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Regular diners at Johanna's Kitchen in Sandy, or Sill's Cafe in Layton, know what to expect when they order a scone: a hot, deep-fried disc of bread the size of the plate or bigger, with a huge scoop of honey butter slowly melting and pooling on top.

Just the way folks like it, says Stan Stevens, general manager at Johanna's, where scones sell by the "thousands" -- more than 1,500 orders weekly, with two to an order.

But to people outside the Beehive State, these scones are an aberration. In Utah, scones originating in the British Isles -- those bumpy-looking biscuit-type things sold in European-style bakeries, coffee shops and upscale mountain resorts -- are the oddity.

Native Utahns are the ones at those spots who say, "You call those scones?"

Letty Flatt, pastry chef at Deer Valley Resort, has been on both sides of the "debate." To her, scones are the fruit-filled, baked delicacies that people from outside Utah recognize instantly.

When she has made deep-fried bread dough, she called them sopaipillas and served them with a huevos rancheros breakfast.

Even so, Flatt said, she felt herself turning bright red in Phoenix during a recent conference of culinary professionals from around the world, when Wall Street Journal editor and columnist Raymond Sokolov targeted the "Utah scone" as something stranger than strange.

"He went off on a good, 3-minute discussion of Utah scones, and how they are deep-fried. ... It almost seemed like [Sokolov] put it in for a touch of comedy."

Sokolov has a similar take on Utah scones and the Four Corners area as the "fried bread capital of the world" in his book Fading Feast: A Compendium of Disappearing American Regional Foods. The book, originally published in 1981, was reprinted by a new publisher last year with the addition of several new essays, including "Everyman's Muffins."

He writes that as he prepared for a trip to Salt Lake City, he was excited to read in another author's book about Utah's unique scones, since the city "is not a rich area for gastronomic research."

He tried scones at Johanna's Kitchen "in Jordan, Utah" and at one of Vickie and Gerald Warner's 13 statewide Sconecutter shops, where scones are served with everything from honey butter to meat, as sandwiches.

"We've been doing business in Utah -- just Utah -- for 23 years, and our specialty is scones. All kinds of scones," said Vickie Warner. "I've never really heard of them being anywhere else. We have a lot of people who say they look forward to coming [to Utah] for our scones."

In trying to research the origins of the Utah scone, Sokolov naturally compares it to Navajo fry bread and Mexican sopaipillas, suggesting that Utah's early Mormon pioneers liked the fried bread when they tried it and adapted it to their tastes with a sweeter dough. He points out that recipes for scones from the Lion House -- "the Mormon world's closest approximation to an official restaurant" -- and in Donna Lou Morgan's What's Cooking in Utah Kitchens? (published by The Salt Lake Tribune) use eggs, buttermilk and sugar.

Utah's scone makers seem to have come to the same conclusion about the fried bread's origin, as Gerald Warner from the Sconecutter and Stan Stevens from Johanna's described their products, without any prompting, as similar to Navajo fry bread.

"But we have a special recipe that's been in Johanna's family for eons," and has been used at the restaurant for all of its 28 years, Stevens added.

Deer Valley's Flatt gives a sneak preview of her upcoming cookbook, Chocolate Snowball and Other Fabulous Pastries from Deer Valley Bakery (to be published in October by Falcon Publishing), with her recipe for Dried Cherry Scones. She suggests serving them with butter and fruit preserves for breakfast or, as the British do, for afternoon tea. "This is a very adaptable recipe," she writes. "I often add nuts to the dough or use another dried fruit, such as apricots."

Utah Scones

1 quart warm buttermilk

2 packages (2 tablespoons) active dry yeast

1/4 cup warm water

2 tablespoons sugar

2 eggs, beaten

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

3 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

10 to 11 cups flour

Heat buttermilk; pour into a large mixing bowl. Dissolve yeast in warm water. Add to the buttermilk: sugar, eggs, oil, salt, baking powder, baking soda, dissolved yeast and 6 cups flour. Beat until smooth. Add remaining flour to make a moderately stiff dough. Place in a greased bowl; turn. Cover and allow to rise until doubled in bulk; punch down. Cover and place in refrigerator overnight. Roll out 1/2-inch thick and cut into squares just before frying in hot, deep vegetable oil.

Serves 15 to 18; recipe can be halved.

Serve with Honey Butter, made by beating 1 cup softened butter with 1 cups honey for 10 minutes, or until fluffy.

Adapted from Three Decades of Cooking With Donna Lou Morgan


Honey Butter

1 cup (sticks) butter, softened

1 1/4 cups honey

Beat together butter and honey for 10 minutes, until fluffly.

From Three Decades of Cooking With Donna Lou Morgan.


Ryan Galbraith/The Salt Lake Tribune A scone is a scone is a scone -- but not in Utah, where the word describes the deep-fried flat bread shown here. It is surrounded by the lumpy biscuits that the rest of the world calls scones.