Biscuit Vs Roll – Are They The Same Thing?

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When in America, many Brits will likely be confused by how the word biscuit is used. In the UK and the majority of other English speaking countries outside of America, the word biscuit is used to refer to what Americans call cookies or crackers. However, once the distinction has been made between an American biscuit and a British one, this leads to another question.  What is the difference between an American biscuit and a bread roll?

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Biscuit vs Roll – What’s The Difference?

Whilst biscuits and rolls may sound and look somewhat similar they are in fact even more distinct from one another than something like challah and brioche.  These differences are apparent visually along with texture and taste-wise. Additionally, the methods used for baking rolls and biscuits differ as well.

What Is A Roll

Rolls or bread/dinner rolls as they are also known are small rounded baked bread goods. Typically they will be served as an accompaniment to meals in a restaurant with some butter. As such they have become a staple of side dish cuisine.

What Does Rolls Taste Like?

Dinner rolls have a soft and springy sponge texture that is slightly chewy and very easy to tear or slice. The increased sugar and fat content when compared to other kinds of bread also gives dinner rolls a much richer flavour along with improving the tenderness. This combination leads to a moreish side dish that is excellently buttery yet fluffy and practically melts in your mouth. 


How Are Rolls Made?

Bread rolls will be made from a simple ingredient list that includes yeast, water, sugar, butter, milk, flour, and salt. The dough will be a springy glutinous dough as a result of wheat flour and water being combined in its formation. 

As a result of this glutinous development, the balls of dough produced will be rolled on a baking sheet rather than cut into shape. This is done in order to provide the dinner rolls with a tight skin which helps them maintain their shape as the dough bakes.

As is true for normal glutinous bread, baking soda or baking powder wouldn’t give as much lift as needed. Due to this, like with regular bread dough, yeast will be used to ensure the baked rolls rise to the desired consistency.

Like any baked goods that use yeast, rolls will take a while to bake. This is because yeast acts slowly. As a result, this means for the dinner rolls to rise properly and reach the desired final texture one must be patient.

Once baked on the pan, rolls will then be glazed in melted butter. This is done to both enhance the flavour and complement the springy yet soft texture the baked dough produces. 

What is a biscuit

American style biscuits are somewhat reminiscent of a scone in the UK. However, scones often include sugar and are considered more of a sweet treat. However, biscuits can be eaten in both a sweet and savoury context.

What Do Biscuits Taste Like?

Biscuits have a firm and brown exterior that is quite crusty. Inside, however, the biscuit texture is very tender and flaky. They can be eaten as part of savoury dishes such as biscuits and sausage gravy or a chicken and biscuit casserole. 

Alternatively, they can be eaten as part of a sweet dish similar to how one would a scone. When eaten in this manner, biscuits are often eaten with whipped cream, jam, honey or simply just butter.


How Are Biscuits Made?

Biscuits are a kind of quickbread along the lines of cornbread. This means that instead of using instant yeast as a leavener, either baking powder or baking soda will be used. The ingredient list reflects this difference as aside from the leavener, wheat flour, salt, shortening or butter, and milk or buttermilk are used.

The ingredients used to make the dough for biscuits are combined in the aptly named biscuit method. This simply means that solid fat is cut into the fat and instead of being fully incorporated is left somewhat intact. 

Additionally, the liquid is only briefly mixed, meaning that very little gluten development takes place. This is important because if the dough is allowed to form gluten the baking soda or baking powder will not be able to properly raise. As a result, the desired characteristic biscuit texture will not be achieved.  

Whilst rolls are made from balls of dough that has tight skin, biscuits will instead be cut into shape and spooned onto the pan. This is because when the dough rises, the uneven distribution of fat will make the outside firm and crispy whilst the inside is soft and flaky.

Biscuit Vs Roll – The Differences Explained

So now we’ve gone through what American biscuits and rolls actually are, the differences have become apparent. Whilst both are flour-based baked goods the similarities mostly begin and end there. 

Biscuits are a type of quick bread that has a less glutinous dough made without any added sugar. As such they are well suited to being eaten in both a sweet and savoury context, although the former tends to be more common than the latter. Additionally, they will be baked in such a way that the fat is unevenly distributed. This results in a baked good that has a firm and crispy exterior surrounding a delicate and flaky interior. 

Rolls on the other hand are rolled tightly and include yeast as their leavener. This yeast acts slowly to evenly raise the rolls. Ingredient wise rolls contain both a lot of sugar and butter, giving them a creamy and rich taste. Texture-wise they are soft, springy and slightly spongy. This results in a soft, buttery and tender side dish.


What is the difference between rolled biscuits and dropped biscuits?

Dropped biscuits are moister than rolled ones due to containing more milk. This results in a dough that cannot be kneaded or rolled. As such it will be dropped onto the baking sheet, hence the name.

Why are American biscuits different?

Simply put, American biscuits are something entirely different from what other English speaking countries would expect. In America, the word biscuit refers to a type of savoury sweetbread that can be eaten either with meals or with jam and cream, similarly to a British Scone.