What Is a Scone? Is It a Biscuit?

What is a scone? Is it a biscuit? Is it a cookie? Is it bread? We’re settling this baking debate for once and for all. 

In the realm of baked goods, cake and pie are the twin supreme rulers, stupendous in their might, looking down on the lesser muffins and cookies with disdain. After that tier come the brownies and dessert bars. Then there’s the sweet breads like pumpkin and apple spice. And then there’s scones. The humble scone is often overlooked (at least by Americans) and perhaps that is because we don’t know what it is. But today, that all changes. So, what are scones? Where do they come from? Are they the same as biscuits? Let’s bite into some answers. 

What is a scone?

A scone is a traditional British baked good. It is typically made from wheat flour, or sometimes oatmeal, and baking powder used for leavening. It is a staple of breakfast and tea time. 

How to pronounce scone:

As Wikipedia notes, there is a poem that alludes to the two possible pronunciations of this word. It goes thusly:

“I asked the maid in dulcet tone

To order me a buttered scone;

The silly girl has been and gone

And ordered me a buttered scone.”

Yes, there are two major competing pronunciations of this word, but which one is correct? The answer, it turns out, is both. In the United States, it’s more common to rhyme scone with tone, but in the UK, it’s considerably more complex. Both pronunciations are acceptable, depending on where you’re from. And there’s even a third pronunciation of “skoon” used in parts of Scotland. The Guardian has an article breaking down these differences, but basically, when you’re pronouncing “scone,” you can’t go wrong. 

Where did scones originate?

Today, scones are widely enjoyed throughout the world, but where did this scrumptious snack first come from? Historians believe that scones originated in Scotland in the 1500s. Known as “bannocks,” these scone progenitors were made of oats, barley, or wheat flour and served as a quick source of energy for early Scots. 

Are scones biscuits?

It’s not surprising that there’s some confusion when it comes to the scone vs biscuit question. These two foods share a lot in common: They’re golden, crumbly pastries that are great with jam and are often eaten at breakfast. But they’re not exactly the same. One of the biggest differences is that scones tend to be drier, less sweet and less buttery than biscuits. In fact, some scone recipes don’t call for butter at all. Scones are usually triangular, while biscuits are more often round. Biscuit recipes also frequently call for buttermilk, which you wouldn’t find in a scone. 

It’s also worth noting that American scones and British scones are quite different. American scones are considerably sweeter and more buttery than their English cousins. And, of course, to add just a touch more confusion, British people usually use the word “biscuit” to describe what Americans would refer to as a “cookie.”

About the Author

Matt Crowley

Matt Crowley is a comedy writer living in Los Angeles. He likes maple-flavored snacks, loves every kind of cheese, and is slowly learning to accept mushrooms.

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