Esconced in family tradition: Chef Lynette Foo's Australian pumpkin scones

For Palate Sensations Culinary School founder Chef Lynette Foo, fewer things offer a visceral sense of connection to childhood, family, and coming home than Australian pumpkin scones.
Growing up in Australia, scones were what she and her sisters came home to for afternoon tea. 
"My first introduction to it was when my family moved to Australia, at the age of 11. We went to visit one of my mom’s friend, Aunt Mary, and she made the best pumpkin scones I can remember.  Since then, it’s been a family staple. Whenever we meet, there is always scones on the table," Chef Lynette shares.
In Australia, scones are also known as Devonshire Tea. It is widely believed that scones originated from Devon, an English county. Devonshire Tea is a set that typically comes with two scones and a pot of tea and is typically served with jam and double cream.  In Devon, the tradition is to eat it with clotted cream.
While the British have been growing pumpkins since the mid-17th century, this was mainly for use as cattle fodder. Pumpkins prolifically grew on Australia's soil despite the continent's variable climate. Today, pumpkins are a huge staple in Australia, where people eat up to three times as much pumpkins as do people in America.
After being initially introduced by British colonisers, Australians gave scones their own way of eating. "We traditionally split it in half, add the jam and then the cream on top. It should never be served with butter. In Australia, we always make the scones round and not triangle like the Americans do," says Chef Lynette.
 Freshly baked scones by Chef Lynette Foo and family. 
"We usually have a cuppa (a cup of tea) and a scone in the afternoon or after school. Just like a good sambal and rempah in Singapore, every wife, mother and grandmother is groomed to make a good scone from young.  A scone recipe is a family heirloom and is widely treasured in the family. Every Aussie family will have their own scone recipe and it will always be better than someone else’s," she adds.
Another childhood memory relating to scones was about a yearly family tradition in the Foo family to visit the Royal Easter Show in Sydney. "One of the biggest highlights (apart from seeing the farm animals) was to eat the Country Women’s Association's scones, shares Chef Lynette. "They are famous for making and selling them to the public. They typically sell at least 40,000 to 50,0000 scones over 12 days".
But what really is a scone, and why do Australians seem ensconced in the comfort and flavour that this beloved bake offers?
Chef Lynette explains: "A scone is quite hard to describe as it’s not a bread nor is it a biscuit or cookie.  The texture is slightly firm on the outside and crumbly on the inside. It is dense and not soft like a sponge cake but not rock hard like a biscuit."
 Scones at afternoon tea time. Aside from making scones, the sisters at the Foo family also collect vintage tea sets.
Such was the simplicity as well as the sophistication behind making Australian pumpkin scones that even the Queensland Premier’s wife, Lady Flo, championed making it. Through the 1970, Lady Flo became increasingly famous for her pumpkin scones and other home-made philosophies. Pumpkin scone recipes later emerged from other cities, including Melbourne, Sydney, and even Kalgoorlie. But the heartland of pumpkin scones remained to be Queensland, and Lady Flo's pumpkin scones were adjudged simply the best.
Chef Lynette's pumpkin scones recipe is as classic as Lady Flo's. "Her pumpkin scone recipe is basically the same as mine", she shares.
"My mother always said that if you can’t make it in 5 minutes and have it on the table in half an hour, then you don't know how to make a good one. That’s why whenever someone comes over for afternoon tea, we make it as it can be on the table in a short amount of time. Scones are best eaten warm for the ultimate enjoyment," Chef Lynette says.
Pansy Foo, Chef Lynette's mum, who taught her to make the family's scones.
The basic scone does not contain any flavours and is best eaten with jam and double cream or clotted cream. There have been many variations over the years with savoury scones which can include bacon and cheese and sweet scones such as pumpkin, dates, chocolate chips etc. The combinations are endless. The key is to know how to make a basic scone well, according to Chef Lynette.
Do you want to learn to make Australian pumpkin scones? Sign up for the Art of Making Scones class and learn directly from Chef Lynette Foo.
Delicious Australian pumpkin scones served with tea at Chef Lynette Foo's family home in Sydney.
"In the class, we will explore the art of making good quality, light and fluffy scones. A good scone not only includes the right ingredients, it also comes down to how you handle the dough, how quickly you can make it and your oven temperature," Chef Lynette explains.

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