The scone originates from Scotland with the earliest reference to the bread in a Scottish poem, Aeneid, in 1513. They were originally cooked on a girdle – a type of griddle – over an open flame and in a large flat square or round, then cut into pieces. It was not until the mid-19th century that scones were leavened with baking powder or bicarbonate of soda. It’s unclear when the oven replaced the girdle as the method of cooking or when the individual round numbers came into vogue.
Plain, sweet or savoury, scones are a specialty of the British Isles, where they’re pronounced ‘skon’ in Scotland and northern England and ‘skoan’ in the south.
Since Mrs Beeton’s time, cooks have added various ingredients – fruit, cheese, nuts and, of course, pumpkin – to scones. The latter type was cemented on Australia’s culinary map by Florence Bjelke-Petersen (or Lady Flo as she’s known), a Queensland senator during the late 80s and early 90s and wife of former Queensland premier Sir Joh. During her time as a senator she became well-known for her pumpkin scones, her reputation for them rivalling that of her political career. “I hope they remember me first for being a senator, who just happened to make pumpkin scones,” recounts Florence. And the secret to these golden nuggets? Cook the pumpkin the night before and chill it in the fridge.
There can be no better place to try a pumpkin scone than at the home of the Bjelke-Petersen family for more than 80 years. Lady Flo’s son and his wife offer afternoon tea on Wednesdays and Saturdays (bookings necessary) following a tour of the 365-hectare property. Former Prime Minister John Howard has even popped by for the legendary scones. Kingaroy, (07) 4162 7046.
It’s all doilies, tea cosies and dainty fine China cups, but don’t expect the quotidian Dandenong’s Devonshire tea here. They serve light, fluffy pumpkin scones alongside roaring pink rose cupcakes. 88 Station St, Sandringham, Vic, (03) 9598 9334.
On the menu for nearly a decade, the traditional puffy scones are fine restorative fare for those passing through the historic township. And the homemade rhubarb and raspberry preserve served with them is pretty darn good, too. 1 Murray St, Collector, NSW, (02) 4848 0200.