If you would like to add just one Scottish tradition to your Christmas celebration this year, you might try making a batch of bannocks. Bannocks are a form of unleavened bread, which can be considered the Scottish cousins of many other varieties of unleavened bread throughout the world. Pretty much all ancient cultures had their form of it.
This is something we keep out all Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, along with our short bread. (If you look at old articles from the Blarney Blog, you’ll find our recipe for Scottish Short Bread also.) Ours contains oatmeal, but I have seen other derivations. The key ingredient is a grain. Bannocks are also usually cooked on a griddle of some sort, like a flat bread.
The word “bannock” comes from the Gaelic bannuc. Bannocks have been made for centuries, since they are easy to prepare as well as nourishing. They are often compared to scones, since the two foods have similar uses and flavors. At High Tea in Scotland, bannocks and scones may be served side by side, to satisfy cravings for both. However, unlike scones, bannocks are not leavened, and they also usually do not include eggs. They are also formed differently; while scones are rolled into a circular shape and cut before baking, bannocks are cooked whole. We don’t get too shaken about the overall round shape.
According to tradition, a broken bannock is bad luck. When making bannocks, if any break they are set aside , since eating them could bring about the bad luck. Our dogs usually end up with the broken ones, doesn’t seem to effect them! On special days and religious holidays, a cross may be etched into the top of each bannock to commemorate what is being celebrated. This is a fun touch to add for St. Andrew’s Day, or Christmas. A variation on the classic bannock is the pitcaithly bannock, made with almonds and orange peel. The almonds are usually arranged on top of the bannock as decorations, while the orange peel is blended in with the dough. Pitcaithly bannocks are served at holidays and high teas, and they are sometimes heavily sweetened so that they taste more like a dessert. These bannocks may also sometimes be baked in the form of a large round and sliced into wedges after they are baked.
Mix flour, baking powder, sugar and salt together. Now add just enough water so that the mixture becomes a dough. Be careful not to add too much water. Form the dough into 5-6 patties.
Fry the patties in a frying pan that has been lightly oiled. You can also use a pancake griddle with, say, some PAM spray oil. Turn the patties when the bottom gets golden brown. Cook the other side to the same. With practice, you’ll get them to look like your desired level of browness. Serve these warm. You may also want to eat them with a little honey, which is very traditional. You can also add some peanut butter to the cooked patty (this is a nice hill billy touch).
Hear’s to your bannocks, from our Celtic Ozark table to your’s, whereever in the world you may be.
Ray Province, The Celtic Ozarkian