Baking scones has become a tradition in our family, resulting, after much tinkering, in quite a few different gluten free versions. We experimented with some very traditional recipes for buttermilk, or raisin scones, along the way developing some of our own more creative varieties, such as pumpkin, lemon, and chai scones. You can find several versions in our book “A Celebration of Gluten Free Baking,” and others here on our website.
Having several family members from Europe, favorite items like scones become an easy standby in the recipe repertoire, served for dessert with coffee, or tea, or served as part of breakfast. However, we never knew much about the history of scones. Where did the idea originally come from? Who started it? Why?
As we discovered, scones are traditionally a type of quick bread, thought to have had their origin in Scotland, but now popularized throughout Britain and the rest of the world. To many people, especially in the U.S., scones have become synonymous with England, British food, and the British afternoon tea. To this day, scones are still an integral part of afternoon High Cream Tea or Devonshire Tea. But this still does not answer the question, where did the idea for scones come from, and why?
In the original sense, scones are a round flat cake-like bread, almost resembling their American cousin, the biscuit. The original Scottish scones were mainly made with oats, unleavened, baked, or fried on a hot griddle over a fire. In fact, it was not until the invention of baking powder that scones were slowly transformed into the form that we all know today. Still, due to the fact that many scone recipes have been passed down in families for years as family favorites, their shapes and styles vary a lot. Originally, scones were formed into a large flat round, and then cut into triangular pie slices after baking. Today, though, recipes for scones in round, triangular, square, or even diamond shapes, can easily be found. For more information on this, click here
In case anyone was wondering, and we know you were, the word Scone itself is thought to have possibly been derived from Middle Dutch, the word “schoonbrood” or “fine white bread, or the closely related German “sconbrot.” The word “schoon” seems to mean pure, or clean, and “brood” means bread. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the term scone first seems to appear in print around 1513, in a Scottish translation of the Aeneid. In Scottish Gaelic, the word “scon” literally means “to crush flat with your hand on a flat surface.” Maybe this could be another explanation from where the bread got its name? Incidentally, there is no correct way to pronounce the word scone. In Scotland and the North of England, the pronounciation “skon”rhyming with “gone” is usually the norm, where as in the South of England, America and Canada, “scone” rhyming with “groan” is the most common.
In an interesting piece of trivia, yet another theory claims that scones are in fact named for the Stone (Scone) of Destiny, a stone on which the Scottish kings once sat when they were crowned. In fact, the Abbey of Scone can still be found to this day, near Perth in Scotland, although the stone itself was moved, and sat for nearly 600 years in West Minster Abbey, seeing the coronations of the many English Kings and Queens, before being returned. If you are interested in learning more about this, click here for a really interesting article. In Australia, pumpkin scones are a favorite variation, served with jam, cream, and tea, along with dessert scones filled with melted dark and milk chocolate, and savory scones made with rosemary and thyme.
In Argentina, scones, which were introduced by Irish and English immigrants, are a favorite for afternoon tea, or dessert, served with mate tea, or coffee.
Finally, as we hinted at earlier, in the process of researching the history of scones, we came across a couple of different fun variations, one for buttermilk scones, the other for traditional Scottish “tattie” potato scones, which we just simply had to try out, and convert to gluten free. The results for both were really good, and tasted delicious as you can imagine. The buttermilk scones are light and flaky, and can be easily (drumroll please) cut in half to serve with you favorite honey or jam, quite something as anyone familar with gluten free will know. We were unsure what to expect with the potato scones, having never tried anything like it before, and were surprised to discover a creation similar to a potato pancake in texture, but light and tasty all the same. Try them out and see for yourself, they are truly delicious.
The original recipe for the potato scones came from this interesting website all about the history of Scotland.
- 1 large russet potato or 3 medium-sized golden potatoes, steamed, peeled, and mashed
- 65g (2.5 oz.) of gluten free flour, consisting of 1.25 oz. each tapioca flour and coconut flour)
- 3 Tbsp. melted organic grass-fed butter
- 1/2 tsp. Himalaya salt
Preheat the oven to 375°F.
First, steam the potato until soft, and then peel and mash it. To the mashed potato, add the melted butter, salt and flour, mixing until completely incorporated. Pat the dough into a rough circle about 1/2 inch thick, and cut into 4 or 6 slices, depending on how large you want them to be. Bake in a preheated oven at 375°F for about 15-18 minutes, or until lightly golden brown. Remove and serve warm. These scones would be great served as an accompaniment to a hearty soup or stew.
- 2 cups of gluten free flour, consisting of: 1-1/2 cups tapioca flour, 1/4 cup arrowroot flour, 1/4 cup coconut flour
- 1/4 cup evaporated cane juice
- 1/2 tsp. Himalaya salt
- 2 tsp. baking powder
- 1/2 tsp. baking soda
- 1 stick of organic grass-fed butter
- 1/2 cup canned coconut milk, mixed with the juice of 1 lemon
- 1 egg
Preheat the oven to 425°F.
Add all of the dry ingredients (flour, evaporated cane juice, baking powder, baking soda and salt) into a mixing bowl, and slowly cut in the chilled butter. Blend together until the mixture begins to have a coarse, crumbly appearance. In a separate bowl whisk together the coconut milk with the lemon juice and a pinch of salt, and let sit for a few minutes – this is your non-dairy buttermilk alternative. Slowly add this mixture to the flour/butter blend until it is completely incorporated. This dough will be a little sticky. Another teaspoon of coconut flour may be necessary to allow you to shape the scones. If making round scones, you may want to use an ice cream scoop to measure the scones. Place rounded scoopfuls onto a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. You can also form these scones into a large round, and cut into wedges, but it is easiest if your hands are slightly floured when doing this.
To prevent burning, please bake on a parchment paper-lined cookie sheet. Bake the scones at 425°F for 15-20 minutes, or until a light golden brown in color, and slightly firm to the touch. You will be amazed to see just how these scones rise in the oven.
Ed. Note: Jan. 27, 2015. Please note, we have completely changed and reworked both scone recipes, included in this post, to better reflect our current dietary changes. The recipe is now dairy (minus the butter) and grain free and could be considered paleo friendly.