History of Scones
Updated: May 6, 2019
When you think of scones, you might think of a triangular or round shaped pastry that is dense like a biscuit but sweeter. There are probably additions like nuts, berries, or chocolate. Perhaps there is even a glaze on top.
While these are delicious, this is an Americanized version of the scone. Scones have a rich history, complete with some drama.
History of Scones
Today, scones are known worldwide as a delicious breakfast or nibble for afternoon tea. But where did this notion originate? There is some disagreement on exactly when and where this quick bread came from, and even how to say the word. But, we can all agree we’re thankful scones exist.
Initially, scones were a quick bread in Scotland. They were traditionally cooked with oats and baked on a griddle. Most believe scones originated as early as 1505 in Scotland.
The name scone has a couple of different origin stories. The most widely accepted version refers to the Stone of Destiny, the located where Kings of Scotland were coronated. Another tale is that scone comes from the Dutch word, schoobrot, which means “beautiful bread.”
However, it would be a couple of hundred years before scones started to gain in popularity. In the early 1800s, Anna, Duchess of Bedford, ordered tea later one afternoon. She asked her servants to bring some sweetbreads along with the tea, and scones were on the list.
She was so happy with this arrangement she ordered the same each afternoon. This tradition has continued in England as “Afternoon Tea,” served at 4:00 in the afternoon, generally with clotted cream and jam.
You Call That A Scone?
Depending on what country you are in when you order a scone, you might be quite surprised what is served. There are tremendous regional differences in this pastry.
If you find yourself in Britain, you will most likely be served a slightly sweet scone, though it might also be savory. If the baker adds anything to the scone before baking, it is probably raisins or currants, though sometimes cheese or dates are included.
If you are in Scotland, you might find soda scones, also called soda farls, or potato scones, also called tattie scones. Tattie scones are similar to a thin pancake and made from potato flour. They are often served fried as part of a full breakfast.
Irish scones generally include sultanas, which is different than a raisin. While they are both dried grapes, specifically Thompson seedless, a raisin is dried naturally while a sultana is first dipped in vegetable oil and acid, and then dried.
A griddle scone is found throughout the world, though most commonly in Scotland where it is called a girdle scone and in New Zealand. In this variety, the scone is cooked on a griddle on top of a stove and not in an oven.
Other places in Europe have scones. In Hungary, their scone is quite similar to a British scone and is called pogácsa. However, the pogácsa is usually savory and served with diverse seasonings and toppings, like dill or cheese. Germans have a similar pastry, the pogatsche, as well as other neighboring countries.
In Australia, pumpkin scones are a typical treat and are made by adding cooked, mashed pumpkin to the batter. Date scones are also a favorite. In cold months, puftaloons, deep or pan-fried scones, are often served.
In South America, scones are well-liked, especially in Argentina and Uruguay. Scones were brought to this region by British immigrants. Here, scones are served with tea, coffee, or mate, which is a caffeine infused drink.
In America, our biscuits are similar to traditional scones, with a significant difference in using cold butter for scones and shortening or other fat for biscuits. Here, scones are more often sweet and served in coffee houses. It is common to see berries, nuts, chocolate, or spices in scones.
You Say Po-TAY-to, I Say Po-TAH-to
Depending on where you live in the world, you say scone in very different ways. The majority of people in Britain, 99% of Scottish people, say /ˈskɒn/, rhyming in gone. Irish, Australians, and Canadians generally prefer this pronunciation. In the United States, people prefer /ˈskoʊn/, rhyming with bone.
However you say scone, you know what arrives on your plate is a delicious treat that has lots of history. Most likely, your server will know what you are ordering, though they might roll their eyes…
Scone vs. Biscuit
You might be tempted to mix up a scone and a biscuit. While there are similarities, there are also differences, especially to a true Southerner where biscuits are sacred. Both generally include flour, leavening, salt, fat, milk, and possibly a sweetener.
They also feature similar methods to make. Typically, you will cut the fat into dry ingredients, then add liquid ingredients. After your dough is ready, you will roll them out, cut, then bake.
The difference ultimately comes down to the texture. A British scone will be more dense, a little drier, and will crumble more than a biscuit. Generally, there is less butter than in biscuits. A good way many have described the relationship between the two is that biscuits are a buttery cousin to scones.
The extra butter, when incorporated correctly, will give you a light and fluffy biscuit with soft layers. Also, the method of serving is different. While you can serve biscuits with honey or jam, more often you find them with more savory dishes, like eggs and bacon or with gravy. Scones are served with jam or clotted cream.
Stop into Sweetbriar Rose
If all of this discussion of scones has you craving one, stop into Sweetbriar Rose! Our incredibly talented chef is magic in the kitchen. Once you have one of her scones, you will find yourself wanting more.
We are also available for larger orders and catering. If you are hosting a shower or other event and would like a tray of scones, we can do that! We only ask you to give us at least a couple of days notice. Call (830)307-2646 for more information.
We hope to see you soon!