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Red Tart Cherry Scones RecipeIf any breads deserve the name "quick," it's the English Scone.

Scones have been described as smoother than an English muffin, heavier than a muffin, and thicker than a flat bread. They are also richer than ordinary biscuits because they contain eggs, more fat, such as butter, and more sugar, if added. Their flavor also differs from biscuits because they often contain raisins, cranberries, blueberries, or pieces of apples, apricots or cherries.

When made, scones have some height from rising in the oven, though not as much as a biscuit, are lightly browned on the outside and cooked all the way through on the inside. When opened, they should be slightly crumbly, tender and almost cake-like or flaky depending on how they are made. They are served freshly baked, warm from the oven, with butter, lemon curd, cream, honey and/or jam. Scones are traditionally served at English Tea Time, but in America they are served at any time during the day.

Scones are an old traditional Scottish recipe. The word 'scone' comes from the Gaelic word 'Sgonn'. Originally, scones were baked over hot stones. Large round shapes were made with the dough and were then marked with a blade to make the sign of the cross, which allowed them to be easily broken into four cakes when cooked. During that time they were known as a Bannock, a derivative of the Gaelic word 'Bannach', which translated into English means cake. The Bannock may also at that time have been referred to as Communion Bread.

Drop Scones is another term, which often used. These are quite different, and are made from a batter mixture, which is dropped onto the griddle hence the name Drop Scones.

Today, scones can be made into any flavor or texture, and shape, such as free-form, round, square, diamonds or triangles. The dough is usually cooked on a griddle or baked in the oven. I've seen recipes with a combination of all-purpose and whole wheat flours, ground cinnamon or cardamom, ginger, including poppy or caraway seeds, herbs, cheese, or a combination of armagnac and prune. 

Scones are made from a quickly mixed from readily found ingredients: all-purpose flour, fat, milk, salt and a leavening agent, baking powder and/or baking soda. Sometimes an egg is added for a more cakelike texture. Scones are similar to baking powder biscuits, though with more butter, and can be made plain, sweet or savory. 
SARAH SAYS: Instead of sweet, scones can be  savory: eliminate the sugar, and add some caraway seeds or chopped dill, etc. to the plain dough with a pinch of salt. Serve with sour cream or crème fraiche. 

Scones are prepared in two ways: Kneaded and shaped scones are kneaded before rolling out, cut into traditional shapes such as triangles (wedges) or 2 or 3-inch rounds with a cookie cutter. They are baked immediately because of the baking powder they contain. The second way is called a Drop Scone, not considered a true scone by many. After mixing the dough in one bowl, it is either left in the mixing bowl to be dropped directly onto a baking sheet or griddle as you do drop cookies from a batter mixture.

The result is quite different. Kneaded and shaped scones are made from stiffer and drier dough resulting in a flakier texture. Drop scones are stickier and moister. This causes the scone to puff and be more tender.

All scone recipes are mixed using the using the Biscuit Method, or made by first mixing together the dry ingredients in a bowl. The fat, usually chilled butter, is then cut in or rubbed in by using your fingertips, two knifes in an opposing manner or a pastry blender until the fat resembles small peas. Chilled buttermilk, cream or milk, eggs or other liquids, previously beaten together, are added to the flour / butter mixture and gradually stirred until the flour mixture is JUST moistened and comes together. In some recipes, add-ins such as dried fruit are folded in at this point.

Kneaded and shaped scones: The dough is lightly kneaded so it just comes together. Do it by using the heel of your hand to push the dough away from you. Then with your hands, pull the dough back toward you, folding over as you pull it. Repeat this until the dough just holds together. Don't add extra flour to the countertop. (A Silpat Mat is great for this; it is nonstick and eliminates the need for extra flour, which only makes the scone tougher, dry and flavorless.) The less you handle scone dough, the better. Lightly pat the dough into an 8-inch square, 1/2-inch thick or whatever the recipe suggests. Cut into triangles or circles with a knife, bench or biscuit cutter and bake on an ungreased or parchment paper-lined baking sheet.

When dropping scone dough from a spoon, measure each one to be about 1/4 cup, and place on the cookie sheet about 1-inch apart or whatever the recipe suggests.

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