The ingredients for both biscuits and scones are almost always identical: flour, leavening, fat, dairy. Both can be either sweet or savory, plain or studded with fruit, herbs, cheese, even chocolate. Yet, they are really not the same thing at all.
A good biscuit is light with well-defined flaky layers. Growing up on the East Coast, as I did, biscuits were most often served with a slab of butter and dripping with honey – or as the “short” bread basis for a Strawberry Short Cake. My partner grew up in Southern Illinois where biscuits almost always come with gravy. In either case, the biscuit is sturdy – not a descriptor of any decent scone.
Here at the Stuart Avenue Inn we have been known to offer a Biscuits and Sausage Gravy option for breakfast. More often, however, our biscuits appear on plates of eggs, potatoes, and breakfast meats (or veggies) – perfect for sopping up a runny egg yolk, or sandwiching a healthy slice of ham or slab of bacon, or smothering with honey or jam. Lately, I’ve been working on perfecting a Cheese Herb Biscuit – looking for that perfect toasty, warm, flaky, savory treat.
A good scone, on the other hand, should not flake. It may have layers, but the key descriptor of a good scone is – tender, even crumbly – or whatever is the opposite of sturdy. It should be airy on the inside, golden on the outside, with plenty of height. A scone is slightly dryer than a biscuit. It is perfect for consuming with a hot beverage, and is not intended to be drowned with anything but maybe clotted cream and jam.
For a classic European Scone – we go to our friend Maria Brennan who grew up in Dublin (Ireland) baking at home and in school. A course at Ballymaloe’s cookery school and two bread courses in the King Arthur school in Vermont led to the opening of The Victorian Bakery where you can find traditional Irish Scones, breads, desserts, and croissants baked daily.
When we’re feeling adventurous – we have a few home-made (American) versions like Orange Cranberry, Rhubarb Cream w/ Orange Thyme& Walnuts, Lime and Cornmeal, Strawberry Cream with Lemon Icing, or our popular Blueberry Rosemary – our Vegan choice that even non-vegans rave about.
So, where do you come down on the Biscuit/Scone Debate? Do you have a preference? What’s been your experience baking them? Eating them?