Bannock bread, like so many traditional recipes, has adapted and changed over the years. And we are talking many, many years, for It is thought that this bread has Celtic roots.
It seems it has stood the test of time because of its simplicity and versatility. Different peoples had different ingredients depending on where they lived and what was locally available.
In Scotland, it was traditionally made with the commonly produced oatmeal or barley meal, which gave the bannock a distinct flavor, but as time went on and wheat became more readily available, this became the flour that made this flatbread. It used to be a lot heavier, too, but became lighter as the baking powder was introduced into the recipe.
Now, in Scotland, bannock is almost unrecognizable from its humble beginnings, more like a teacake with sugar, spices, and dried fruit, but travel around Scotland, and you will still notice regional differences as to what goes into a good bannock.
With the early explorers of the 18th and 19th centuries, bannock traveled over the Atlantic and was used as part of the staple diet of the settlers there. The recipe was again adapted for new surroundings, and corn flour and other plant flours were used to make bannock.
It is now believed that the indigenous peoples of North America and Canada had their own version of bannock bread made of moss, lichen, or other wild plants, and these ingredients changed according to what was locally available. Indigenous peoples, explorers, trappers, and prospectors alike cooked their own versions of bannock bread. But one thing didn’t change- just like its beginnings in Scotland, it was cooked over an open fire on a cast-iron skillet or griddle (a ‘girdle’ in Scotland).
The recipe below is one of many, many bannock recipes, but it is true to its roots as a basic flatbread, easily made over a campfire. It produces a bread that is almost scone-like, crumbly in texture. As in days gone by when sometimes a skillet wasn’t available, it can even be cooked without one. Pieces of dough can be wrapped around a stick and cooked over coals. Or dough balls can be dropped into a cooking stew, to make something that resembles dumplings
When you finish this recipe, be sure to check these recipes out.
- 3 cups flour (any type you have on hand)
- 1 tsp salt
- 2 tbsp baking powder
- ¼ cup oil, lard or melted butter
- 1 ¼ cups water
- Mix the flour, salt and baking powder.
- Add the oil and stir thoroughly.
- Gradually add the water to produce a firm dough if you are making stick bannocks or a more wet dough if you are cooking in a skillet.
- Use a little oil to grease the skillet and cook the bread over hot coals ensuring it doesn’t cook on the outside before the inside is cooked.
- For stick bannocks wrap the dough around a stick and cook gently.