockey pucks as "scones". Other than appearance, they do not resemble the real thing in any way.

Neither Peets, nor Lunardi's will reveal the source bakery. I guess they feel they must protect their vendors. It is a shame, since this vendor is obviously blending together some Biscuick and Jiffy Cornbread mix in a big bowl and then adding some fruit. No care is taken in creating the product. Real scones require care in cutting the butter into the flour, then mixing the milk in a certain way so that it is not over mixed. This provides a refined, flaky texture.

I don't mind paying $2 plus change for a real scone, but I will definitely return the Bisquick/Jiffy Mix version every time. If anyone knows the source bakery for these monstrosities, I would love to know. That way, I could take my complaints directly to the source, instead of subjecting my fellow Chowhound readers to my little rant. ;)

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  1. These delicious pastries are not so much a trend, at least around here, as they have been a fixture at the Cheese Board collective and it's related businesses, the Arizmendi bakeries for a long time. I don't have any knowledge of if they come from anywhere else before that. At these places, the recipe is typically supplemented with dried cherries.

    It is probably ok to criticize them for not being "scones," as they don't bear any resemblance to scones served in England with clotted cream and jam; on the other hand, they do sometimes bear a passing resemblance to the drier, sweeter, fruit-laced things we call "scones" here in the US.

    Actually, we pronounce it completely differently, too, so maybe they're not the same thing at all; they just happened to be spelled identically.

    Perhaps if you make your argument persuasively or vociferously enough, they will stop making them.

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    Arizmendi
    3265 Lakeshore Ave, Oakland, CA

    3 Replies
    1. re: twocents

      Actually, these seem like two separate issues. I've had dry wheat flour scones at Peet's (and other shops) and lusciously moist wheat flour-corn meal scones at the Cheese Board. My guess is that the texture of the scone has more to do with the amount of fat used and/or the freshness of the scone.

      Edit: Sorry, meant to reply to the OP.

      1. re: twocents

        Twocents: Your comment about the different pronunciations made me laugh. I actually *like* the cornbread cherry scones from Arizmendi, but when I get to the counter and they ask me what's in my bag, I always say "a scahn." And they always say, "A scohne?" And I nod. I always thought of the typical California pronunciation as wrong and not merely a variant. You've opened my eyes! I feel more tolerant already!

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        Arizmendi
        3265 Lakeshore Ave, Oakland, CA

        1. re: Constant Velocity

          yes! My dotter's dating a liar = my daughter's dating a lawyer. That movement to one vowel is ...daunting. Schwah anyone?

      2. WOW...easy solution. Just don't buy cornbread scones. Would it bother you if they were baked in a muffin tin? By the way, "real" Cornish or Devon scones are made with heavy cream, not butter.

        2 Replies
        1. re: OldTimer

          Pretty sure the ones I had in Yorkshire were made with lard. Delicious.

          1. re: OldTimer

            It is easy enough to say, "Just don't buy cornbread scones" than it is to actually DO, especially if they are not labeled. Most of the time they are labeled simply as "Blueberry Scones" or "Cranberry-Peach Scones" with no indication that they are also made with a cornbread mix. It is very difficult to tell the cornbread-mix variety as such just by looking. It is always the texture, and by then it is too late. Labeling would be a nice and easy way to take care of this little problem, but I hardly ever see anyone doing it.

          2. In these provincial former colonies, you find all sorts of adaptations. (I have examples of food writing from Britain 150 or 200 years ago, remarking on how popular in the US are cornmeal and things cooked from it, so this has gone on for a while.)

            I also like "real" scones, but rarely make them these days. Can anyone suggest decent Bay Area sources?

            Scones are an example of classic pastries that (like pie crusts or the typical, horrible Bay Area croissants) invite US industrial-baking shortcuts like artificially hydrogenated fat with its heavy soapy taste, giving results that look, but don't taste at all, like the real thing (and probably are less healthy in the bargain).

            9 Replies
            1. re: eatzalot

              The English Rose in San Carlos is a breakfast place that makes their own scones. Sweet, creamy with a little crumble to them, very good!

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              The English Rose
              663 Laurel St, San Carlos, CA 94070

              1. re: eatzalot

                Yeah, I'd like to hear some good Bay Area places for scones as well, for SF in general but the Bay Area as well for early morning weekend consumption when I'm in the mood.

                At least in SF when I get in the morning (before 7 AM), the scone selection is not too appealing from places I know about in the Fi-Di and SoMa. For a very brief time, Salt House did breakfast and I would indulge in their blueberry scones (nice texture, not too sweet except for the plentiful blueberries) every once in awhile. But nowadays, Specialty's, Peet's, and others just don't cut it.

                1. re: eatzalot

                  One source in stores is Stonehedge found in a lot of stores. They're based in Berkeley. I usually can find them fresh (er) from stores with high turnover of stuff. So Saturday, the Whole Foods on Franklin had many and they seemed fresh. I freeze them then put in the microwave for 30 secs.

                  http://sconehengeco.blogspot.com/

                  1. re: eatzalot

                    A number of years ago (so I don't know whether this is current) I had incredible scones at Zuni for brunch...do they still make these, and are they still exemplary??? Anyone?

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                    Zuni Cafe
                    1658 Market Street, San Francisco, CA 94102

                    1. re: ChowFun_derek

                      Still on their web sample brunch menu coupled with Satsuma Plum Preserve.
                      http://1.bp.blogspot.com/_wenooJM999E...

                      1. re: wolfe

                        Pretty picture...got my salivary glands going...I think I'll make a point of trying Zuni's brunch this Sunday...!
                        Thanks...

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                        Zuni Cafe
                        1658 Market Street, San Francisco, CA 94102

                    2. re: eatzalot

                      John Campbell's Irish Bakery, 5625 Geary.

                      Scones.

                      Traditional British Isle/Irish.

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                      John Campbell's Irish Bakery
                      5625 Geary Blvd, San Francisco, CA 94121

                      1. re: eatzalot

                        >Can anyone suggest decent Bay Area sources?<

                        Fat Angel bakery in Fairfax makes the best scones I can remember having. I don't know how they compare with those in England, but to me they're just great and are moist and flavorful enough that I never put anything on them.

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                        Fat Angel Bakery
                        71 Broadway Blvd, Fairfax, CA 94930

                        1. re: eatzalot

                          Sandbox bakery scones are heavenly. Can't speak to their Old World authenticity, and some of the flavors suggest some east-west fusion, but the crumb suggests a rich, creamy purity. They are as good as any scones I've ever had.

                        2. I thought of this post today when I ordered a multi-grain bagel and it had raisins in it. I don't like raisins and would never order a raisin bagel but also would not expect them in a multi-grain bagel. Just wanted to express my sympathy to tuxedocat, I feel your pain!

                          4 Replies
                          1. re: elliora

                            Raisins in a bagel. Unordered, even.

                            I've heard of things like raisin bagels, blueberry bagels, cinnamon bagels. Younger people ordering these things may not realize how recent and anomalous they are. Such bagels may even TASTE great (I like raisins, cinnamon, blueberries -- in the right place; I suppose equally a blueberry risotto, or raisins in cheese, might taste good too) but that's off the main point -- they're just wrong. Even multi-grain bagels seem a little doubtful.

                            (I asked wise neighbors if sweet bagels could be a sign of the End Times. Yes, they asserted: one of many.)

                            1. re: eatzalot

                              When my son was much younger he liked Noah's chocolate chip bagels. Just awful. At least I was never tempted to finish his leftovers.

                            2. re: elliora

                              My daughter used to eat spinach bagels, much to my disgust. I always wondered what her Jewish great-grandparents would think about that. And how about jalapeno-cheese bagels?! Guess I'm a purist.

                              1. re: The Librarian

                                Yum Jalepeno Cheese anything. LOL. I love Jalepenos.

                                As for scones, the only ones I have had that taste like the ones in the UK are at the Fat Lady in Oakland. They give a little plate of free mini-pastries at breakfast and they have a couple tiny scones on the plate. They also have delicious thin pancakes (my favorite in the bay area).

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                                Fat Lady
                                201 Washington St, Oakland, CA 94607

                            3. Tasty and I think more authentic scones at The Cakery in Burlingame: they come in two sizes, the small ones would be nice for a fancy tea where the scone was one of several items. They are described as "raisin" or "oatmeal", which is slightly confusing since the oatmeal ones have raisins or currants in them too.

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                              The Cakery
                              1308 Burlingame Ave, Burlingame, CA