Black Bun:  Scotland's alternative to Cloutie DumplingIt’s February and I’m already thinking about St. Patrick’s  Day. HOWEVER, I was reading the ballyhoo on one of my favorite Yahoo groups lately, Savory Faire, and the culinary experts were talking about Bannock Bread. It goes back to Scotland and the most famous, Selkirk Bannock, is more like a flour based fruit cake than anything, made traditionally around Christmas.  It sounds rich and wonderful; made with a biga to start with, half its weight should be in the sultanas (raisins). One of the folks on Savory Faire gave a bannock  recipe that was made during the Revolutionalry years, carried by the soldiers. Instead of the traditional oats, itcalls for cornmeal which makes sense on this side of the Atlantic. To me it sounds like a corn bread griddle cake, no fruit, just plain.

Bannock Cakes
Revolutionary War Recipe

1 cup water
1 cup stone-ground cornmeal
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup milk
1 egg
2 tablespoons butter

Bring one cup of water to a boil. Mix the cornmeal and salt with a fork. Add the boiling water. Stir until smooth. Stir in the milk. Let the batter sit for five minutes. Beat in egg. Melt two tablespoons butter in a heavy frying pan over medium heat. Drop the batter from a tablespoon to make little round cakes. Cook the cakes until golden (about two minutes). Turn each cake with a spatula and cook the other side about one minute. Place the finished cakes on a serving platter. May be served either hot or cold.

Bambrack is the Irish equivalent of a Selkirk Bannock, also fruited but made with soda rather than yeast. Traditionally , this was made around All Hallows  Eve but I love it any time I can get all the fruits in one place.

Black Bun is what happens when one doens’t want to make a Cloutie Dumpling but has all the ingredients. Instead of boiliing the stuff in a floured linen cloth, one encases the ingredients in a pastry case. It’s served around Hogmanay but made months in advance so it “matures” . It sounds like a mince pie but maybe YUMMIER. (What I woudn’t give for one of Richard’s mince pies right now!

Ingredients for Pastry Case:
12 oz plain flour (3 cups)
3 oz lard (6 tablespoons)
3 oz butter or margarine (6 tablespoons)
(Note that if you don’t want to use lard, increase the butter/margarine by an equivalent amount)
Pinch of salt
Half teaspoon baking powder
Cold water

Ingredients for Filling:
1 lb seedless raisins (2¾ cups)
1 lb cleaned currants (2¾ cups
2 oz chopped, blanched almonds (Third of a cup)
2 oz chopped mixed peel (¼ cup)
6 oz plain flour (1½ cups)
3 oz soft brown sugar (Third of a cup)
One level teaspoon ground allspice
Half level teaspoon each of ground ginger, ground cinnamon, baking powder
Generous pinch of black pepper
One tablespoon brandy
One large, beaten egg
Milk to moisten

Grease an 8-inch loaf tin. Rub the fats into the flour and salt and then mix in enough cold water to make a stiff dough (remember, it is going to line the tin). Roll out the pastry and cut into six pieces, using the bottom, top and four sides of the tin as a rough guide. Press the bottom and four side pieces into the tin, pressing the overlaps to seal the pastry shell.
Mix the raisins, currants, almonds, peel and sugar together. Sift in the flour, all the spices and baking powder and bind them together using the brandy and almost all the egg and add enough milk to moisten.
Pack the filling into the lined tin and add the pastry lid, pinching the edges and using milk or egg to seal really well. Lightly prick the surface with a fork and make four holes to the bottom of the tin with a skewer. Depress the centre slightly (it will rise as it cooks).
Brush the top with milk or the rest of the egg to create a glaze.
Bake in a pre-heated oven at 325F/160C/Gas Mark 3 for 2½ to 3 hours. Test with a skewer which should come out clean; if not, continue cooking. An uncooked cake sizzles if you listen closely!
Cool in the tin and then turn onto a wire rack. Cool thoroughly before storing until Hogmanay.

(Source:    )

Whenever you make any of these, especially the fruited  things, please invite me to be your taste tester!


Hands On: How to  Make a Bannock Bread

Scotland: The Land of Cakes

Traditional Bannock and other Scots food