Scones raise a lot of controversy in the culinary field. They are a class on their own, but people tend to compare them to bread, muffins, and biscuits.
So, are scones bread? How do they differ from similar baked goods?
Let’s find out!
It might sound weird to say, but scones are actually quick bread!
Quick bread is a baked food category that includes a wide range of goodies, like scones, biscuits, muffins, and waffles. They can be sweet or savory and made from a batter or dough.
Now, what all quick bread has in common is how fast it’s made since it’s leavened with baking powder or soda, as opposed to yeast. If you’re familiar with baking, you’d know that anything with yeast requires some time to activate before baking.
Because the baking powder is the leavening agent in most scone recipes, they’re considered quick bread that can be prepared in no time! You just mix the ingredients and bake immediately.
Scones are baked pastries that originated in Scotland in the early 1500s. Then, they were commonly made of oatmeal or barley flour, but today, many other variations exist.
Traditionally, the British people have scones for light afternoon snacks. They serve warm scones with butter, jam, and a hot cup of tea.
In the past, some people made scones on girdles that hung over the fireplace. Today, it is faster to make scones on your stovetop without even needing an oven!
Scones are a combination of a type of flour, fat, sweetener, leavening agent, a liquid, flavoring, and other optional additions.
Using different ratios gives you slightly different outcomes, like sweeter or richer scones.
Examples of the flour component in scones are wheat flour, oatmeal, barley flour, and almond flour (for the low-carb version).
Some recipes even call for mashed potatoes. Although not flour, potatoes are a starch, so chemically speaking, let’s consider them flour just for today.
For leavening, use baking powder or baking soda. The former is activated by liquids and heat while baking, while the latter requires some acidity to work. That’s why baking soda and buttermilk go hand in hand.
The main wet ingredient is fat, and butter is the best option because it gives a lovely flavor and aroma.
Vegetable oils like coconut or olive are a good fit for vegan scones. However, it is worth mentioning that these will add some taste. Some flavorless options are sunflower and soybean oil.
Meanwhile, milk, buttermilk, or heavy cream can bring the dough together. As a lactose-free substitution, almond milk will do just fine.
To sweeten, sugar and artificial alternatives like stevia (for low-carb diets or people with diabetes) are both valid options.
Some scone recipes also call for an egg.
Optional additions include the following:
- Chocolate chips
To make scones, mix the wet and dry portions separately. An exception to this rule is sugar, which goes in the wets bowl.
Then, you gradually blend both portions, but it’s important to avoid overworking the dough to prevent it from forming a texture.
The objective is for the dough just to come together. If it looks too pretty and smooth, you’ve kneaded it for too long.
Remember that your goal here is to make it flaky and crumbly.
Next, you’ll roll the dough and press it to form a thick disk shape. Before baking, cut the bread into four to six wedges.
Alternatively, you can cut your scones into circles or even hearts — the possibilities are endless, so have fun with it!
Finally, you’ll just bake the scones on baking sheets after brushing their tops with egg wash.
While shopping, you’ll find different types of flour to choose from.
Usually, bread flour has the highest protein content (gluten) and produces tough dough. This is what makes the bread chewy.
On the other hand, cake flour has low gluten content, which gives cakes and cookies their fluffiness. With scones, we want them to be fluffy and crumbly, so cake flour is the best option to use here.
Nonetheless, if all you have on hand is bread flour, don’t fret. Some scone recipes call for bread flour, like the Great British Bake Off judge Paul Hollywood’s method.
When using bread flour, the scones will come out a little chewier than most but still very nostalgic and comfort-food-y.
Although they share the same name, scones in the UK are slightly different from those in the US.
British scones usually taste plainer than American scones. In Britain, scones are topped with butter or clotted cream and jam.
In contrast, American scones are usually sweeter and fattier. This variation is traditionally consumed alone, without toppings.
Yet, everywhere around the world, scones are perfect with a hot cup of tea or coffee for a delightful snack.
We can consider British scones and American biscuits to be the same food, but with different names depending on the location.
It is noteworthy that Americans like to have biscuits as a savory food, usually with gravy. Contrarily, the British people enjoy scones as a sweet dish with jam.
Scones and muffins are both very quick to make, and people like to have them on similar occasions. However, they are very different in appearance, taste, and texture.
They both contain flour and baking powder, and sometimes raisins, but so do many other baked goods!
So, are scones bread?
In the technical sense, they’re a type of quick bread.
However, you get to decide whether scones are bread or not in the practical sense. Of course, this would depend on how you enjoy them and how much sugar is in them.
Broadly speaking, if you spread jam or other toppings on them before eating, they would resemble a sandwich. Thus, bread.
Conversely, if they have high sugar and fat content, and you eat them without toppings, they are now a cake!
Sarah is the founder of Baking Kneads, LLC, a blog sharing guides, tips, and recipes for those learning how to bake. Growing up as the daughter of a baker, she spent much of her childhood learning the basics in a local bakery.