Growing up in the South, I was served biscuits at breakfast, brunch, lunch and dinner. Each family and restaurant has their own specific way of making them. Some are skinny and tall, others flat and wide, and some come nestled together like Parker House rolls in cast-iron pans. Served with butter or jam, smothered with gravy or topped with ham and cheese or a piece of fried chicken, biscuits are as Southern as bourbon, collards and mac and cheese.
Even though my mom has lived in the South for nearly 20 years, she's never gotten quite accustomed to biscuits. She is in the scone camp. She likes the crunchy, slightly sweet baked good, especially alongside a good cup of coffee. And since she is the baker in the house, I became accustomed to and developed a love for scones too. They are still my go-to coffee-shop splurge, especially at 4 p.m. on a Sunday afternoon.
So, what's the difference between a scone and a biscuit? The answer generally boils down to one ingredient: eggs. Scones have them, biscuits don't.
Other than that, the ingredients and process are pretty much the same. Both scones and biscuits are usually made with some combination of flour, baking powder or baking soda (or a combination of both), salt, sugar, milk or buttermilk, eggs (if you're making scones) and a fat (butter, Crisco, lard). The dry ingredients are mixed together, the fat is "cut in" with a pastry cutter, two knives or your fingers, and the liquid is added until the dough just comes together. The dough is gently kneaded very briefly then cut into circles or triangles and baked.
I followed the same general recipe when developing these healthy scones in the EatingWell Test Kitchen, replacing some of the all-purpose flour with whole-wheat and using just enough butter to give them great flavor. Then I mixed in sweet or savory ingredients to make each variation special. The result? The easiest, healthiest and most delicious scones you've ever had. Enjoy!
Classic Scones Master Recipe
Active: 20 min Total: 45 min
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour plus 2 tablespoons, divided
1 1/4 cups white whole-wheat flour
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon baking powder
1 tablespoon sugar (savory) 1/4 cup (sweet)
1/2 teaspoon salt
5 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
Flavor ADD-INS (see 6 Sweet & Savory Ideas Below)
1 cup reduced-fat milk buttermilk
1 large egg
1. Preheat oven to 400°F. Coat a large baking sheet with cooking spray.
2. Whisk 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, whole-wheat flour, baking powder, sugar (1 tablespoon for savory, ¼ cup for sweet) and salt in a large bowl. Using a pastry blender or your fingertips, cut or rub butter into the dry ingredients. Stir in ADD-INS.
3. Whisk milk (or buttermilk) and egg in a medium bowl; stir into the dry ingredients until just combined.
4. Sprinkle a work surface with 1 tablespoon flour. Turn the dough out and sprinkle with the remaining 1 tablespoon flour. Knead three to five times, or until the dough just comes together. Divide in half and pat each piece into a 5-inch circle. Cut each circle into 6 wedges and transfer to the prepared baking sheet.
5. Bake the scones until firm to the touch, 18 to 24 minutes.
Makes: 1 dozen (1 scone each)
A drizzle of this super-quick glaze makes sweet scones more special. Whisk 3/4 cup lightly packed confectioners’ sugar and 2 Tbsp. lemon juice (or milk) in a small bowl until smooth. Adjust consistency with a little more sugar or liquid, as desired. Makes about 1/3 cup.
6 Sweet & Savory Flavor Add-Ins to Try
- 1/3 cup dried cherries, coarsely chopped
- 1/3 cup dark chocolate chips
- 1/2 cup shredded carrot
- 1/2 cup raisins
- 1/3 cup chopped toasted pecans
- 1/3 cup shredded sweetened coconut
- 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
- 2 Tbsp. lemon zest
- 2 Tbsp. poppy seeds
- 1/2 cup shredded Cheddar cheese
- 1/4 cup chopped Black Forest ham
- 1/4 cup thinly sliced fresh chives
- 1/3 cup chopped smoked salmon
- 1/3 cup finely chopped red onion
- 1/4 cup minced fresh dill
- 1/3 cup chopped soft sun-dried tomatoes
- 1/3 cup shredded Asiago cheese
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh thyme