I can’t imagine the men of Clan MacKenzie were belting out the last chorus of the road trip favourite 99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall as they rode the final stretch into Castle Leoch at the end of last week’s premiere episode of Outlander on STARZ.
It was a long couple of days — our Highlanders skirmished with multiple groups of Redcoats, rode all night through forest and glen, and, along the way, picked up a bewildered, bewildering and bossy Englishwoman wearing nothing but her mud-encrusted underclothes and a very sturdy-looking pair of loafers.
I bet even smart-mouth Angus is a little shell shocked and reduced to nothing but the occasional grunt of discomfort.
Thankfully, Mistress Glenna Fitzgibbons will be in Leoch’s keep this Saturday to welcome the men off their horses and direct them to the kitchens for bannocks and ale.
Next, she’ll turn her welcoming attentions to Claire. I’ve always wondered what Mrs. Fitz thought of Claire and her out-of-this-world undergarments. She certainly never said anything in the book while escorting her new and unexpected guest to a bed chamber, but Glenna may be more forthcoming on screen.
At the very least, she’ll leave Claire with a plate of bannocks and a bowl of broth.
Mrs. Fitz will be back after Claire has a bit of rest, probably with a fresh batch of bannocks, a flask of wine and an ensemble suitable for an 18th Century lady of gentle birth.
And finally, at the end of a long day spent coming to terms with time travel, uninsulated castles, questions to which there are no rational answers, and a corset that’s got to have a long adjustment period, Claire will find herself at the Laird’s table for a supper of bannocks and meat, washed down with a few glasses of lip-loosening Rhenish.
Are there really going to be that many bannocks in one hour of television? I hope not.
In reality, bannocks (and/or their close cousin, the oatcake), would have been on the table at every meal, and you would have always found a plate of them keeping warm near the edge of the cooking hearth all day long.
Traditional bannocks from Mrs Fitz’s kitchens were dense round cakes of oat and/or barley flour, animal fat and water/milk,cooked on a griddle pan, or girdle. The cakes were split into 8 equal wedges (farls) and consumed, for the most part, while still warm.
I looked at 1,538 recipes for bannocks while researching this post. Most modern recipes incorporate wheat flour and use butter instead of baking fat. Many call for buttermilk to tenderize the dough, but I chose yogurt to do the same thing for a couple of reasons: 1) I’ve found more OK readers have yogurt in their fridge than buttermilk. 2) The Recipe Index already has a few recipes that use buttermilk, and I like to mix things up.
I cut my bannocks into rectangles because that’s what this verra practical bannock baker in Shetland does. Roll the dough into a square, cut 12 rectangular bannocks and bake. There’s no scraps to re-roll — easy peasy, fresh and squeezy.
They also make a nice presentation for your Epsiode 102: Castle Leoch Snack Plate. Two bannocks, warm from the oven, with butter, wedges of blue and aged cheddar cheese, strawberry jam, and of course, a glass of your favourite Rhenish.
Gun còrd an dealbh ruibh! (Enjoy the show!)
(Click on the title below for a printable version of the recipe.)
:This modern version of a castle staple is lighter and flakier than the dense pucks the Clan MacKenzie would have proclaimed delicious. Thanks be to wheat and baking powder.
Yield: 1 Dozen
- All-Purpose Flour – 2 Cups, plus extra for kneading
- Quick Cooking Oats – 1 Cup (see notes)
- Baking Powder – 1 Tble
- Sugar – 1 Tble
- Salt – ½ tsp
- Butter, cold – ¼ Cup
- Milk – ¾ Cup
- Plain Yogurt – ½ Cup
Move rack to upper middle position and heat oven to 400° F. Line a baking pan with parchment or silicone baking sheet.Combine flour, oats, baking powder, sugar and salt in a large bowl. Grate cold butter into dry ingredients and mix well.
Stir together milk and yogurt. Add to dry ingredients and stir with wooden spoon to make a sticky dough.
Turn onto a floured counter and sprinkle with more flour. Knead dough lightly 5 or 6 times, working in additional flour, so that dough is no longer sticky
Roll into 8”x8” square, about ½” thick. Cut into 12 equal rectangles and arrange on prepared baking pan.
Bake until just golden, 12-15 minutes. Cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes before serving.
Serve warm with butter, cheese and jam, the roasted meat of your choice, or your morning parritch. Keep, in a covered container, for up to 3 days.
Ith do leòr! (Eat Plenty)
- I only keep whole rolled oats in my pantry. When I need the quick-cooking variety, I grind whole oats in a coffee grinder I keep especially for spices and other jobs like this. (3) 1 second pulses gets you the correct texture.
- Grating it cold is the quickest way to incorporate butter into a dough for bannocks, scones and pastry.
- To cook your bannocks on the stove top, preheat a large cast iron pan over medium-low for 5 minutes. Cook the bannocks in batches until golden brown on both sides, about 5-7 minutes/side.
- For an authentic 18th Century bannock, try Jocasta’s “Auld Country” Scottish Bannock.