This Saturday I’m bringing you another treat from the blog Baking for Britain, where we’ll delve into one of the earliest Scottish forerunners of the “proper scone”:

I returned to F. Marian McNeill’s book The Scots Kitchen, and selected a recipe entitled ‘White Girdle Scones, or Soda Scones’. The ‘white’ refers to the fact that these scones are made with wheat flour, rather than oatmeal or barleymeal (these along with rye are Scotland’s traditional grains); the secondary title reveals that the scones are leavened in the same way as soda bread is – with baking soda and cream of tartar. They are, naturally, cooked on a metal hot-plate, rather than oven-baked. 

[Britophile’s Note: For those of you who were heretofore unfamiliar with the girdle, I shall attempt to shed light on the subject. It is not, as you might think, a misspelling of “griddle”, but rather a Scottish bakestone which was originally used over an open fire, but can now be operated on a regular cooktop.Visit to read up on the regional variations in bakestones, a more fascinating subject than it might seem.] 

450g plain flour
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp cream of tartar
1/2 tsp salt
Buttermilk to mix to a dough (I used up a 284ml carton, and had to top up with milk)

1. Preheat your girdle (no need to grease).
2. Sieve flour, bicarbonate of soda, cream of tartar and salt into a bowl.
3. Add the buttermilk and gently mix in to form a very soft dough.
4. Divide dough into four. Take each piece and shape into a circle and then press gently with your hand to flatten to approx. 1/2inch depth (I started off with a rolling pin, but found it easier to work without it). Cut each circle into four quarters.

5. Pop each quarter onto the girdle. Leave to cook until the dough has swollen and risen slightly, and the base of the scone is light brown (about five minutes). Flip and cook other side. The insides should be cooked when the edges of the scone are dry (if your girdle is too hot the outsides will scorch and the inside will remind doughy – this MAY have happened to one or two of mine, but I will never admit it).

Although some of my quartered scones looked a little abstract post-girdling (if that isn’t a verb, then it should be), I was pleased with the general appearance of them. I was careful to not overwork the dough by handling it too much or too roughly, and the last scones on the girdle looked as well as those that hit the plate first.

What to top my girdle scones with for sampling purposes? Well, I happened to have a jar of Norwegian blueberry jam, given to me by a friend whose sister lives there. The scones had a moist, bread-like consistency, with a neutral flavour that made them an excellent backdrop to butter and jam (or even butter alone). I also found that they made a reasonable bread roll substitute to accompany our lunchtime soup. A scone for all purposes, and wrapped in a tea-towel they stayed moist all day, eating well even when cold.

Anyone for scones? by howbeg
Anyone for scones?, a photo by howbeg on Flickr.

Here’s a picture of scones being baked on an authentic girdle! Yum….

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Written by Abigail Young

I've had a passion for everything British my entire life, despite being raised as a small-town girl in the American Midwest, After years of dreaming, I got the chance to live and work in England for an entire year. Now I write about my favorite country, and hopefully inspire my fellow Britophiles to get over there and experience it for themselves.

This article has 2 comments

  1. The Whitefire Reply

    Hey, I’m just curious: If a person can’t have buttermilk for whatever reason, what might you suggest to be used instead? Or is there a version of this recipe that isn’t soda-leavened?

  2. Abby Rogers Reply

    Thank you for commenting, Whitefire!

    I have actually never made this particular recipe, but to tell the truth I never use buttermilk for anything! My formula is always one cup (less a tablespoon) of milk plus one tablespoon of plain white vinegar. Another alternative I’ve found (effective for Irish soda bread) is leaving your milk out overnight to let it sour slightly.

    Hope this helps!

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