My mother’s pumpkin scones recipe is one of my son’s favourite recipes. He has been using the recipe for years and it never fails. It’s a special reminder of a much-loved grandmother who was a gifted home cook.
You’ll find my mother’s recipe for pumpkin scones at the end of this post.
The origin of pumpkin scones
Pumpkin scones, it seems, originated in Australia. According to the Australian Food History Timeline, more than a century ago an Australian housewife (most likely a Queenslander) made the first pumpkin scones by adding mashed pumpkin (cooked pumpkin purée) to the basic scone dough.
A recipe for pumpkin scones appeared in print in The Queenslander in July 1913. The following year, for the very first time, a Queensland agricultural show – the Beenleigh Show – included a category for pumpkin scones in the show’s cookery section.
Scone making apparently originated in Britain about three centuries ago. Indeed, the word “scone”, pronounced in Australia as /skɒn/ (rhymes with “gone”), is thought to be Scottish in origin. You may have heard of the Scottish town of Scone or the town in New South Wales (Australia) called Scone, pronounced /skoʊn/ (rhymes with “tone”).
Like damper (read Damper: Have you made this iconic Australian soda bread?), scones are made using wheat flour leavened with baking powder in lieu of yeast.
Scones are an essential part of a “Devonshire tea”. That is, morning or afternoon tea served with scones, clotted cream and strawberry jam. The Devonshire tea may have originated in England, but today it is a well-established part of Australian food culture.
There are many different kinds of scones: plain (unsweetened) scones, date scones, sultana scones, savoury scones, pumpkin scones, even “fried scones”.
Puftaloons (“fried scones”)
When I was young, my mother showed me how to make puftaloons (“fried scones”). She made a stiff batter from self-raising flour, milk and a pinch of salt, then deep-fried tablespoon portions of the batter in very hot animal fat (“dripping”) until golden brown. Puftaloons are incredibly easy to make and delicious served hot with golden syrup.
When I was a high school student, there were times when I came home from school during the lunch break (I lived a couple of minutes’ bike ride from the school). On several occasions, I made myself a treat – a batch of puftaloons. I returned to school feeling well satisfied and ready for a siesta!
Other kinds of scones
During a recent visit to the Queensland Country Women’s Association (QCWA) Kingaroy Branch Rest Room, I spied a booklet entitled Scone celebration compilation: Recipe contributions from Burnett Division members and community. I couldn’t resist purchasing a copy. As the QCWA Burnett Division President (Tamara Stephensen) wrote in the booklet’s foreword, “scones have always been an integral part of the QCWA…one of the things we do best”.
The booklet contains recipes for ginger scones, lemon scones, passionfruit scones, lemonade and vegemite scones…and many more weird and wonderful scone variations. Remarkably, the booklet contains six different recipes for pumpkin scones!
Clearly, pumpkin scones are a favourite of these QCWA women.
Pumpkin is a popular food in Australia. From the earliest days of European settlement, Australian home cooks have found ways of using this easily grown and nutritious “vegetable” in their cooking. This is in contrast to many parts of the world where pumpkin is still grown solely as animal fodder.
In traditional Australian cuisine, baked vegetables such as potatoes, carrots and onions (for example), and baked pumpkin, have long been popular accompaniments to roast beef (pork, lamb or chicken).
But pumpkin is also used as the basic ingredient of soups, curries, salads, pizzas, quiches, sweet pies and fruit cakes (to name just a few culinary uses). Pumpkin is highly nutritious. Its orange flesh is an excellent source of beta carotene, potassium, vitamins C and E, and dietary fibre.
It may surprise you to learn that, although cooks generally treat pumpkin as a vegetable, botanically pumpkin is a fruit. The fleshy edible part of the pumpkin (the mature ovary of the plant) encloses the seeds.
Wherever pumpkin seeds find suitable conditions for germination, a pumpkin vine will appear and, if not attended to, the vine and its secondary runners will take over a yard or paddock. Just last week, I found a fully grown pumpkin on a vine that had sprung up (unnoticed by my husband and me) and spread out across a large part of our lower back yard. At least the vine was productive!
Types of pumpkin
The four main types of pumpkin grown and marketed in Australia are the butternut, Queensland blue, Jarrahdale and Kent varieties. Each variety is distinctive in size, skin colour, flesh colour, texture and taste.
Butternut pumpkin (Cucurbita moschata) is a pear-shaped squash with thin, buff-coloured skin and dense, dry, orange-coloured flesh. The flesh is quite sweet when cooked.
Queensland blue, Jarrahdale and Kent varieties are cultivars of Cucurbita maxima.
The Queensland blue is a large (5-7kg) pumpkin with smooth, blue-grey deeply ribbed skin and full-flavoured golden orange flesh. As its name suggests, the cultivar was developed in Queensland.
The Jarrahdale is similar in appearance to the Queensland blue. It’s also an Australian-bred heirloom variety. It cuts easily and has bright orange flesh, which is sweet tasting when cooked.
The Kent variety, smaller in size than the Queensland blue or Jarrahdale, has smoother, dark green skin mottled yellow and brown. Compared with the Queensland blue and Jarrahdale, the Kent pumpkin is easier to cut and its flesh softer and lighter (yellow-orange) in colour. When cooked, it is nutty and sweet to taste. The pumpkin I found in my back yard is an example of the Kent variety.
About scone making
I can’t say I’m an expert scone maker. I make pumpkin scones using my mother’s tried-and-tested recipe and they turn out well. But that’s about the extent of my expertise.
As you may be aware, scone making is both a skill and an art. Once you’ve learnt the basics, you need lots of practice to master scone making. But there’s more. To become an expert scone maker, you need to know and utilise a few “tricks of the trade”.
Indeed, inside the front cover of the QCWA Burnett Division’s Scone celebration compilation booklet, I discovered The 12 commandments of scone making. I reproduce them here, for your consideration and comment. (You can add your comments in the “Leave a reply” section at the end of this post.)
- Follow the recipe.
- Or don’t follow the recipe. Well, follow it a bit but feel free to substitute fizzy lemonade for the milk for lighter scones or cream for richer ones.
- Don’t knead the mix, just lightly pull together the ingredients or your scones will be rubbery, bullety or hard.
- Use a blunt knife to cut the ingredients together. This helps avoid developing the gluten flour, which results in tough scones.
- Be equally light fingered when rolling out the dough. Minimal pressure, please, and do it only once.
- Flour your bench lightly. Scone mixture should be quite wet and it will suck up extra flour, making for heavier dough.
- Cut out the scones with a sharp-edged cutter (or glass) and with only direct downward pressure. Blunt cutters and twisting will impact on the rise by compressing the edges.
- Pack scones close together on the baking tray so they can support each other as they rise and can’t spread too much.
- Make scones the day you want them and eat them warm from the oven.
- For soft top on your scones, brush them with milk halfway through baking.
- Bake your batch of scones in a very hot oven.
- Wrap your scones in a clean tea towel straight out of the oven to keep them warm.
A renowned expert
I couldn’t write about pumpkin scones without mentioning Florence Bjelke-Petersen (later Lady Bjelke-Petersen). Florence Bjelke-Petersen (1920-2017) was the wife of Joh Bjelke-Petersen who was the Premier of Queensland from 1968 to 1987. Mrs Bjelke-Petersen also entered politics, serving as a Senator for Queensland from 1981 until her retirement (at 73) in 1993. Sir Joh (knighted in 1984) and Lady Bjelke-Petersen came from Kingaroy, where “Lady Flo” (as she was affectionately known in her later life) was a member of the Kingaroy Branch of the QCWA (read QCWA and Kingaroy Branch celebrate 100 years this month).
Lady Bjelke-Petersen was well-known for her expertise in making pumpkin scones. Like so many QCWA members, she was an excellent home cook and delighted in sharing her love of cooking with others. During the 1990s, Lady Bjelke-Petersen published two collections of her own home-grown recipes. Nevertheless, it was her expertise in making pumpkin scones that gave Lady Flo her reputation as an outstanding home cook.
2 – 2½ cups self-raising flour
- Preheat oven to very hot (225-250 degrees Celsius, 200 degrees Celsius fan-forced).
- Cream butter and sugar. Add salt.
- Add egg, pumpkin and sifted flour in turn, mixing by hand.
- Turn mixture onto a floured board and cut into rounds with a scone cutter.
- Place rounds on a heated, floured tray.
- Cook on the top shelf of the oven for 15-20 minutes until golden topped.
Makes 12-15 scones.
Source: Evelyn Proposch
Mutual Help. (1913, July 26). The Queenslander (Brisbane, Qld. : 1866 – 1939), p. 5. Retrieved October 25, 2021, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article22214559
BEENLEIGH. (1914, September 12). The Queenslander (Brisbane, Qld. : 1866 – 1939), p. 15. Retrieved July 5, 2022, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article25510470
The ‘star quality’ lurking beneath pumpkin scones (1991, July 12). The Canberra Times (ACT : 1926 – 1995), p. 9. Retrieved July 5, 2022, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article122369866