SCONES RHYMING WITH DONS

WHAT IS A SCONE?

According to the Bloomsbury Dictionary of Word Origins, the word scone derives from the Dutch  schoonbrood –  schoon  meaning  bright, white or beautiful and brood meaning bread, hence; ‘fine white bread’ .    It made its way into Scottish English and did not become widespread in England until the 19th century.  My partner Rob’s  old school dictionary  (Pocket Oxford revised ed.1946) describes the scone as Soft cake of barley-meal or wheat-flour baked on griddle.

Fifty years on, the concise  Collins Dictionary  (4th Australian ed 1999) describes it as; a light plain doughy cake made from flour with very little fat, cooked in an oven or (esp. originally) on a griddle..

I  once had afternoon tea with Laurel Phillips, whose late  husband’s  family built  the famous Glenella guesthouse, in  my Blue Mountains’ village of  Blackheath. Laurel ran the guesthouse herself  for many years. Inevitably our conversation turned to food, and to  one of the highlights  of a stay at Glenella; Devonshire Tea. Laurel generously gave me her sister-in-law Liela Twyford’s recipe for scones (Liela was Laurel’s predecessor at the guesthouse).

 GLENELLA SCONES

2 cups of self-raising flour

2 heaped teaspoons of butter

1 cup of milk

Pinch of salt

METHOD – Sift the flour. Melt the butter in a small amount of boiling water then add to the milk. Add the milk and butter mixture to the flour, stir with a knife to produce  a soft dough.

Cut out and bake in a hot oven. 7-10 minutes.

 

The continuing debate over modern pronunciation of the word scone is summed up by the following couplet, which sounds as though it must have been composed by a snobbish old lady from Oxford;

Scones rhyming with Dons are eaten with butter.

Scones rhyming with stones are eaten with margarine.

I’m pretty sure that throughout Australia we use the ‘Dons’  pronunciation, and  therefore the  word has no class connotation  but in the UK there is north/south divide.  Hmm, perhaps I won’t go there…!

CONFESSION TIME (update April 21 2017)

Two years ago a English  author I know said she was going to call her new book, Game of Scones, as a word play on the famous television series Game of Thrones.  Now I expressed some reservations about this, for obvious reasons. However, Samantha is from the north of England and took no notice of me whatsoever. And wouldn’t you know it? The book has been her most successful to date, and has sold  100,000  copies. I think she deserves a plug;

Recently  I read  Playing with Water  by  the Australian author Kate Llewellyn, which  includes her mother’s prize winning scone recipe.   Strangely enough, this  book is not only as soft and pliable in the reader’s hands  as a good scone dough, but has a deliciously creamy cover. I was temped to cut  a few rounds from the book, and pop them in the oven

I would  have a go at  the recipe in Playing With Water,  except that it includes eggs.  Now when it comes to baking,  women do as their mothers before them did , and my mother definitely did not put eggs in her scones. However, one tip from Kate’s mother  is worth repeating; press out the dough then fold it once, to make a proper ‘split’

My friend and neighbour Sandra came  over one day and happened to  pick up Kate’s quite sizable book.  ‘Oh… it’s surprisingly light!’  she said.  I told her my fanciful  notion about it having the sensual feel  of scone dough and  we decided that  at some stage  Kate  must have  left her manuscript to ‘prove’, rather like bread mixture. This is always a sensible thing for a writer to do, as the errors rise to the surface.

 

Devonshire Tea, a true classic.

Devonshire Tea, a true classic.

Is it generally accepted that the best scones in the Blue Mountains are made at the Megalong Valley Tearooms, a few kilometres from Blackheath.  A sample serve is  pictured below.  And yes, they have my seal of approval.megalong-valley-scones

 

I doubt if my mother’s recipe for scones was ever committed to paper. She was taught to  make them by her mother, who had  previously been taught by her mother.  Shamefully,  the chain  virtually snapped  with me,  but  I do have Mum’s recipe for date scones, which helped fill lunch baskets on our family farm for decades.  In harvest season we would sit beside the baler with Dad, eating cream filled coffee sponge, raspberry shortbread, and spicy  date scones, washed down with cold, sweet tea. I doubt if anything has tasted as good since.  Oh my  word, have just noticed that this recipe  does call for an egg!  Well…date scones are different. It doesn’t have spice among the ingredients either, but I reckon she must have added some.

MYRA’S HARVEST  SCONES

2 cups S.R. flour

1 tablespoon sugar

¼ cup butter

1 egg, beaten

¼ cup milk

3 tablespoons chopped dates

1 tablespoon chopped mixed peel

METHOD – Sift the flour and combine with sugar. Melt the butter and add  the milk to it. Stir the fruit and peel into flour and sugar and mix to a light dough with the beaten egg and milk. Knead lightly and quickly on floured board. Cut into rounds. Sprinkle with sugar and bake in a hot oven for 10-15 minutes.

 

Dates Scone (Daily Mail)

Dates scones ready for the oven (Daily Mail)

FOOTNOTE – Rob and I also had afternoon tea with Kate Llewellyn many years ago after writing a story on her Blue Mountains garden at Leura (our story was inspired by her very special book, The Waterlily) I can’t remember whether we had scones or not,  but would like to think we did!

14 Comments
  1. I agree on the pronunciation, but your first two descriptions sound more like what I would call a Welsh cake – there are other names – things quite a lot like buttery sultanta scones but about half an inch thick or less. Very delicious eaten straight out of the pan 🙂

    • Pauline

      Yes, I’ve tried those Welsh cakes. My friend Caroline bought us some at a food market in Cardiff. And I do remember a friend of Mum’s making us some in Tassie. She had a house full of antiques, including a working fuel stove. I think she was of Irish extraction. By the way, your description of Welsh cakes is spot-on!

  2. Hmm, methinks that scone was kneaded from skon to scown via an English accent or two ?

    You can’t beat the cream and lemonade recipe though. Light as…..
    Being called on many times to produce for grand daughters I can guarantee success after many a scone better served as a cricket ball.

    Eggs were more often added to a scone mixture called “coffee scrolls” that I remember Grandmother Morey making and mentioned in the old time cookbooks. They were cut large and folded slightly over, sprinkled with sugar and came out looking like rolls.

    Anyhow, in the interests of scone preservation, here is the one called Best Ever Scone –

    3 cups SR Flour, pinch of salt, 1 cup cream, 1 cup lemonade.
    Sift flour and salt into a large bowl, make a well in the centre and pour in cream and lemonade. Mix with a knife until mixture comes together. Turn dough onto a lightly floured surface. Knead gently until smooth and pliable. Cut into rounds and arrange close together on a lightly greased tray. Bake in hot oven 220C 10-12 mins. or until golden.

    • Pauline

      Oh my word Ange, I think I’ll have to try your lemonade recipe. It may work on the same principle as beer in batter! And yes, I think I remember those coffee scrolls your Grandmother Morey made!

  3. I’m definitely a margarine girl! Or maybe it’s that I was born in the Midlands. Another lovely, entertaining – and not only interesting but educational – blog post with a peak into life at home in the Blue Mountains. x

    • Pauline

      Thanks Maddie. Dear Laurel turned 90 some time ago but certainly until very recently she was regularly baking for local charities and community groups. I was fascinated when she told me she still uses her original Sunbeam mixmaster…her husband received it in payment for some building work in the late fifties.

  4. My mouth is watering! Lol

    I say scone that rhymes with stone 😉

    Xx

    • Pauline

      I’m not sure that either sconns or scohns live up to some of your famous cakes Vikki! xx

  5. Pauline, You must remember Flo Bjelke-Petersen’s pumpkin scones. They made her famous in Australia. She always pronounced them scones(dons)
    1 tablespoon butter
    1/2 cup sugar
    1/4 teaspoon salt
    1 egg
    1 cup of mashed pumpkin (cold)
    2 cups self raising flour
    Beat together butter,sugar & salt with an electric mixer.
    Add egg,then pumpkin & stir in the flour until just combined.
    Turn onto a floured board & cut.
    Place the tray on the top shelf of a very hot oven 225-250c for 15 to 20 minutes.

    • Pauline

      Oh yes, they ARE famous Yvonne. I’ve never made them myself of course, but am sorely tempted. And yes, she definitely called them Scones rhyming with Dons. I was always rather fond of old Flo. Thanks for posting the recipe, someone might make them!

  6. My mother never baked scones but she ate them and called them scones [stones]. I do bake scones, sometimes, and eat them whenever I can. Here’s a thought … I was born definitely working class. Now, a university degree later and with most of my friends who arene’t, and often never were, working class, I call them scones [dons]. Is this me adapting my pronunciation to fit my current environment? Am I a traitor to my roots? All these recipes are making my mouth water … I’m going to have to do some baking soon!

    • Pauline

      Oh my word Christine, this is interesting; someone who has moved from stones to dons!! Hmmm, I don’t quite know what to make of this. I will go with adapting rather than traitoring because you are such a lovely person. Let me know if you try any of the recipes.

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