So what are the “national styles” of scones?. For the Brits (and I’m generalizing greatly) a scone is not unlike what we Americans call a biscuit: a fairly small and round baked item, slightly moist, slightly sweet, rich and flaky. Like a biscuit they’re usually split before they’re eaten, often slathered with jam. The British scone does exhibit marked differences from the American biscuit, notably in that it’s shorter, denser and wheatier tasting.
The Aussies make scones that are almost exactly like our biscuits: tall and fluffy, often times with buttermilk. Yet while we tend to be rather puritanical about our biscuits, just about anything goes Down Under: banana, pineapple, pumpkin, sweet potato, cheese….the list goes on. At the end of the day, however, the American biscuit and the Australian scone are more alike than different. Is the New Zealand scone like the Australian scone? I honestly don’t know, and will rely on a reader from there to tell me.
But why is it the American scone is such a bizarre creature? Not only is it triangular, it’s huge. At once stone-like, it’s also packed with butter, and can be frosted, filled, covered with nuts, or drizzled with icing or chocolate. What gives?
Personally, I think the American scone’s lack of focus comes from the fact that the scone is still so new to us. True, American biscuits are surely descendants of scones. However quick breads with that name didn’t start showing up in American bake shops until the 80’s. Pressure to differentiate them from American biscuits in the minds of consumers is certainly what’s led to all the scattershot experimentation. And the fiddling goes on. To my mind, as a culture we’re still not sure if we want to keep them or not.
Which is not to say there aren’t good American scone recipes out there. I’ll be putting up one shortly, and while it’s surely not “authentic”, it is extremely tasty.