The Difference Between Scones and Biscuits


I love biscuits. Seriously. I love Southern-style biscuits made with butter and soft self-rising flour. I love Northern-style biscuits, the type of biscuits my mother with her English roots taught me to make when I was 9 years old. And I love scones, which are not biscuits, though they are often confused as an English-style biscuit. And I suppose you could get away with saying that, but really, they aren’t biscuits!

From the time I was a child, I was fascinated, nigh upon obsessed, with all things English, from medieval castles to kings to, yes, scones. The magical scones of all the English literature I inhaled through my teenage years and into my college degree in medieval British literature. Tea and scones. Try to find a figure in English literature that isn’t at some point sitting down to tea and scones. With jam. And clotted cream!!!! I was so obsessed with consuming this delightful treat myself that it was an absolute must when I visited England ten years ago. I was not leaving without sitting down to some genuine English tea and scones, not to mention the clotted cream.
Here is the plate of tea and scones and jam and clotted cream I sat down to one day at a tea shop in the village of Cerne Abbas in Dorset.
What are scones? In America, we tend to think they’re biscuits. They look similar to biscuits, but they are NOT biscuits, especially not Southern Biscuits made with soft southern flour and heavy on the butter for the flaky texture. They’re closer to Northern Biscuits, made from hard northern flour with less butter and a more crumbly texture, due to the similarity in the type of wheat used in both scones and Northern Biscuits. But in the case of scones, while they also contain less butter than Southern Biscuits, they’re still rich, that richness coming out of the egg in the batter, setting them apart from any traditional American biscuit at all.
The scones I make are just like the scones from the village in Cerne Abbas–rich, crumbly but soft, made with a hard northern flour, butter, baking powder, sugar, salt, milk, and egg. You can get ’em without going to Cerne Abbas–though I can’t help you with the clotted cream, sorry! (I have a cow, so I have clotted cream, heh.) Traditionally, they are most commonly made plain or with currants. Currants are not raisins, by the way, anymore than scones are biscuits! True currants are black currants, not the Zante currants commonly sold as currants. (Check the label!)

Here’s how I make ’em.
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How to make English-Style Scones:

2 cups all-purpose flour (not a Southern brand)
1 tablespoon baking powder
2 teaspoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter
1 egg, beaten

Combine dry ingredients in a mixing bowl; cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Beat egg, add to dry ingredients, gradually add milk until dough clings together, wet but not soppy! Roll out on a floured surface. Cut in triangles. Bake on a greased baking sheet at 450-degrees until browned, about 10 minutes. Call the cow for some clotted cream!


You can also get ’em in my Etsy shop! I sell them plain, or with traditional currants, as well as in about two dozen out-of-the-box varieties from beer cheddar to pineapple coconut! Get ’em on Etsy here.

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Posted by Suzanne McMinn on December 30, 2016  

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9 Responses | RSS feed for comments on this post

  1. 12-30

    This recipe sounds lovely but it would be better with sultanas rather than currants. You can also use some chopped glacè cherries instead too.

  2. 12-30

    Thanks, Shell! In my Etsy shop, I offer them with cherries and raisins and blueberries and about everything else you can think of, lol.

  3. 12-30

    These sound soooo good!
    How much milk do I need to put in, Suzanne? A Tbsp? 1/2 cup? or what? Just an approximate amount would be a help! Thanks!

  4. 12-30

    By the way, I want to wish you and your family a very happy and prosperous New Year!! Looking forward to reading about more Sassafras Farm adventures!

  5. 12-30

    brookdale–oh, around a cup, maybe! It’s just til the dough is moist and holds together, and that depends on the precise measurement of your flour and the size of your egg, so I hate to say an exact measure of the milk.

  6. 12-31

    When I first visited the UK in the 60’s there were tea shops everywhere, and the most ubiquitous brand was Lyons. But they’re gone now, and you really have to look around for a pure traditional tea shop these days. Went the way of the shilling, I guess. Well, maybe with Brexit the shilling will come back, but probably not the traditional tea shop.

    Not related to tea, but back in that first visit I was still a smoker, and in London I found a brand of cigs that I began asking for, mainly to hear the cashier state the price. It was “two and thruppence ha-penny.” Good times, but bad habit.

  7. 1-1

    :happyflower: :happyflower:
    Several years ago my dear Friend Maria, who lived in Sollihull in the UK sent me everything I need to make scones, and I did–so yummy. I have found everything I need here in the USA to make scones. I don;t make them often because I eat too many, but so worth the splurge, Homemade scones are so much better than those you can purchase in the store.

  8. 1-2

    Suzanne–would you post a printable recipe for the scones?
    Thank you

  9. 1-3

    Oh cool. I’d often wondered about that. I read so many books involving scones it became part of my dietary bucket list. Never thought to look up the recipe before, but I’ll have to try yours out!

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