When you pick up a tasty scone as a treat to accompany your coffee or tea, you probably don’t think about its long history. The scone has whetted appetites for more than 500 years though. That shows lasting popularity as a snack.
This easy to make quick bread offers a quick breakfast or snack item. It also offers a rich heritage and international appeal.
Originally, bakers prepared scones in a frying pan or on a round griddle. They then sliced a finished cake in triangular wedges. The original recipe used oats with the leavening agent baking powder to cause the dough to rise.
Modern recipes most often use flour as the key ingredient. Some recipes use barley or oats. Cooks now oven bake scones. Their shapes include diamonds, rounds, squares and traditional triangles.
The original scones appeared biscuit-like. Modern scones resemble pastries or a quick bread. Their flavor may be sweet or savory. They sometimes have an egg glaze on top.
Store or bakery scones usually come as rounds. Less commonly, companies mass produce hexagonal scones.
Those baked at home often take traditional shape. Considered a heritage baking undertaking, home baking usually uses a family recipe.
How Scones Got Their Name
Two schools of thought exist regarding the scone’s name origin. Some believe the sweet bread draws its name from the Stone of Destiny, also referred to as Scone, the historic site at which Scottish kings were crowned.
Others believe the Scots borrowed from the Dutch language. The Dutch word “schoonbrot” or “beautiful bread” bears close resemblance to scone in word and serving. In today’s Scotland, before slicing into wedges, Scots call the round cake “bannock,” and triangular wedges “scones.” You’ll also hear them used interchangeably.
Scones Through Time
Scotland originated the scone in the early 1500s, but their popularity blossomed about 300 years later. Anna, the Duchess of Bedford (1788 to 1861) fostered the English tradition of “Afternoon Tea Time.” At her first tea, her staff served a variety of sweet bread with the tea. Scones served with clotted cream topping were one of the bread. Anna so enjoyed her first afternoon tea that she began having the same served to her each afternoon which evolved to English tea at 4 pm sharp.
How to Traditionally Serve Scones
Traditional scones use baking powder for leavening. It’s a biscuit-like pastry served at breakfast or cream tea, also referred to as Devonshire tea.
How to Pronounce Scone
Where you live influences whether you say it [SKOHN] or [SKON]. An academic study of English speaking countries revealed many differences. Within the British population, two-thirds say it [SKON]. In Scotland, 99 percent of the population use that pronunciation. Many areas of the Republic of Ireland also use this pronunciation, as do Australians and Canadians. The majority of [SKOHN] camp resides in the United States.
Scones Around the World
Almost every country or region that serves scones has adapted the bread to its own liking.
British scones: sweet or savory made with cheese, currants, dates or raisins.
Scotland and Ulster scones: soda scones, aka soda farls, and potato scones, aka tattie scones, made with potato flour.
Irish scones: sweet scones made with sultanas (similar to raisins).
New Zealand scones: griddle scones cooked on the stove top.
Hungary scones: called “pogácsa” and made savory with cheese and dill.
Australian scones: sweet scones made with pumpkin or date scones. Also, the deep-fried version called “puftaloons.”
North America: Favors sweet scones, some made with yeast. The Southern US enjoys a similar looking breakfast baked good called biscuits, too. Utah calls its baked good similar to Native American fry bread “scones,” but don’t expect it to resemble European scones.
Argentina and Uruguay: similar to British and Scottish scones. Served with coffee, tea or mate, a caffeinated traditional South American drink.
The history of the scone provides an intriguing opportunity to see how a popular food develops variations to gain staying power. A simple sweet bread developed about 500 years ago and baked over cook fires now gets served in coffeehouses, suburban homes and fine restaurants. What began as a Scottish staple has become a worldwide treat.