All About Scones: Sweet or Savory. Let's Take Them Beyond the 4 O'Clock Tea Time

And laugh they did, and eat, and drink, often and heartily, being fond of simple jests at all times, and of six meals a day (when they could get them).

— J.R.R. Tolkien The Fellowship of the Ring.
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From Whence Came Tea Time?

Fans of the writings of Tolkien and (the Minions of his day), the Hobbits, are no doubt familiar with the necessity for not only breakfast, lunch, and dinner, but also second breakfast, elevenses, and afternoon tea as well. Was this decadent concept of “six meals in a day” the invention of the Hobbit author?

You may give Mr. Tolkien credit for the second breakfast. And elevenses has been around since… well, since before there was time. But “afternoon tea”—for that, you can thank Anna, the Duchess of Bedford.

Please, Tell Us More About Anna

Anna, the Duchess of Bedford, had the dubious distinction of being “Lady of the Chamber” to Queen Victoria. As such, she was not only BFF with the pulse of the kingdom, but no doubt had more than a bit of sway in establishment of customs of the day. According to history, once upon a time, Anna was visiting the 5th Duke of Rutland at Belvoir Castle. It was late in the afternoon—several hours after the mid-day meal, and long before the evening supper. Feeling a bit peckish, she asked of the servants for a spot of tea and some sweet breads or scones.

This afternoon repast was so satisfying that it became not a one-time treat but rather, a daily ritual. And thus was born the 4 o’clock tea time and the prerequisite scone.

Say What?

We can’t even agree on how to pronounce the word “scone”. Perhaps this little poem will assist:

I asked the maid in dulcet tone
To order me a buttered scone
The silly girl has been and gone
And ordered me a buttered scone.

Who Invented the Scone?

Were scones invented in Scotland, Ireland, or England? No one knows for sure. The first known mention of them in print is in 1513 from a Scottish poet. But what if those who first made them did not have writing skills? In the 16th century there was no Facebook, Twitter feed, or Pinterest, no weekly food columns in the daily newspaper, and no Food Network. A mostly illiterate populace would not and could not have recorded recipes for the daily nosh with tea.

What of Wales? Has anyone even considered Wales? The Welsh have a tradition of cooking small round breads in ovens or on bake stones.

And then some say that the name “scone” is from the “Scone of Destiny” a place on which Scottish kings were crowned.

Still others point to the Gaelic “sgonn” (rhymes with gone).

Wherever they originated, we know that scones were first made with oats, shaped in a round, cut into wedges, and then baked.

The scones available to Anna would have been oaten and dense, unlike the scones of today which are light, and fluffy--and there are so many choices!

WWQD (what would the Queen do)?

apple scone
apple scone | Source

The Recipes

Apple Scones

Ingredients

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 cup butter, melted
  • 1 apple (peeled, cored, and shredded), about 3/4 cup
  • 1 cup Hershey cinnamon chips
  • 1/2 cup milk + 2 tablespoons milk
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
  2. Measure flour, 1/4 cup sugar, baking powder, soda, and salt into large bowl. Cut in butter until crumbly. Add shredded apple, cinnamon chips, and 1/2 cup milk. Stir to form a soft dough.
  3. Turn dough onto a lightly floured surface. Knead gently 8 to 10 times. Pat into two 6-inch circles, then cut each circle into six wedges. Place on greased baking sheet, about 2 inches apart. Brush tops of scones with 2 tablespoons milk. Combine remaining 2 tablespoons sugar and 1/2 tsp. cinnamon; sprinkle on top of scones.
  4. Bake for 15 minutes, or until golden brown. Serve warm.

cheddar scone
cheddar scone | Source

Cheddar Scones

Ingredients

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 tsp. sugar
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  • 1 cup extra sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 3/4 cup whipping cream
  • 1 large egg

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
  2. Blend flour, baking powder, sugar, and in large mixing bowl. Cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse meal. Add cheese and mix gently. Whisk cream and egg in small bowl and then pour over flour/cheese mixture. Stir until dough begins to clump together (do not overmix).
  3. Turn dough out onto lightly floured surface; knead several times. Divide in half. Pat each half into 6-inch circle. Cut each round into 6 wedges. Transfer to ungreased baking sheet, spacing 2 inches apart.
  4. Bake until golden and tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 20 minutes. Transfer scones to rack and cool at least 10 minutes. Serve warm.

cranberry walnut scone
cranberry walnut scone | Source

Cranberry Walnut Scones

Ingredients

  • 1 1/3 cups cake flour
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/8 tsp. salt
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped walnuts
  • 1/3 cup buttermilk
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
  2. Combine cake flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt.
  3. Cut butter into dry ingredients. Stir in cranberries and walnuts.
  4. Mix together buttermilk and vanilla; stir into flour mixture. Knead twice. Pat into circle and cut into 8 wedges. Bake for 12-14 minutes.

Gorgonzola cheese
Gorgonzola cheese

Gorgonzola Scones

Ingredients

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk
  • 2 tablespoons Gorgonzola cheese

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
  2. Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in large mixing bowl.
  3. Add the butter and cut in until the mixture resembles coarse meal.
  4. Stir in buttermilk and Gorgonzola cheese. Stir gently until mixture forms a shaggy ball. Don't overmix.
  5. Turn out onto a floured surface. Knead 2 or 3 times.
  6. Divide dough in half and pat each into a circle. Cut each circle into 6 wedges. Place about 2 inches apart on ungreased baking sheet. Bake about 8 to 10 minutes or until tester inserted in middle of scone comes out clean. Serve warm.

triple chocolate scone
triple chocolate scone | Source

I adapted the following from a chocolate scone recipe on the King Arthur Flour website:

Double Chocolate Cherry Scones

Ingredients

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2/3 cup whole-wheat flour
  • 1/3 cup Dutch-process cocoa
  • 1/2 teaspoon espresso powder
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup (8 tablespoons) cold butter, cut into 1/2-inch slices
  • ¾ cups semisweet chocolate chips
  • ¾ cup dried cherries
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 large egg

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 375°F.
  2. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  3. In a large mixing bowl, blend the flours, cocoa, espresso powder, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt; mix thoroughly.
  4. Cut in the butter with a pastry blender until the mixture looks like coarse crumbs.
  5. Stir in the chocolate chips and dried cherries.
  6. Whisk together the vanilla, egg, and milk.
  7. Add the liquid ingredients to the dry ingredients, stirring until the mixture is evenly moist. If the mixture seems dry, add another tablespoon or two of milk.
  8. Divide the dough in half, and place the two pieces onto the baking sheet. Pat them gently into two 6" circles, each about 3/4" thick.
  9. Cut each circle into 6 wedge shapes.
  10. Bake for 18 to 23 minutes, until they lose their moist look, and a cake tester inserted into the center of one comes out clean; or with just a smear of chocolate from a melting chip.
  11. Remove the scones from the oven, and transfer to a rack to cool.

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Comments 6 comments

Carb Diva profile image

Carb Diva 15 months ago Author

Blond Logic-- As one who is 50 percent Brit, I adore scones. But I have never quite acquired a taste for tea (perhaps the other half--the German influence--creeps into that part of my tastes). Thank you for your kind words. Glad you enjoyed this.


Blond Logic profile image

Blond Logic 15 months ago from Brazil

I have bookmarked this as I am a major fan of scones. I lived for 20 years in the UK and grew to love many of the customs including afternoon tea. Scones with raspberry jam and clotted cream are heavenly. That and a stong cup of milky tea.


Carb Diva profile image

Carb Diva 16 months ago Author

Rachel - You are such a good baker--I am flattered. Thank you.


Rachel L Alba profile image

Rachel L Alba 16 months ago from Every Day Cooking and Baking

Oh, I love all of your scone recipes. Thank you for sharing. I voted up and awesome. I'm going to pin them

Blessings to you.


Carb Diva profile image

Carb Diva 16 months ago Author

Bill, the Fair scones are mighty good, but I'm far too cheap (frugal?) to put down $1.25 for three bites--and wait in line for an hour!

Thank, again, for your kind words. Don't know if I'm queen of the kitchen--perhaps princess of the pantry.


billybuc profile image

billybuc 16 months ago from Olympia, WA

Here's all I need to know about scones: they have them at the Puyallup Fair and I love them. :) I'm afraid if I made them, I'd compare them to the Fair scones and be greatly disappointed. :) Having said all that, another great food article by Linda, Queen of the Kitchen!!!!!

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