Saturday, September 11, 2010

The Truth about Scones and Biscuits

Cream Scones have constantly been on my never ending to-bake-list. My first encounter with scones was when I was working part-time as a waiter at a local hotel located at Boat Quay. There were leftover scones after a morning seminar and I took a bite into one, curious to know what scones taste like; something I have never heard of prior to that.

Talking about Scones, I had an arguement with Pei-Lin over it. Well, to be exact, it was'nt really an arguement, it was more like an exchange of ideas. One thing for sure was, we did not fight tooth and nail over it. Afterall, it was just...... scones.

In the American context, Scones are often sweet and served with jam or butter. Biscuits,which are rather similar to scones, are often savoury and are served with gravvy. So, what exactly is the difference between Scones and Biscuits? From what I gathered, Biscuits are just unsweetened versions of Scones and savoury ingredients like cheddar cheese and chives are often added.

When it come to Scones and Biscuits, the rest of the world may not share the same perception as the Americans. In some countries, or according to some people, there is hardly any distinction between Scones and Biscuits. In fact, both of them are known collectively as Scones. Some books even state explicictly that Scones and Biscuits are the same thing. Many a times, I have came across scone recipes in books and other resources whereby the taste is savoury in nature. Strictly speaking, such recipes should be referred to as recipes for Biscuits.

For people who have never heard about Scones, Biscuits would mean a totally different thing. In some parts of the world, Cookies and Biscuits are used interchangeably. In fact, that is what I often associate Biscuits with - Cookies. 

I think thats enough of the discussion with regard to Scones and Biscuits. After going through an almost bakeless week, my library book - The Art & Soul of Baking, was beckoning to me. So there it goes, my first attempt on Scones - Cream Scones.

My scones are lightly browned as I omitted the egg wash (see notes). Initially, I was a little apprehensive about the amount of liquid. However, the recipe turned out really well, producing scones that are crisp and crumbly on the exterior, yet moist, buttery and fluffy on the inside, even though they did not rise much. That was probably due to the overnight chilling of the dough. They were so good that I could eat them on their own without any jam. I am really glad about my discovery of these cream scones.

Happy Homebaker has provided many useful tips on scone making and detailed instructions on her blog. So do drop by and take a look at her lovely scones.

Cream Scones ( recipe adapted from The Art & Soul of Baking by Cindy Mushet)
Serving size: about 16-18 scones
Texture: Crisp and crumbly on the oustide; ultra light,fluffy (almost cake-like) and moist in the exterior, very much similar to the crumbs of a ultra light cake. Taste is buttery and mildly sweet.
Equipment and Materials:
1) Measuring spoon set
2) Flour sift
3) 1 1/12 inch round cookie cutter
4) Mixing bowl
5) Parchment/baking paper
6) Wire rack
7) Weighing scale
8) Wire whisk
9) Flexible spatula

260g plain flour
55g castor sugar
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
120g unsalted butter, chilled and cubed
230ml whipping cream, chilled

Making the scones:
Combine dry ingredients: Sift the flour and baking powder into a large mixing bowl. Add in the sugar and salt. Use a wire whisk to aerate and disperse the mixture evenly.

Blend in butter: Tip in the cubed butter into the flour mixture. Use your hands and rub the chilled butter into the dry ingredients. The result should be that of fine and coarse flour-coated butter crumbs. Work fast to prevent the butter from melting.

Alternatively, use a pastry cutter or 2 knifes to cut the butter. If using 2 knifes, cut the butter into the flour mixture in a criss cross manner.

A food processor can also be used if you have one. If using a food processor, whisk the dry ingredients together for about 15 seconds. Add in the cubed butter and pulse a few times with 1 second intervals until fine and coarse flour-coated butter crumbs are obtained.

Adding the cream: Pour in the cream into the flour-coated butter crumbs. Use a fork and stir to obtain a moist sticky mixture.

Shaping and chilling dough: Lightly flour a work surface. Turn out the moist sticky mixture onto the work surface and gently gather the mixture together, pressing in stray dry ingredients into the main dough. There is no need to knead the dough. Wrap the dough in cling film and flatten it to obtain a disk 1 inch in height. Chill in the refrigerator or freeze till it is very firm. Dough must be very firm else it will be difficult to work with.

Prepraring the oven: Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 210 degrees C (recipe asked for 220 degrees C).

Cutting out rounds: Once chilled, turn the flattened disk out onto a floured work surface and cut out rounds using a round cookie cutter dusted with flour. Arrange the cut out rounds 1 inch apart on a baking tray lined with baking parchment. Gather the remaining scraps, flatten them into a disk 1 inch in height and repeat the chilling process. Repeat the cutting of rounds for a second time.

Gather the final remaining scraps after the 2nd cutting and flatten them into a round disk 1 inch in height, for a final time. Cut the disk into 8 wedges.

Chill all the cut out rounds and wedges for another 20minutes. If the dough is too soft, it will lose its shape in the oven. (That happened to my 2nd batch of scones, they spreaded sideways slightly.)

Baking the scones: Bake the scones for 14 -16 minutes or untill the surface is golden brown. Remove to cool on a wire rack.

1) These Scones taste best when served warm.
2) The taste is rich and buttery that it can be eaten by itself.
3) Dough can be prepared beforehand and chilled overnight (one night maximum) or frozen for weeks. The dough may not rise as much as when it is freshly made on the same day.
4) Store remaining scones in an airtight container. Warm them in a toaster or oven before serving.
5) To make Biscuits, omit the sugar and proceed as mentioned above.
6) I omitted the egg wash as it took longer to brown the scones. If you like, brush some egg wash over the scones and sprinkle a little sugar over each scone. Bake until the top is golden brown. Alternatively, brush some cream or milk over the top of each scone and bake till brown.

Instagram link:


  1. Wow... looks delicious. I will give this a try soon *^_^*

  2. My brother in law has been hinting to me to make scones after he found out I started learning to bake stuff. Pressure, pressure... I'll give this a try once I am more confident with my muffins.. :P

  3. hey there! what a coincidence I just baked some biscuits (i'll like to call mine biscuits haa) today as well. You can check them out at my blog.

    Your scones look anticipating!
    I have the same baking book as well. Am going to try out this recipe soon :P

  4. Your scones look incredible!
    Makes me want to make some right now :)

  5. i adore scones and biscuits! bring on the carbs! this looks delicious!

  6. Your scones look wonderful and nicely baked! I like these with buttery taste, and yours would be ideal. Thanks for sharing. When I saw HHB's post, I was also tempted to bake it. However, there are just too many other recipes to try. :p

  7. hey there,

    thanks for leaving comments at my blog, especially that of Nick Malgeiri's recipes. Have yet to get my hands on his baking books, especially The Modern Baker, seems to be out of stock everywhere.

    I'm a little disappointed with the results. Will take a while more before I'll be confident enough again to try baking loaf cakes again.

  8. Good-looking scones! I like them with jam.

  9. Hi Cathy,

    these scones are quite nice. I will be making them again soon.


    Hi Jenny,

    scones are quite practical since they make a good breakfast and are low in sugar. Look forward to more of your muffins and scones =]


    Hi Jean,

    Your biscuits look lovely! so much better than mine...


    Hi Eelin,

    thanks! I wasnt confident since this is the 1st I'm time making them. They turned out quite good even though they didnt rise much ( I chilled the dough overnight instead of baking right away)


    Hi Limecake,

    This is my 1st time making them and I am loving it.


    Hi Jane,

    After browsing through some scone recipes, I realised that this recipe that I use has a rather high proportion of butter and liquid. Thus the buttery taste is quite prominent. The dough is very very sticky though, probably due to the large amount of cream. Nevertheless, its turned out quite decent.


    Hi Jean,

    Actually among the 3 books I mentioned, I have only gone through The Modern Baker. For the other 2 books, I merely browsed through.

    Dont worry. I am sure every baker have their fair share of baking mishaps. Practice makes perfect. Am sure that your future loaf cakes will turn out better.

  10. I have actually done up a post on differences between scones and biscuits...but it is still in my draft box ;) Besides being sweeter, scones are often served split in half and filled with jam and cream, whereas biscuits are usually served alongside a meal. I am still searching for a recipe that will replicate popeye's biscuits, let me know if you stumble onto one :)

  11. Thanks for the details about making scones. Would like to bookmark this yummy recipe :)

  12. Try this recipe from MasterChef Australia.. Very tasty indeed. Here is the easy link..

  13. Try this recipe from MasterChef Australia and you would love it. Here is the easy link
    Happy cooking

  14. ZY, next time I need to timed our meeting and get you some from Wooden Spoon, it is superb!

  15. Hi busygran,

    Thanks. I like them with a little jam too sometimes. But if they are rich enough I will eat them plain =]


    Hi HHB,

    look forward to your discussion on scones and biscuits. I dont think it will be easy to find a recipe similar to Popeyes chicken. Just like it is not easy finding a recipe similar to famous amos cookies or subway cookies haha.


    Hi Anncoo,

    Mine is not that detailed compared to HHB's. I am going to make this again to see if it will indeed rise more when made fresh on the same day. There is a chocolate version of this same recipe which I will want to try too =]


    Hi Annoymous,

    Thanks for dropping by and the recommendation. Will try it out if there is the chance.


    Hi Edith,

    Thanks for the kind thoughts! Really nice of you =] Wooden Spoon is the one at shaw towers right? Looks like I must try their cookies or bakes when I pass by the next time.

  16. Bakertan,
    Why argue with an American-headed PL???

    To me living in a Commonwealth country, biscuits are "cookies" that are less fancy, like those Khong Guan stuff. And scones are what is in your pic.
    There are savoury scones like cheddar scones. But I just call them scones.

    If ever my source of recipe is American and calls the scone a biscuit, then let it be la.
    But in my head, it's still a scone.

  17. Sometimes I really lazy to think about scones and biscuit. It's never ending topic. Anyway, it's delicious! Thanks for your recipe! I miss scones a lot, will make it one of these day. Cheers!

  18. FYI, in the UK and Ireland (including Scotland, where scones supposedly originated), 'biscuits' are what Americans call 'cookies' (and 'cookies' refers specifically to the chocolate chip type), while scones are more like little cakes which can be sweet or savoury :)

  19. Say, you finally got your hands on scone making! A good break for you, huh?

    Hey, we should phrase it this way: It was a lovely, insightful exchange of ideas! Haha! NOT really argument lar ...

    All in all, I think it's the way they are served that distinguish them apart, aside from the slight differences in recipes. Scones are often split apart and served with clotted cream and/or preserve; biscuits are sometimes split and oftentimes served with savory stuff like gravy, though, sweet accompaniments such as honey with butter or preserve are sometimes served along instead. Sometimes, biscuits are also baked into pull-apart biscuits. Have you heard of dropped biscuits? Betty Crocker cookbook has the recipe.

    Also, the biscuits vs. cookies thingy, it's more of a matter of American vs. British English. In America, I've never heard anyone referring to cookies as "biscuits." Like I said, scones are another bake in America, which often are made into triangular shape. Try choc chip/raisin scones, they are good.

    Yea, I think overnight chilling has reduced the potency of the baking powder. Eh?

    I think Florence also shared some good tips on scone making, though, they are more for buttermilk scones, which I prefer:

    (I love buttermilk scones and biscuits!)

  20. I really like scones...and I prefer the word scone to biscuit. Most Americans (I'm American) are not very familiar with scones, I've noticed.

  21. Hi Wendy,

    I know what you mean, haha. I still hold on to my stand though. Yup to me, they are just scones and still scones... I'm talking about biscuits here for the benefit of others.


    Hi Grace,

    scones are much easier than I thought they would be and the result for this recipe is great!


    Hi mylifeinscones,

    thanks for dropping by and the useful insights =]. Now I know scones originate from scotland.


    Hey Pei-Lin,

    ya lo. the overnight chilling reduced the leavening power of the baking powder. I have yet to try buttermilk scones. Will do my cream chocolate scones before I venture into other scone recipes.


    Hi Indie.Tea,

    thanks for dropping by =]. I always thought that scones are something that americans are familiar with and are often eaten for breakfast.

  22. In New Zealand scones are scones, and biscuits are cookies :) Try making lemonade yummy!

    1. this makes me love baking even more


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