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What are Bannocks?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 16, 2024
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Bannocks are unleavened flat breads, heavily associated with Scotland, although many cultures make bannocks of some form or another, including several Native American tribes. As a general rule, bannocks are prepared on an open griddle, rather than baked, and they usually include whole grains such as oatmeal. In Scotland, several traditions are associated with the bannock, which is often served at special occasions.

The word “bannock” comes from the Gaelic bannuc. Bannocks have been made for centuries, since they are easy to prepare as well as nourishing. They are often compared to scones, since the two foods have similar uses and flavors. At High Tea in Scotland, bannocks and scones may be served side by side, to satisfy cravings for both. However, unlike scones, bannocks are not leavened, and they also usually do not include eggs. They are also formed differently; while scones are rolled into a circular shape and cut before baking, bannocks are cooked whole.

To make bannocks, blend two cups of warmed milk and one beaten egg with two cups of oatmeal. Let the mixture stand for 30 minutes, and add ½ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon baking soda. Form the dough into rounds and fry them on a griddle with plentiful butter or lard. The bannocks should be moist and crumbly, and they can be served with an assortment of toppings. Jam, butter, fresh fruit, and clotted cream are commonly used both inside and outside of Scotland.

According to tradition, a broken bannock is bad luck. When making bannocks, if any break they are set aside, since eating pieces of a broken bannock could bring about misfortune. On feast days and religious holidays, a cross may be etched into the top of each bannock to commemorate the saint being celebrated. This is especially common on Christmas day, and also on the feast day for Saint Columba, the patron saint of shepherds.

A variation on the classic bannock is the pitcaithly bannock, made with almonds and orange peel. The almonds are usually arranged on top of the bannock as decorations, while the orange peel is blended in with the dough. Pitcaithly bannocks are served at holidays and high teas, and they are sometimes heavily sweetened so that they taste more like a dessert. These bannocks may also sometimes be baked in the form of a large round and sliced into wedges after they are baked.

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Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a DelightedCooking researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Mary McMahon

Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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