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Scones vs Biscuits | The Ultimate Buttermilk Showdown
Updated
May 16, 2020
Category
Irish Traditions
Discover what makes each of these buttery snacks unique and delicious
  • Are Biscuits and Scones the Same Thing?
  • The Differences Between Scones and Biscuits
OVERVIEW

Explore the history, ingredients and general habits that make Irish scones and south american biscuits distinctively different.

In Britain, the biscuits that you love are cookies and what they referred to as “scones” are actually biscuits. Confused? We love to make everything that we inherited from across the pond the American way. It even leads to the endless debate between two of our beloved buttermilk breads, scones vs. biscuits.

When you put the recipes of scones and biscuits next to each other, you will barely notice its difference. After all, they are both classified as “quick bread”. What does it mean? These pieces of bread are made with baking soda and baking powder, two leavening agents that make the dough rise instead of yeast.

Looking further at their ingredients, you will find that they both contain the same essential components, flour, butter, and liquid. Scones and biscuits share a common British ancestor, brought by the early colonists to the American shore. The recipes quickly adapted to the common ingredients found in the South, namely,buttermilk, lard, butter, and soft wheat. Soon the layered, fluffy bread became the beloved Southern biscuit that we come to know today.

If you are from the South, you are accustomed to having biscuits for breakfast, lunch, and even dinner. There are different variations of the biscuits, and each family and eating place has their versions. You can find tall and skinny,some are wide, and others are flat, and some biscuits are served huddled in cast-iron pans. In the South, it’s served with butter or jam, or topped with ham and cheese, smothered with gravy, or the standard serving of biscuits and gravy.

While many loved their biscuit served in the most traditional Southern way, others are in the scone camp. Scones are not biscuits, and you should never mistake one over the other. Many come to love its slightly sweet and crunchiness when paired with tea or coffee. It’s a perfect afternoon delight.

Given that these two are closely related and almost alike, there is always a mixed up between scones and biscuits. I chance upon a biscuit disguised as a scone once in my favorite café. They called it a scone and ordered it. Imagine my disbelief when I took a bite. It was actually a buttermilk biscuit folded in some dried fruits and lemon zest.

So, how can you tell the difference between a scone and a biscuit? Here is the breakdown.

Are Biscuits and Scones the Same Thing?

The answer to this question is NO, they are two different kinds of buttermilk breads, and one should not be mistaken for the other. Biscuits are an every day staple in meals in the United States, particularly in the South. This bread is easy to make even from scratch and nowadays, even more so because there are biscuit doughs that you can buy from the supermarkets. Biscuits are light and dairy with flaky layers. It’s perfect for gravy and runny eggs because the exterior layers are sturdy.  

The scones in the States are not far from its English origin. Scones are always part of the English High Tea, and they originated from Scotland. The people in New England prepared the “biscuits”the way their English counterparts used to make them. It is more compact than the biscuits because of the cream or egg component with tighter texture and richer, creamier taste. Compared with the English versions, the American scones are sweeter with a tender exterior. English scones have a crispy and crusty exterior.

The Differences Between Scones and Biscuits

These two buttermilk breads have the same origins but altogether two different things. To understand the scone and biscuit differences, we look into its preparation and its way of serving.

Ingredients

Biscuits and scones have flour, baking powder, butter, or fat and sugar. In scones, the sugar content is higher than biscuits to make it sweeter. It also has higher baking soda content because they are heavier and may be added with fruits and nuts. Other recipes of scones call for heavy cream or sour cream to make them richer.

Preparation

Scones and biscuits also differ in their preparation. Biscuit dough is made by mixing them and a little kneading. It is then cut into about two and a half inches circles and baked for 10 minutes in a cooking sheet.

The ingredients in scones are also combined in the same way, but the dough does not require kneading. Instead, it is shaped into a circle of about seven inches and sprinkled with sugar. This is then cut into triangles and baked longer than biscuits because they are larger.

Serving

In the United States, biscuits are served with a meal. It’s served with margarine or butter and sometimes with gravy if you are in the South. On the contrary,scones are served during breakfast or for afternoon tea. It is often accompanied by cream and jams that you can put on top.

Irish Buttermilk Scones versus Southern Buttermilk Biscuits  

Irish buttermilk biscuits are always considered as comfort food. There are many variations in its recipe, but there’s always buttermilk on it. Buttermilk is what gives the scones that extra saltiness. In baking scones, this ingredient reacts with baking soda for it to rise.

The Irish scones are not as big and as risen as the English version as they are smaller and flatter and not as sweet. What makes them extra special is they are quick and easy to make and are perfect for breakfast, elevenses, or any time you might like them. It is best served with cream and jam and a cup of tea.

The classic biscuits, on the other hand, are unsweetened and prepared with buttermilk and lard. It results in a light and airy texture with just the right amount of crisp on its top and bottom. The flaky center, when cut, may produce a stream as they are pulled hot from the oven throughout the meal. In the South, a fifteen-minute biscuit is already considered stale.

Scones and biscuits are similar in composition and form, but they are very different breads. Knowing its difference is as important as its history. With million recipes used by households, bakeries, and cafes all around the country for these two, it can be very confusing. So, whether you are baking a batch of scones or a tray of buttermilk biscuits, you are taking part in the evolving story of the American buttermilk breads.

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