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Scones vs. Biscuits

Q: What is the difference between Scones and Biscuits?

-- Jolene

Opinions vary on this question.  Most sources avoid the question completely, referring to both as kinds of Quick Bread.

In the book Baking With Julia, based on the PBS series hosted by Julia Child, Dorie Greenspan says that "[Scones] are made in a manner similar to biscuits and, in fact, share biscuits' buttery-layered texture, but their name, their shape, and the fact that they're served with tea rather than gravy, lift them to the level of fancier fare."

A closer look, however, suggests that the difference is not quite so superficial.  Scones tend to be richer, frequently including both eggs and cream in the recipe, though not always.  Some biscuit recipes will enrich the dough with eggs, but use milk or buttermilk instead of cream.  Scones also use a bit more liquid than regular biscuits, which should make them a bit more cake-like in their consistency. While biscuit recipes may or may not call for sugar, scones typically use sugar, but not as much as sweetened biscuits.

Scones originated in Scotland and were made with oats.  The dough would be pressed into a round and then cut into wedges, and cooked on a griddle.  While scones may contain dried raisins or currants, they are traditionally not made with other ingredients that have become de rigueur in many pastry and coffee shops.

Opinion also varies on the pronunciation, either as "sk-on" (rhymes with 'gone') or "sk-own" (rhymes with 'bone').  Either is acceptable.  Scots almost always use the first pronunciation, while in Great Britain, generally, "sk-on" is preferred 2 to 1 over "sk-own".  Some references suggest that the latter pronunciation is more "upper class", although no clear citation is given for this claim.

One final note - according to Baking at Home with The Culinary Institute of America, scones may benefit from being frozen prior to cooking.  They can be frozen individually and baked, as needed, straight from the freezer.

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