Scones - the poor man's bread

23 January 2009

The jam jars have cooled, I checked that all the poptop lids popped down, one didn't, and now nine jars of jam are in the stockpile cupboard ready for eating or gift giving. That one jar that didn't seal properly is in the fridge and will be the first one Hanno and I eat. Yesterday I made buttermilk scones for lunch and had some jam on a warm scone. That, my friends, was delicious. By the way, what we call scones here and in the UK are called biscuits in the US.

While I was eating that scone, I thought back to the many scones with homemade jam I've had over the years. My grandma was a frequent scone maker, so was my mother, but when I was about 10, she taught me to make scones, and from then on, always had a willing baker because she praised my scones as being the best she'd eaten. She knew that praising a child brought it's own rewards. I learnt that from her.

In my family, scones were used as a kind of poor man's bread. If we didn't have bread from the bakery, we would make scones to eat for lunch. On those days we didn't have bread we would top our scones with a slice of tomato and cucumber, or cheese, or Vegemite or peanut butter. Some times we would add cheese or dates to the ingredients, for variety, when we made up our scones. No matter what we added though, they were always welcomed by all who joined the table and usually washed down with tea, for the adults, and either water or cordial for us kids.

It's interesting for me now to work out why we thought of scones as a poor alternative to white sliced bread. I doubt it had much to do with price as my father was a baker and our bread didn't cost us anything. I am guessing that in those days, back in the 1950s, when things were starting to be packaged in plastic, having that 'new' bread in plastic was seen as modern and therefore more desirable, than the old tissue paper wrapped unsliced bread or, for that matter, hot homemade scones.

Here is my quick calculation on the cost of making scones. This will make about 10.
Flour $1 - 500 grams (1 lb)
Butter 50 cents - 100 grams (4oz)
Milk - 15cents - 100 mls (3.5 oz) I usually use buttermilk in my scones but I can't find a price online for it and I can't remember how much it is.
Pinch of salt - 1 cent
Tablespoon of sugar - 5 cents
Energy to cook them - 5 cents

So all up that comes to $1.76, which is probably similar to the same amount of homemade bread. A loaf of Buttercup Country Split White Bread costs $3.60, half a loaf would cost $1.80, I think 10 scones would be the equivalent of between ½ and ¾ of a loaf. So it may be slightly less in dollar value, but a lot better for you health-wise (no preservatives), and for taste.

We're all counting our pennies. Some of us do it to pay off debt, some to live in a certain way, some because we have to. Doing these little calculations for those products we buy frequently is a very good way of managing your money. But when you do your calculations, also calculate in the health benefits too, and if something is the same in price, or almost the same, it's best to go for the healthier alternative.

There are plenty of recipes for scones/biscuits online but I use self-raising flour, butter (never margarine), a pinch of salt, a tablespoon of sugar and enough buttermilk to make the dough. Buttermilk makes a very light scone and has fewer calories than ordinary milk. If you are making yoghurt, you could also use the whey from your yoghurt instead of the buttermilk. If you don't have enough whey, mix in a little milk to make it up. I never add eggs to my scones.

I always cut my scones with a wine glass, my grandma did that and so did my mother. A wine glass is just the right size. When you make your scones, you want a cut edge, not a rolled or a hand formed edge. A cut edge will rise better every time.

We eat scones for lunch about once a week; the other days I usually bake bread. Scones are much quicker than bread, they take less than five minutes to make and about 15 - 20 minutes to bake. There is no waiting for the dough to rise, or mixing of yeast, so it's a quick alternative and certainly a recipe you should have in your armoury of common household recipes. By the time you've cleaned the kitchen and made your pot of tea, the scones will be ready. And if you have a little homemade jam to top your scone, you'll set a smile on your face that will be hard to move.



  2. Mmm Yum scones, over the last few days I've had a yearning for scones but the oven is broken.

  3. Fresh homemade scones and strawberry jam cannot be beaten for taste! I would have put a dollop of cream on too..I know, probably very unhealthy. The strawberry jam looks delicious with chunks of fruit in it.

  4. I know you posted earlier about being interested in Nourishing Traditions. Do you ever make these with sprouted flour instead of self-rising flour? If so, how did they turn out?

  5. I love scones but for me they are worse than bread in ring on bloat. Just a tip for strawberry jam I got from my Grandmothers old preserving book: if you add cherries the strawberry flavour improves. Cherrie

  6. It is a treat...a special luxury when I make scones in our house the kids love it!
    I do them with Sr flour,cream and soda water or lemonsde.
    I have treid "every" scone recipe and these are by far the best!!!! yum!
    But with the addition of your homemade jam...Wow!
    And often for a real treat I add dates andmake "brown butter " for on top....Amix of firm packed soft brown sugar and butter...
    Ok drooling i go...

  7. My Husband is the scone maker in our family. He makes the best scones. I can eat them just plain they are so good. He flattens them out in a round and cuts the round into pie wedges and slides it all on a pan and bakes it that way, instead of your drop biscuits.

  8. Your post brings back a fond memory of when I was 19 and visiting a friend in England. We were somewhere that I can not remember. What I do remember is the scones, jam and clotted cream. I have not had them since.

  9. Hello, I love your wine glass idea.
    Makes me want to go to the store to get some self rising flour.

  10. Hi Rhonda,

    I've been reading this and yesterday's post, and this biscuit recipe looks delicious thank you, I will certainly try it.
    I'd love to learn to make jam and put it in sterilized jars for a long time, but I felt a bit lost with the "rubbers bands" and the "clipping lids", so I'd love if could have an illustrated tutorial explaining exactly what we need to buy and how to do this, or a Kitchen Table around the subject of sterilizing and conserving.
    I love your blog, it is changing a lot of things in our family!
    Last weekend I bought my first apple tree (one to find out I should have bought 2, because of polinization).

    Best wishes,

  11. I absolutely LOVE your blog!!! It is fantastic how you are trying to live a simpler live.
    The loofah article especially caught my eye. I tried to find your e-mail address to see if you still had any seeds to share. All my trips to all our nurseries were without success. If you still had any to share, I would love to have some. Of course I would pay for postage...
    Enjoy your scones and jam!

  12. When I was a child, one of five, we always had to eat at least two slices of bread before we had the scones, otherwise there were never enough to go around. I know what is on the menu for lunch tomorrow, warm scone with my newly made apricot jam, can't wait. Margaret

  13. Those look divine! But here is my question, is there a way to make good scones that are vegan?

  14. Yum, your homemade baked scones and jam... I'll bring the Tea! :-)

    I am a great 'poor man', because I love my blueberry and raspberry scones! So, yummy!

    Love the wine glass idea. going to have to utilize that idea! Much gratitude for such a comfortable home post.

  15. Hey Rhonda,

    Buttermilk is around $2.70 for 500mls at the supermarket. I started making my own though, it only works out to be 50 cents for a whole litre. Just make up a litre of powdered skim milk and add the juice from 1 lemon, or 2 tablespoons of vinegar. Leave it sit for 15 minutes then give it a good stir, then you have buttermilk.

  16. Good morning Rhonda,

    I've always be tentative about making scones but you make it sound so easy. Will have to give them a go.
    Have a great week end. Aren't these weeks rolling by quickly or is it just me. Till Monday.

    Blessings Gail

  17. Not only was your mom smart to praise you and build your confidence and love for baking, but she was also smart and maybe passing on one of the weekly jobs in the kitchen!!!

    Yea for smart moms who multi-task!!! (in more ways than one)

    I have a scottish friend who "bakes" his scones in a skillet on top of the stove.

  18. My family loves scone. I too use home made jam on them.
    My receipe is sooo easy.
    Just put four, salt and cream in a bowl.
    Mix to a dough, and cut.
    Again I use a glass.
    It has never failed.
    thanks for your great posts.
    love them

  19. We had scones just the other day because I had some leftover cream! I don't know why I don't make them more often; as you say they are very easy.

  20. Hello everyone!

    Peggy, I would add a dollop of our local jersey cream if I had any. I don't think good cream, in small amounts, is unhealthy.

    Foodrenegade, I haven't tried the sprouted wheat products yet but I'm routinely soaking my oats, barley and rice before cooking now. I am buying some spelt flour today to start a new sourdough starter. I'll be doing a Nourishing Traditions update in February.

    Country Cupcakes, that lemonade scone recipe is how the CWA ladies make their scones. It's their official recipe. I've steered clear of it though because I try not to eat any preservatives. I have tried a water and bicarb version of that recipe though and it was quite good.

    Jules, here in Australia we have an old trational bread called Damper. It's basically a scone dough made in the same way your husband makes his scones. Have a look at this link, there is a photo there:
    Damper could be made out in the bush in a camp oven (cast iron pot) and was usually eaten with golden syrup.

    Daisy, water bath preserving/canning will be the topic at our next kitchen table talk.

    Anke, I am growing another crop of luffas at the moment so I'll have some seeds soon. Sharon is setting up a seed exchange for us soon and a couple of the kind readers here will organise it for me. When that happens, I'll offer some luffa seeds to the exchange.

    Willo, I've never thought about vegan scones but you could use soy milk and butter instead of the dairy equivalents OR you could replace the butter with a small amount (50mls) of olive oil and the buttermilk with water and bicarb. I have not made this but it might be worth your while experimenting with it.

    Ness, thank you so much for sharing your recipe for buttermilk. I was going to ask at the local cheesemaker if they had any for sale but this is excellent. Just last night I was reading about the benefits of acidulated water and vinegar in Nourishing Traditions. Thank you!

    Don, I was a difficult child and my mother was the one person who knew best how to tame me. There is no doubt, she was a wise old chook.

    Angela, when we have good cream here, I make a cream scone just like yours, it's delicious.

  21. Your post brought back so many wonderful memories of my childhood. We always had warm biscuits with sweet cream butter and fruit jam. I never even knew there were loaves of bread until I started school! My Mom always used a glass to cut out the biscuits, too. We've even used the edge of an empty tin can.

    I just recently noticed that Buttermilk comes in a powdered form. Have you ever tried this?

  22. This post brought back some memories. Thanks! I always thought the scone recipe with cream was my grandma's invention, because she didn't like rubbing butter into flour. Its a quick way of getting the fat into the mixture without getting your hads dirty! My mother continued the tradition - she would always make scones when there was half a container of leftover cream in the fridge to be used up - she would top up the 300ml container with milk, and add it, and sugar and salt to 2 large cups of sifted SR flour. She could make scones blindfolded in about 15 minutes, and they were the best. I always complained that mine never rose as high as hers, and she finally told me the secret - don't roll the mix out so thin!

  23. You can also make butter milk the same way you make yoghurt, by mixing in some commercial buttermilk to regular milk and letting it sit for 24 hours - fiddle with the amount of buttermilk you use (I think it is about 1/4 cup? can't remember lol) to 500ml milk, and then of course you can use your own buttermilk the next time.

    I haven't tried it yet, but it is on today's list of stuff to get done! I hope it works, we love buttermilk pancakes here, and I want to use more buttermilk in my everyday cooking :)

  24. I just made scones yesterday. Mmmmmm. I love them. Nice tip about the wine glass though! Thanks

  25. I was wondering what (US) biscuits actually were - learn something every day!

    Scones are proof that the simplest things are the best ;)

  26. Hi Rhonda

    I posted your scone recipe on my blog the other day (I hope you don't mind) because I made a rippa batch last Sunday. I wish I could get a haul of strawberries like you did. I would have to buy them at the punnet price which can vary from $2.50 - $5.00/punnet, so expensive. We live in SA but nearly all the berries we get come from Qld, yet I know there are growers around the Adelaide area.

    Your jam looks absolutely delish! I have found a mulberry tree close by so I am going to squirrel away some in the freezer until I have enough to make some jam. Ah, brings back memories!

    Cheers - Joolz

  27. Did someone already beg for the recipe? Too much of a tease without it! They look splendid and the wine glass is FABULOUS!

  28. Hi Rhonda
    Scones are an absolute favourite in our house and I make them most weekends and use several different recipes.
    Willo may be interested in this method it is my main base these days:
    3 cups of plain flour
    6 tspns baking powder
    Enough olive oil to make a breadcrumb consistency. This is a bit "go by feel". I rub the oil in just as you do butter then add a bit more and a bit more until the mix is like very fine breadcrumbs. Add rice milk or a mix of Soy and water to bring it to a dough.
    I like your wine glass idea also, I make one long sausage and cut the dough and then place it on the cut edge for cooking. (if that makes sense)
    Not being vegans I go and blow all the non-dairy by some days adding cheese (hubbys favourite)or a good dollop of yoghurt or sour cream to the mix before adding the main liquid.
    They always rise well and taste yum.
    Mmmmm it will be scones for lunch tomorrow!!
    Hope you are enjoying the rain! Clare.

  29. Umm..yummy!

    Question-is the butter cold, room temperature or softened? What is the difference between self-rising flour and regular flour?

    Keep up the excellent work!!!

  30. What measurements do you use for this recipe? (how much flour?)

  31. Isn't it funny how we use the words "scones", "biscuits", and "cookies" to represent slightly different foods?

    I live in the US and the first time I went to the UK was for a business trip. During an all-day meeting we had a break and were served tea and (what I called) cookies. Most of the team members were from the UK, and they excitedly started saying that we had "biscuits". I kept looking around for biscuits, but only saw a large plate of cookies. And I couldn't understand why they'd be so excited about biscuits when there were these yummy looking cookies, anyway.

    Finally I realized their "biscuits" were my "cookies", LOL!!

  32. Thank you for the inspiration. I haven't made scones very often but I think they are much easier, or at least less intimidating than making bread. Never thought to use them in lieu of bread!

  33. ohhhh, Devon Cream tea! Lovely, clotted cream and jam, pot of tea and some nice sun shine. That is the taste of summer

  34. Thank you very, very much for letting me know there's something like scones! I didn't know that, and reading that they're quick to make, I think they're going to become another stable in my repertoir of recipes...
    I sort of envy you your fresh homemade strawberry jam, we have winter here...

  35. If you don't have buttermilk, adding 1 teaspn of vinegar to a cup of milk and let it stand for about 10 minutes works as well.

    For this recipe I'd use only about 1/4 - 1/2 tspn of vinegar to 100mls of milk.

    There's a real difference in the taste when you use buttermilk in scones!

  36. Your scones looked so lovely, we went and made some for afternoon tea! We also used your wine glass suggestion.

    Many thanks,


  37. Thank you for mentioning the health benefits when calculating the cost of home made goods. I do this all the time out of habit and hope others do too.
    I have not made scones before but might give it a try. It would be interesting to see if anybody has one master recipe that can be made in bulk and then used to make things like scones and other similar breads so that one could simply add the liquids and bake all at once (to save on fuel costs as well as time). I know there are such recipes for what we call pancakes in the U.S. but haven't seen many for other things.

  38. A good tip I learned when making scones is before cutting, lightly sprinkle flour on the surface of the rolled dough and polish with the base of your hand.

    It's not about pressure because you don't want to squash the top. What you want to do however is gently polish flour on the top, so when baked in the oven you get a crispier top that's really golden brown.

    I've tried to make scones in all sorts of ways, but this professional tip I learned from a baker has always given me perfect scones!!

    By the way, I'm with Maggie Beer (Aussie professional cook) on lashings of cream and jam as mandatory. And I mean LASHINGS!!

  39. But Kathy, what do you call cookies then?! A cookie in the UK is larger, usually with chocolate chips in, and softer than a biscuit.

    Is a digestive or rich tea biscuit still a cookie to you???

    Two nations separated by a common language!!!! :-)

    These scones take me back to weekends with my beloved Nan - ah I miss her so. Must make a batch this weekend, thanks for the inspiration Rhonda!

  40. Hi Rhonda,
    I live in the US and have no idea how I found your blog but I am loving it. It seems so many of your ways are now lost in the USA. I grew up with a garden, canning all summer long, and making bread and baked goods from scratch. I still do some of that in my home today, but not as much as I would like to do. Mainly because of our current location, we were limited on space for a garden(we live in a city). I had a small garden last year but when we move to the country(2010) I'll have a huge garden!!! Can you hear the excitement in my writing????
    I recently purchased a front load washer and was shocked at the price of laundry detergent. I made your recipe for dry laundry detergent(actually, my sweet hubsand and dqughter made it). I am impressed with it and the cost is pennies compared to the stuff in the store. Thanks for the recipe. I think we'll try the "liquid" one next.
    Thanks for taking the time to blog and the information that you are providing for us all. I even sent my mother in law to take a look since she loves to garden. You are a gem. Love your blog!!!

  41. Rhonda, Thank you for today's post. I am curious, if your scone is what the US would call a bisquit, do you enjoy what the US callls a scone? If so, what do you call it?

    Enjoy your post and read it regularly. Deb in the PNW--US

  42. As always a great post! I too will try my hand at these scones. Like Lisa-Michigan asked, is the butter room temp?

    To Lisa: Self raising flour does not need bicarb or yeast to rise. I believe it can be used in other recipes too by omitting the powder or soda. Does anyone know which is omitted?? Thanks.

    cathy c

  43. I love the idea of wineglass for a cutter, as then you wouldn't be limited in height for your scones/biscuits. I have a biscuit cutter, which is also how my mom used to cut hers, but somehow mine are never as high. Maybe my biscuit cutter is shallower than hers. But I think I'll try the wineglass idea!! My maternal grandpa was the biscuit king in our family...everyone used to talk about how high and light his baking powder biscuits were! I wonder what he cut his biscuits with?? :)

  44. I LOVE biscuits. mmm They are so much better than bread from the store anyday!

  45. This is lovely. I wrote about biscuits recently (with a recipe if anyone's interested), and came out with a price of $1.64 for 12 biscuits, or about 14 cents US each, including the oven.

    My homemade bread costs about $0.41 per loaf, though, so I disagree that scones are the poor man's bread.

    Lucky for me, I love both!

  46. Hi Rhonda,
    Ok so you dont need me to bring scones, I think they would be past their best by the time I got there anyway ! I now have a real urge to have a fresh warm scone. I am going to try and resist it until Sunday tea when I will probably have company.
    My Dads Dad was killed at the end of W.W.1. Dad was 3 yrs old and his Mum had to go to work. Dad stayed at home with his Gran who had arthritis in her hands. He would stand on a small stool and bake by following her instructions. She taught him well and he was a great cook and had a very light hand with scones. They always remind me of Dad.
    Hope you have a great weekend,
    Cheers, Eileen in England.

  47. Hi Rhonda! Great posts on scones and Jam. We Canadians are a mixed up bunch we use biscuits to mean a savoury item and scones to mean a sweet (even lightly sweet) item. I guess it is the UK & US influences battling it out. :-)

    My Mom often made biscuits when we were small - much better than bread from the store! Your butter must be very cheap over there as we pay $4/lb for the store brand or upwards of $5 - $6 for the 'fancy' brand named butter. Margarine on the other hand is less than $2/lb for the solid type. However I buy butter and use less of it now that I have read Nourishing Traditions and your blog!

  48. How funny to find that my "biscuit" recipe is identical to your scone recipe! I knew the two were similar but I thought they were a little different.

    I love the idea of using a wineglass (it looks like a crystal wineglass) because it would have such a good sharp edge that would cut without mashing. Although I now pat down the round of dough and cut it in wedges with a sharp knife dipped in flour, I still have in my cabinet the implement my mother and grandmother used -- a can that once held "Vienna sausages" (here in the Southern U.S. that is pronounced "VI-enna") Growing up I didn't know there was any other way to cut biscuits. (I don't know if Vienna sausages exist elsewhere -- they are short, bland, canned sausages of indeterminate origin that I wouldn't touch with a ten-foot pole now, but were once a favored finger-food for children.)

    I love it that we gather here from all over the world and share our experiences!

  49. Lady Laura, I have tried powdered buttermilk and it tastes fine and is convenient to have it in the cupboard. However, now that I'm loosely following the Nourishing Traditions book I'm aware that the high temperatures necessary to make the powdered products takes many of the nutrients from them. So now I'm not using powdered milk much. I will keep it in my stockpile for emergencies but I'm not replacing fresh milk with it any more.

    Joolz, I'm delighted you posted the recipe. Could you make your jam with something closer to home, as well as the mulberries? Do you have cherries or apricots?

    Sandy, the recipe will be in a post I will do as soon as I finish here.

    Thanks for the vegan scone recipe, Clare.

    Lisa, the butter is room temperature - which here yesterday was melting. You need the butter to be soft but hold it's shape. SR Flour is plain flour with baking powder added to it. You can make your own at home by adding 1 - 2 teaspoons of baking powder to every cup of plain flour you use.

    DEb, I'm not sure of what you call a scone, but it sounds like what we call a muffin. Muffins are different to English muffins. LOL! what a mix up.

    Cheap like me, I'm amazed that your bread is so cheap. That's fabulous. How much to you pay for bread flour?

    I hope you enjoy your scones, Eileen.

  50. I have an older friend whose scones are VERY frugal: sour milk and SR flour, no extras. I use salted butter, with no extra salt or sugar, and will make scones from sour milk or buttermilk if I have them. My secrets for scones are very cold ingredients and a very hot oven, and to work quickly.

  51. i have/will try. it looks so easy end yummie.
    thanx for sharing
    rita from austria/tirol

  52. I'm a new reader and stumbled upon your blog while looking for a strawberry jam recipe. I am completely addicted! I had already made a batch of yogurt earlier in the week and had a bit left over, so it's now being made into quark. Being from the US, I'd never heard of quark before, but I'm looking forward to a smear of the quark and jam on my homemade bread tomorrow morning.

    I am in love with the yellow bowl in your scone photos too! :)

  53. I make scones at least once each week!! Yum.

    You're right about that cut edge, too. Ever try a pizza cutter to eliminate those scrap parts?


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