Monday, 22 January 2018

Scottish oatcakes,and sae the Lord be thankit

 “Some hae meat and canna eat,
And some wad eat that want it,
But we hae meat and we can eat,
And sae the Lord be thankit.”
Robert Burns
It is so rewarding when you find out that an item you might regularly buy, or can not source, is so easy to make. And of course you know exactly what is in it. I am not sure I would commit to never buying oatcakes again, but it is good to know I can easily knock up my own home made version, and after all it is quicker than going to the shops. In my particular case it is impossible to source traditional Scottish oatcakes here in the Algarve. I have been to every supermarket, every health food shop known to man, and can I find a real authentic oatcake like the ones we were brought up on as wee bairns back in the Scottish day? Yes there are packets of biscuits marketed as oatcakes but they all carry strange flavours.If God had meant oatcakes to be flavoured with Goji berries he would have said so.Linseed is not something to put through ones digestive system or subject the towns drainage system to either.Any way, what better time to bake a batch of oatcakes( January 25th in Scotland is the night to celebrate their most famous poet, Robert Burns) I stumbled upon a true oatcake recipe on the internet which matches the authenticity of Elizabeth Craig´s recipe in her Scottish Cookery book.
Savoury oatcakes (bannocks) are to Scotland what a baguette is to the French. The flat cakes made mainly from oats have for centuries been considered the Scottish national bread.Lots of Scottish cooking involves oats, not only because they’re delicious but also because the oat plant is one of the hardiest grain crops, and can withstand the cold weather of Scotland brilliantly – for this reason it was Scotland’s main crop, and therefore very affordable.
I discover that I prefer my oatcakes, like my porridge, to have a bite to them in the way of texture. A mixture of medium oatmeal to act as a binder and pinhead oatmeal to make them pleasingly chewy, with just a handful of porridge oats for interest, will do nicely. An oatcake shouldn't melt in the mouth, but neither should it require a chaser of dental floss.
Traditionally oatcakes seem to have been formed into large circles and cut into triangular farls, but what I have always been used to, and are less fragile, are the smaller modern rounds. The dough rolled thinly; about 5mm, provides the right level of crispness.The oatcake would originally have been cooked on a cast iron girdle, or griddle, over the fire, but nowadays a stove-top equivalent would be finished in a low oven. To be honest, they taste about the same, but such fragile biscuits are tricky to handle, especially when part-cooked; far easier for us amateurs to stick with the oven.  Make sure they've dried out completely before taking them out of the oven.Delicious, yes, but crispness should be your watchword with these particular oatcakes – they may be crumblier and more fragile than the bought sort, but what they lack in durability they more than make up for in flavour.

Makes 16
1 cup traditional oats
1/2 cup coarsely ground toasted mixed cereals (granola) (Oats, wheat, rice, rye)*
1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup golden sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda (bicarb not baking powder)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup chilled solid vegetable shortening, cut into pieces
1/4 cup buttermilk (see note below)*
10ml molasses dissolved in soup spoon boiling water optional


The perfect oatcake cutter


Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter 2 heavy large baking sheets. Place oats in large bowl. Sift flour, sugar, baking soda and salt into same bowl. Using fingertips, rub in shortening until mixture resembles coarse meal. Add buttermilk,if using; stir until dough forms. Transfer dough to floured surface. Roll out dough to 1/4-inch thickness.Use a cookie cutter to cut out rounds (the final number of oatcakes depends - of course - on the size of cutter you use. In a wonderfully Scottish twist/coincidence I found that using an upturned whisky glass makes the perfect size :-). Arrange on prepared sheets, spacing apart. Gather scraps, reroll and cut out additional rounds. Bake oatcakes until edges are pale golden, about 12 minutes. Transfer baking sheets to racks and cool 5 minutes. Transfer cakes to racks; cool completely.They Can be prepared 3 days ahead and stored in an airtight container.
*If butter milk is not available use a 50/50 blend of plain yogurt and water *This gives the oatcakes a nutty crunch and a slight sweetness
                                 

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