The Bannocks

Things did not get off to a good start:

Whoops: slightly out of code
Whoops: slightly out of code

The packet was still sealed, and tightly so. I opened it, no moths flew out, and then I sniffed and there was nothing “off” about the smell, so I forged ahead. Some wouldn’t but I’m a no-nonsense kind of cook (i.e. foolhardy) and if it all went pear-shaped at least the hens would benefit from my labour.

Maintaining the off note – we might as well admit at this stage that my griddle pan is not of the best. I bought mine from Lidl and it is non-stick on a heavy aluminium base, not a nice cast iron one. It’s actually too large to fit properly on my cooker top and it heats lop-sidedly. It’s slow to heat up but then retains far too much heat. I’m pretty familiar with it and used to coping but it’s not the best way to test a new recipe.

I stuck to the plan to use a 2:1 ratio and measured in cups and teaspoons:

  • 2 cups Beremeal
  • 1 cup plain flour (I used bread flour)
  • 1 tsp Cream of Tartar
  • 1 tsp Bicarbonate of soda
  • ½ tsp salt

This is fundamentally the recipe from Barony Mill (somebody needs to do them a new web site, it’s very Web 1.0) at Birsay, the origin of the Beremeal. They should know, yes? Besides, it seems to me that to be a Bere Bannock, then Bere must necessarily predominate. I can try a 50/50 mix another time but see no point in recipes that call for more plain flour than Bere.


I was a good girl – I sieved. Or perhaps I sifted. Who knows? I can never tell. Anyway, whatever I did grammatically, I included the raising agents and did not add them directly to the fluid component as some recipes direct.

As intended (see previous post) I deployed last night’s brew of yoghurt, thinning it down with skimmed milk to mix the dough. I guesstimated and added more as required, though in the end I suspect that my dough was a little too soft for the job. Why?

Well, I had problems kneading the dough into a manageable ball, it was too sticky. We’ll gloss over the rolling-out as circles have never been my forté, but I can say that moving the rounds onto the pan was an interesting experience – they were not readily amenable to the move. A stiffer dough would have been easier.

I split the dough into two halves and set one aside whilst I rolled the first one out. I rolled to a little less, perhaps, than 1 centimetre in thickness. Certainly far thinner than I would roll a scone dough.

Rolling out was a sticky business
Rolling out was a sticky business

I suspect that I had not given my pan long enough to preheat before the first round went in.

Circles are not my strength
Circles are not my strength

My recipe search had suggested that 10 minutes cooking time was required, five on each side. My first bannock had almost 8 minutes before flipping it over and took somewhere over 12 minutes in total, maybe 15. It rose more than I had expected.

Bannock number two cooked more enthusiastically
Bannock number two cooked more enthusiastically

By the time that Bannock no 2 hit the pan, things had clearly hotted up. This is how it looked after flipping after just two minutes. I turned the heat way down for the second side and removed it from the pan after a total of 8 minutes. The lift on the dough was exactly the same as for attempt number 1.

Bannock number 2
Bannock number 2

I sampled the first round as I was making my soup, in case a Plan B was needed. Plan B did not make itself urgent.

We sat down to our Broccoli and Cheese soup and helped ourselves to pieces of the bannock, liberally buttered. It was a happy marriage. Mr L ate from Bannock no 1 but I ate from Bannock no 2, to see if the difference in cooking temperatures had made a huge difference. As far as I could tell, both bannocks were equally cooked – neither was underdone, nor was either of them dry and over-cooked.  I ate two wedges then the remainder of the first piece I had sampled (visible at the top of the photo above) which had by now become fully cold. This told me one important thing: I like my bere bannocks cold rather than warm.

The bannocks were lighter than I expected, and less bitter in taste. They have an agreeably chewy skin or “crust” and are nicely filling to eat.

As Mr L ate more than one for lunch I tentatively enquired if we might have them again at tea time and he said yes, of course. I think we can count this bake a win, at least in this household.

Now, dare I test them on the Show bench?

Oh, this is the point at which I should mention that we have a scheduled power cut on Thursday. I’m not planning on baking a lot, if anything at all (still undecided) but for the busy bakers, that power cut is going to be a pain. It makes me wonder just how full the Show benches will be this year.

I am now wanting a proper cast iron griddle pan.

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