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What's an American biscuit abroad?
August 3, 2006 7:16 AM   Subscribe

If an English biscuit is an American cookie, what is an American biscuit called in England?
posted by footnote to Society & Culture (59 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
 
A scone, I believe.
posted by iconomy at 7:19 AM on August 3, 2006


Googling, they look like scones to me.
posted by edd at 7:20 AM on August 3, 2006


From my (limited) experience of American biscuits, they are not exactly the same as scones, but that's the closest equivilent.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 7:22 AM on August 3, 2006


Ok, but scones in America are hard, sweet, crumbly triangle things. What are those called in England?
posted by klangklangston at 7:23 AM on August 3, 2006


Or possibly a bread roll depending on the context, I think. Like you wouldn't usually serve a scone with soup or something with gravy (although there are some pies that have a scone crust). I suppose the key question is whether an american biscuit contains yeast or baking powder.

On preview, klangklangston, those are also scones, just sweet scones (as opposed to savoury scones!)
posted by featherboa at 7:24 AM on August 3, 2006


Scones are sweeter baked items, generally served with clotted cream and jam at expensive tea rooms to tourists. I don't think I've eaten a biscuit with clotted cream although I have had jam (jelly) with them. I think the English term for the hard, sweet, crumbly triangly things would be a "shortbread".
posted by 543DoublePlay at 7:28 AM on August 3, 2006


Here is what American's think scones are. Biscuits and scones are very different things here in the US. Scones are closer to donuts or cinnamon buns as something that you'd eat with a cup of coffee. Biscuits are not typically sweet and are usually eaten with meat like sausage or fried chicken.
posted by octothorpe at 7:32 AM on August 3, 2006


What about muffins? In the US muffins look like cupcakes without frosting, and then along comes something called English muffins, which are thick pieces of doughy bread (with lots of nooks and crannies to hold the melted butter) that need to be toasted.
posted by iconomy at 7:34 AM on August 3, 2006


Scones aren't exclusively sweet. The plain scones you'd get with cream and jam are not something I'd describe as sweet - it's mainly the jam on them that lends sweetness to them.

Furthermore I wouldn't describe a cheese scone as sweet.

I don't think most British would even attempt to put a name to an American scone. We'd probably look bemused whilst poking it with a fork.
posted by edd at 7:35 AM on August 3, 2006 [1 favorite]


My favourite scone recipe doesn't contain any sugar - it's just flour, a pinch of salt, baking powder, butter and milk. You can add anything you want to the basic recipe - cheese, dried cherries, or whatever really. I like them plain with butter actually.
posted by featherboa at 7:39 AM on August 3, 2006


What about muffins? In the US muffins look like cupcakes without frosting, and then along comes something called English muffins, which are thick pieces of doughy bread (with lots of nooks and crannies to hold the melted butter) that need to be toasted.

I think in the UK muffins and english muffins are just called muffins, but the former are described by stating whatever fruit they contain. English muffin, muffin.
posted by ed\26h at 7:45 AM on August 3, 2006


An American biscuit is more like a dumpling than what I'd call a English scone.

I remember visiting the US and being offered biscuits with fried chicken, I was confused. I mean, where do I dip the biscuit? There's no tea!
posted by randomination at 7:45 AM on August 3, 2006


Most in the US would draw a sharp distinction b/w what we call a scone and what we call a biscuit. As to the latter, I agree with octothorpe . . . a biscuit is soft, not sweet or particularly crumbly, and one of its key properties is the ability to soak up butter or gravy. Unfortunately, none of this is any help in coming up with what the British would call what Americans call a biscuit -- whether or not the original question was simply a joke.

As to the British "look[ing' bemused whilst poking it with a fork" -- isn't that the default exploratory method?
posted by Clyde Mnestra at 7:47 AM on August 3, 2006


English muffins, which are thick pieces of doughy bread (with lots of nooks and crannies to hold the melted butter) that need to be toasted.

I thought English muffins were basically crumpets? No?
posted by PinkStainlessTail at 7:47 AM on August 3, 2006


No, I think muffins and crumpets are distinct. I'd not expect a muffin to have the holes on top that a crumpet does.

Now, where do pikelets fit in?
posted by edd at 7:53 AM on August 3, 2006


I'm also voting for "scones" as the closest thing. Also, I'm not exactly sure what American scones are but when I looked on GIS I found several pictures that looked a lot like what we in the UK call "rock cakes".
posted by teleskiving at 7:53 AM on August 3, 2006 [1 favorite]


What about muffins? In the US muffins look like cupcakes without frosting, and then along comes something called English muffins, which are thick pieces of doughy bread (with lots of nooks and crannies to hold the melted butter) that need to be toasted.

In the UK, muffins are like, I believe, American cupcakes.. blueberry muffins, chocolate chip muffins, etc.

Regarding American 'biscuits', we don't have or eat them in the UK, or at least I've certainly never seen them, nor had my girlfriend when we went to KFC in the US and had them forced upon us instead of fries :)
posted by wackybrit at 7:53 AM on August 3, 2006


Crumpets have lots of little holes in the top and are generally not sliced. They also have a kind of rubbery texture, whereas "English muffins" are more bready.

In the UK muffins are the same as muffins in the US (i.e. large cupcakes without icing). I think "English muffins" have a different name in the UK, but I can't remember what (actually they might just be called "English muffins" - I'm pretty sure that's what McDonald's calls them, anyway).

English muffins vs crumpets
posted by EndsOfInvention at 7:54 AM on August 3, 2006


Pink: crumpets have a different consistency than english muffins, more gummy, less dry and 'bread'y
posted by leotrotsky at 7:55 AM on August 3, 2006


No, I think muffins and crumpets are distinct. I'd not expect a muffin to have the holes on top that a crumpet does.

That's why we call them English muffins in the U.S. -- to distinguish them from actual muffins, which don't have holes.

This is all so confusing.
posted by footnote at 7:55 AM on August 3, 2006


At least in the parts of the U.S. I'm familiar with, a biscuit is an unsweetened quickbread. Rolled biscuits are flaky while drop biscuits are cumnbly, moist and dense. In contrast a "scone" is a sweet quickbread with a dense, dry and crumbly texture.

"Biscuits" in the U.S. are associated with the cuisine of lower socio-economic classes, as a side bread to savory meat dishes or covered in gravy.

"Scones" in the U.S. are served out of silly upwardly-moblie "coffee shops" that serve disgustingly sweeted and chilled imitation coffee drinks and don't understand simple words like "large."
posted by KirkJobSluder at 7:55 AM on August 3, 2006 [1 favorite]


I think in the UK muffins and english muffins are just called muffins, but the former are described by stating whatever fruit they contain.

You can't tell from the top down, ed, but those pix you linked are of two very different things. The standard muffins are tall and puffed up on top, like a monster cupcake -- the American terminilogy is international now -- but the English muffins are flat; sliced in half they're something like two burger bun bottoms. Tesco might be awkward, but as far as I know M&S distinguishes them by labelling the latter as English.

By the way, I've always called cupcakes 'fairy cakes'. Anyone else?
posted by macdara at 7:56 AM on August 3, 2006


UK scones = US biscuits plus a small amount of sugar in the dough (you can sometimes buy Bisquick here, and on the back it has a scone recipe instead of a biscuit recipe).

US scones = rock cakes, more or less.

Where I live they call US-style muffins 'cream muffins' and UK muffins just 'muffins'.

I thought pikelets were Scotch pancakes?
posted by methylsalicylate at 8:00 AM on August 3, 2006 [1 favorite]


According to the (America-centric) Joy of Cooking, biscuits and scones are pretty much the same thing, distinguished as follows: "Scones are sweet, rich biscuits that are usually made with cream as well as butter." An egg is also an optional ingredient in scones, but is not mentioned with biscuits.

Scones are often made by forming the dough into a large disk and slicing that into wedges; biscuits are usually more casual, and just plopped from a big spoon onto the baking sheet. Biscuits (at least in my experience) generally have no extra ingredients (like nuts or fruit) to add flavor, and scones almost always do. Biscuits (again, in my experience) are much smaller than scones.

So there you have it: biscuits roughly equal scones. Assuming that the American scone recipes are close to British scone recipes.

Muffins are baked in, well, muffin tins, not on flat sheets, and all the Joy of Cooking recipes for them use 2 eggs (or 1 egg + oil).
posted by adamrice at 8:01 AM on August 3, 2006


US biscuits have always confused the hell out of me. I tried one once and was sorely underwhelmed. They are not like English scones but more like some kind of dumpling mass that I don't want anything to do with.

I also call cupcakes fairy cakes, although I'm not sure why...
posted by ob at 8:05 AM on August 3, 2006


I marked methylsalicilate as best, because if you make scones out of Bisquick in the U.K., then a US biscuit must be a scone. Unless the scone recipe on the back of the british Bisquick box is different from the recipe on the back of the US box? Oh dear.

Now I'm intrigued by the muffin question. If a US muffin is called a "cream muffin" in the UK, then what, precisely, is a UK muffin?
posted by footnote at 8:08 AM on August 3, 2006


I have a question tangentially related to this: If the things known as "cookies" in the US are known as "biscuits" in the UK, where did the US version come from? Presumably, biscuit would have been the form originally used in the colonies, which makes me wonder why we have a different word.

Also, we have a cookbook somewhere in my house from sometime in the '30s or '40s (maybe even '50s... whatever it is, it's old), and it uses the singular of "cookies" as "cooky" and not "cookie". Any thoughts?
posted by malthas at 8:09 AM on August 3, 2006


And then there are baps.

ob, for a positive US breakfast biscuit experience, slice it in half and grill each side in butter. Slather with additional butter and honey, and enjoy.
posted by schoolgirl report at 8:12 AM on August 3, 2006


malthas: Since Nabisco stands for The National Biscuit Company, I assume that the UK usage was pretty common in the state a hundred or so years ago.
posted by octothorpe at 8:17 AM on August 3, 2006


octothorpe: hrm, interesting. That might explain the not-fully-developed usage of the word in the cookbook I have. Seems I may have to look into this more.
posted by malthas at 8:19 AM on August 3, 2006


Then of course there's this.
posted by flabdablet at 8:45 AM on August 3, 2006


In my experience, some differences between US buiscuits and UK scones not already mentioned:

- The amount of rise in the dough. Scones generally rise a little higher than buiscuts, at least for all the recipe variants I've used. Scones seem to use more acid ingredients and more baking powder (rather than soda) giving loftier rises.

- The best scones have a distinct crumb and aren't flaky. The best buiscuits have a flaky structure rather than a more bread-like crumb.

The recipe on the Bisquick box produces scones (at least in Canada)---the results not very flaky at all.
posted by bonehead at 8:49 AM on August 3, 2006


Taking into account what KirkJobSluder said about the distinction between drop biscuits (crumbly) and rolled biscuits (flakey), I think we can all agree that a U.S. drop biscuit is closest to a U.K. savory scone.

What, then, is the UK equivalent to a U.S. rolled biscuit -- the classic flakey Southern biscuit? Maybe it's sui generis, and should henceforth be called a Southern biscuit both in the US and abroad.
posted by footnote at 9:06 AM on August 3, 2006


Cookie is from the Dutch koekje "little cake".

I've never seen English muffins in the UK, just crumpets.
posted by brujita at 9:08 AM on August 3, 2006


Thanks schoolgirl report! Footnote: I shall try that sometime!

I'm learning. Mrs ob (who's American) recently got me into American style pancakes (as opposed to British style which I guess are more like crepes). Actually I think it's more to do with the maple syrup (proper maple syrup not the crap that they give you in some diners) than the pancakes but it's all good.
posted by ob at 9:35 AM on August 3, 2006


English muffins are the things that hold an Egg McMuffin together. Or is that called something else in the States?
posted by blag at 9:36 AM on August 3, 2006


They are not like English scones but more like some kind of dumpling mass

Like a dumpling? A DUMPLING?

Y'all got some very bad biscuits if they reminded you of something that had been boiled. Some sort of yankee pseudo-biscuit instead of a real God-given proper biscuit.

Hie thee to Carrboro NC and go to Elmo's and get a plate of biscuits 'n' gravy. That'll learn ya.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 9:50 AM on August 3, 2006 [2 favorites]


Now I see that I had a poor introduction to the world of American biscuits. The ones I tried were obviously rubbish (and honestly they were like a flaky dumpling thingy.) Next time I'm down south I will make a special point of trying proper biscuits.
posted by ob at 9:57 AM on August 3, 2006


Just my opinion, rolled U.S. biscuits should be about medium weight, not as light a croissant, but not as heavy as a dumpling. They should be distinctly layered, and naturally open into two distinct halves with only your fingers leaving minimum crumbs or flakes. This is the distinguishing feature of the rolled biscuit in contrast to breads that tear or crumble.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 10:12 AM on August 3, 2006


The biscuits served in Bob Evans restaurants are exactly like scones. How people can eat them smothered in sausage gravy I have no frickin' idea. They need butter and jam.
posted by essexjan at 10:50 AM on August 3, 2006


Well, a dumpling IS like a boiled biscuit, right? I mean, when we (in my family) make chicken soup, the dumplings are made from bisquick or jiffy--the batter's dropped into the soup and cooks in there. Tastes like a biscuit but with a squishy, slimey outside.

mmm...biscuits. Really, you can't go wrong with me. Baked boiled fried, crumbly flakey, homemade or Popeye's, with butter or gravy. It's all good.

Caveat: I am a Yankee. But the Maine kind--much of our cooking style is similar to Southern soul food. Meat fried or roasted, veggies steamed, with biscuits or cornbread.

I've noticed that at Whole Foods here in the US, a scone and biscuit are essentially the same. They call it a scone if it has other stuff in it other than the bread, whether it's savory like cheese and scallions or sweet like berries.
posted by lampoil at 11:10 AM on August 3, 2006


blag - they're called Egg McMuffins in the States and Canada. I just wonder if the muffin part is the same in North America and the UK. And I have always assumed that North American English muffins were inspired by crumpets. You can get both English muffins and crumpets in Canada. I've never seen crumpets in the US.

I'm really jonesing for biscuits now. They're not very popular in Canada. Damned English influence!
posted by deborah at 11:25 AM on August 3, 2006


People, please! Bisquick makes biscuits that are about as authentic as KFC. If you are going to discuss real American biscuits with people who are unfamiliar with them, Bisquick is just going to confuse things.
posted by shifafa at 11:35 AM on August 3, 2006


From what I remember of the Alton Brown Good Eats episode regarding biscuits (the american kind,) the are descended from a Dutch foodstuff that was particularly used by sailors. He also covered scones in the same episode, so I imagine they're pretty closely related.
I live in St. Louis which is right on the Toast/Biscuit line - north of here you'll generally be offered toast with breakfast, south of here it's all biscuits.
posted by muddylemon at 12:13 PM on August 3, 2006


Oh my god, ROU_Xenophobe, brunch at Elmo's is the MAIN reason I miss living in North Carolina!! Well that and the Q-shack. Shall we now discuss North Carolina BBQ vs Texas BBQ? ;-)
posted by echo0720 at 12:16 PM on August 3, 2006


'"Scones" in the U.S. are served out of silly upwardly-moblie "coffee shops" that serve disgustingly sweeted and chilled imitation coffee drinks and don't understand simple words like "large."'

No, they are served out of scone booths at the Puyallup Fair (and other Northwest fairs) and they are full of butter and wonderful raspberry jam! No other scone, even those served from famous northwest coffee shops, is acceptable.

Seriously, those Fair scones are awesome. There is a reason the lines to buy them are usually really long (except in that second picture I linked to, which is odd).
posted by litlnemo at 1:02 PM on August 3, 2006


Oh, and if "scones in America are hard, sweet, crumbly triangle things" you aren't eating the right scones!
posted by litlnemo at 1:02 PM on August 3, 2006


So...if I am correct?

US------------------------------------------UK

Cookie------------------------------------Biscuit
Muffin-------------------------------------Muffin/Cream Muffin
Cupcake----------------------------------Fairy Cake/Cupcake
English Muffin----------------------------Muffin(?) or doesn't exist
Crumpet----------------------------------Crumpet
Scone-------------------------------------Rock Cake(?) or Scone
Biscuit------------------------------------No exact analogue but similar to savory scone or dumpling
???(US dumplings are boiled)----------Dumpling
Crepe--------------------------------------Pancake
Pancake-----------------------------------Pikelet

I am assuming bagels, croissants, and tortillas are the same on both sides...
posted by exceptinsects at 2:28 PM on August 3, 2006


In Australia:

A scone is similar to an American biscuit (I've eaten both), but it has a coarser, more butter crumb, is lighter, and is always served with jam and cream (though occasionally, they're savoury, with, say, melted cheese on top). Sometimes they contain raisins or currants, but usually not.

A biscuit is a plain, short, buttery cookie, usually sweet (though Milk Arrowroots aren't particularly), usually a single flavour, usually with a simple topping or filling. Pretty much everything here is a biscuit. We've started to use "cookie" to mean a large, extravagent, cakier biscuit. We probably wouldn't say "chocolate chip biscuit" these days, though I did growing up when that was as flash as they came (I'm 32).

A pancake is a regular IHOP-style pancake (see The Pancake Parlour, and watch out for Little Black Sambo). A crepe is very thin, usually folded around a filling, or served plain with lemon and sugar.

A muffin is a large cupcake, though they can be sweet or savoury. See Muffin Break. This is a relatively recent thing, though - in my day, these were cupcakes, and a muffin was an English muffin (see below).

A crumpet is made from a pale batter, is brown and flat on the bottom, and riddled with holes on top. It's bought in packets (almost never made at home), toasted, then slathered with butter and honey or golden syrup.

An English muffin is a disc of round, dense bread. It can be sweet or savoury. They're fork-split, then toasted. See Tip Top, and the (in)famous Bacon and Egg McMuffin.

A dumpling is a ball of dough simmered on top of a casserole. They can also be sweet as a dessert. Asian dumplings are steamed or deep-fried and called "dim sims" - large steamed dumplings are called "buns" (eg Chinese barbecue pork bun).

A cupcake is a cupcake.

A pikelet is a small, round pancake, but slightly more "rubbery". They're made at home from a pancake-like batter, then served with jam and cream.

Australia's contribution to this mess - damper, lamingtons and pumpkin scones.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 5:04 PM on August 3, 2006


Why are people saying English muffins aren't in the UK? They are freely available, in supermarkets, off-licenses and, of course, McDonalds. I bought a big pack on sale from Sainsbury's just last week.
posted by goo at 12:25 AM on August 4, 2006


To add to the Sambo mention: Sambo's was the name of the East Coast breakfast chain that Denny's bought. They changed their name reluctantly, and later got sued for not seating black people.
posted by klangklangston at 6:37 AM on August 4, 2006


What do they call the Cookie Monster in the UK?

Biscuit Monster?
posted by mathowie at 8:24 AM on August 4, 2006


What do they call the Cookie Monster in the UK?

'Biscuit Monster' just doesn't have the same ring to it, does it?:

"BIIIISSSS-KIIIIIIIIT!!"

Joking aside, we do actually have cookies on this side of the pond, but only of the chocolate chip variety. For us, 'cookie' is just a subset of 'biscuit', as we seem to have a much broader variety than ye do in North America.

When I was in Toronto a few years ago I went to a Loblaws in St Clair and was taken aback at the sheer lack of variety in biscuits. There were chocolate chip cookies and Oreos, variations on both, and that's about it. Nothing as majestic as a Fox's Crunch Cream or as mystifying as a jaffa cake. You have no idea what you're missing, people.
posted by macdara at 9:50 AM on August 4, 2006


Legally, Jaffa Cakes are actually cakes, not biscuits.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 10:42 AM on August 4, 2006


Why are people saying English muffins aren't in the UK? They are freely available, in supermarkets, off-licenses and, of course, McDonalds

But what are they called?
posted by smackfu at 8:20 AM on August 5, 2006


But what are they called?

Muffins.

Pancake-----------------------------------Pikelet

No. A pikelet is another name for a crumpet in some places (the Midlands). Elsewhere, a pikelet is another name for a Scotch pancake.

Now, who likes butterys? I like to think of them as the Aberdonian croissant ;-)
posted by jack_mo at 9:02 AM on August 5, 2006


On top of all that, in Utah, which is nominally in the US, "scone" refers almost exclusively to a flattened dough deep-fried in oil, rather like Navajo frybread.
posted by mmoncur at 3:02 AM on August 6, 2006


But what are they called?

They're called "English muffins" in most places I think (they definitely are in McD's), although I was in Sainsburys the other day and they were, confusingly, just called "muffins".
posted by EndsOfInvention at 6:27 AM on August 6, 2006


Why are people saying English muffins aren't in the UK? They are freely available...

Not according to this history of the English Muffin -- or maybe it's a load of rubbish.

silly upwardly-moblie "coffee shops" that ...don't understand simple words like "large."


Easy, there -- no need to tar every coffee shop with the Starbucks brush.
posted by Rash at 4:04 PM on October 17, 2006


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