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Feb 17, 2012 12:19 PM

Best scone recipe?

Goin to brunch at a friend's on Sunday and I offered to make scones. I left my favourite scone recipe at another friend's house. Anyone have a tried and true scone recipe?

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  1. What's a good scone? What style do you have in mind? Scones can range from something as simple as a baking powder biscuit (the basic British idea) to elaborate coffeeshop creations that blur the boundary between biscuits and muffins or cupcakes. For some it's all about shape, for others they have to be sweet and loaded.

    1 Reply
    1. re: paulj

      Something moist and tender. Not a big fan of the hard dry scones. It doesn't have to be sweet or loaded just not too dry.

      1. re: AlkieGourmand

        Which Cheese Board recipe is your favorite, AlkieGourmand?

      2. Since I'm still in the midst of unpacking a new household I found myself without my tried and true scone recipe this week and the need to make some nice, proper ones for a tea.
        I used a version of a Martha recipe, subbing in half cake flour for the all-purpose. They came out really lovely. Moist and light, but not too sweet and definitely not like an American biscuit.
        If you'd like the recipe, i'm sure I can dig it up later today. I used currants and cream.
        The few we had leftover, even three days later, were quite good.

        1 Reply
        1. This is my tried-and-true favorite. They're very light and tender, and very easy. A proper tea scone, as rabaja puts it.

          1 Reply
          1. re: Caitlin McGrath

            Those look like slightly sweetened (American) biscuits, using cream as the fat and liquid.

            Notice that the Chow software has found many related scone threads (see below).

          2. Here’s a recipe from Sara Walker’s “Highland Fling Cookbook,” published in 1971. I’ve found cold milk gives better results than room temperature. They should be light, and not half a ton and thick as a brick, as is often the case in North America:

            2 cups flour
            1 ½ teaspoons baking soda
            3 teaspoons cream of tartar
            2 tablespoons sugar
            2 ounces butter
            ¾ cup milk

            Sift together the flour, baking soda, cream of tartar, and sugar. Cut in the butter with a pastry blender or with your fingertips. This should be done very thoroughly. Make a well in the center and pour all of the milk in at one time. Mix well and then turn onto a floured board and knead a little, not too much.

            Divide the dough in two. Make a round out of one half and roll out to almost ¾ inch. Cut the round in a four pie-shaped wedges. Transfer to a buttered cookie sheet. Repeat with the second half of the dough.

            Bake in a hot oven for 20 minutes at 475 F. The scone will be lightly brown on top and will have risen to twice their original size. (I have used a lower 400 F oven in the past. And the scones could just as easily be cut into rounds. Easy on the kneading, just pat them into shape.)

            6 Replies
            1. re: VitalForce

              You could substitute 2 tsp of baking powder for the baking soda and cream of tartar, or use buttermilk instead of the milk and cream of tartar (which is an acid).

              Other than the sugar this is similar to American biscuits. If American 'scones' are heavy it's because they have loaded down with raisins, nuts, flavorings, etc.

              1. re: paulj

                Yes, that’s quite true. American biscuits (as I’ve experienced them) are in fact, renamed Scottish scones. This probably has to do with settlement patterns along the eastern southern states. In a similar way, Canadian aboriginals’ bannock is related to that of the highland and island employees of the Hudson’s Bay Company in centuries past, as the native peoples use the Gaelic name for their bread.

                1. re: VitalForce

                  American biscuits are renamed Scottish scones, with, no doubt, their own later developments. But, Scottish scones themselves have a history that would be connected to the development of baking powder, etc, and the earlier heavier skillet breads. I’m not sure where American so-called “scones” come from, or why the name of scones was changed to biscuit, while a mouthful of crumbly flour came to be known in the US as a scone? Perhaps the recipes originated with American cement manufacturers trying to muscle in on the baking business?

                  1. re: VitalForce

                    I read someplace that scone comes from Dutch word. Biscuit is from the Italian (or Latin) twice-cooked.

                    Prior to baking powder the Americas did have biscuits, both heavy ships biscuit (somewhat like modern pilot bread) or hardtack, and beaten biscuits, which have a degree of lightness due to repeated folding and pounding. In the UK biscuit goes on to mean the same as the American cookie, while in the USA, biscuit becomes the much lighter baking powder biscuit of the South and West - any place where it was more practical than yeast. In the same way in Scotland oat and barley cakes and bannock became the lighter scone. Irish soda bread is a parallel development.

                    I think scone came to the USA as a fancied up version of the biscuit to be served at 'tea'. In other words it probably came via New York high society rather than a Scots-Irish immigration to Appalachia. So if you look at older cookbooks (e.g. Joy from the 1970s) a scone is simply a biscuit with added egg and sugar. I think the 'crumbly flour' things that you are talking about were developed by bakeries and coffee shops to entice customers with an increasing variety of baked goods.

                    1. re: paulj

                      Well that’s interesting. I’ve been eating Scottish scones since I was a child, a wonderful eating experience when they are well made.

                      With American biscuits, there will certainly be people who have that necessary light touch, and the results will be as fine as a good scone.

                      Perhaps similar to the British, what Canadians call biscuits, Americans would consider to be unsweetened cookies. Canadians would probably not call an American biscuit by that name unless they were eating at an American chain restaurant.

                      Maybe the American scone comes out of a more specifically English tea tradition, which would include wide-ranging variations on the idea of the Scottish scone?

                      1. re: VitalForce

                        By the way, in the USA scone usually rhymes with 'cone'.