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I am a German living in Australia and I am generally quite happy with Australian food. However I do not understand why there is so much baking soda in scones. One would buy self-raising flour and even add more of the raising agent.

I wonder, if there is a reason for that other than the taste. Does baking soda preserve food especially well under certain conditions? Or were scones historically just eaten with a dish, that needed to be contrasted by the flavour which some describe as soapy, slight spicy or salty?

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Can you post / link to an example? I wasn't aware that Australian scone-eaters were excessively fond of soda, and the first few search results don't turn up anything unusual. And remember Sturgeon's Law: you may just be encountering the 90% of Australian bakers who don't actually know what they're doing... –  Shog9 Jun 21 '11 at 3:14
    
@Knives, I've looked into some scone recipes and it seems that they recommend less baking soda than is used by the people around me. As @rumtscho said in his answer, the amount of baking soda used is a bit unusual if you are used to shortcrust, puff pastry or yeast dough. Wikipedia says that scones really became what they are now with the cheap availability of baking soda. –  Sebastian Langer Jun 21 '11 at 12:13
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up vote 3 down vote accepted

When I made scones for the first time, I also found the taste a bit unusual. The recipe I used specified a total of 11 g baking powder and baking soda per 250 g flour, and also 5 g salt. I used less salt, but the taste is definitely unusal for people accustomed to continental Kleingebäck.

I can see two reasons for this. First, the dough for scones is quite unusual, something between cookie and pastry. It is a lot tougher than the usual soda-leavened dough. So I guess that it needs additional leavening power in order to create a light texture, unlike the semiliquid batters which raise without a problem. Plus, it gets no help from egg whites the way some cakes do (in fact, my recipe specified egg yolks only).

The second point is one you already mentioned in the question. It seems that the English tradition is to eat scones with cream and jam. I tried it with my own scones, and the combination was quite good. I don't eat much jam, as it is too sweet for my taste, but the pairing with the bland scones was really nice. A sweeter or richer vehicle would have made the whole thing overwhelming.

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I would vote you up if I could. It sounds reasonable that you need more baking soda if there are no eggs in scones. I'll try to do my own ones with a "Kleingebäck" amount of soda and see if they are different in taste. –  Sebastian Langer Jun 21 '11 at 12:07
    
I am accepting this, because your musing seem reasonable. So far, I have no better answer. –  Sebastian Langer Feb 11 '12 at 12:15
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