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What is an Oatcake?

By Soo Owens
Updated May 16, 2024
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An oatcake is a popular food item in the United Kingdom. Two main variations exist, both of which use oatmeal as the main ingredient. Both Scotland and North Staffordshire in England specialize in oatcakes. Depending on the recipe, additional ingredients such as flour and yeast are added.

Oatcakes that originate from North Staffordshire are cooked as pancakes. The batter consists of a combination of oatmeal, flour, and a liquid, such as milk or water. Yeast is added at the end to double the amount of batter. The batter is then spread on a griddle or a frying pan in the shape of a pancake. Within Staffordshire, an oatmeal pancake is simply called an oatcake, but it may also be called a Staffordshire oatcake by visitors.

Derbyshire oatcakes are adapted from Staffordshire recipes. The list of ingredients is usually the same, but the size of each cooked oatcake differs significantly. A Staffordshire oatcake is smaller and thinner than its Derbyshire counterpart, with the same recipe yielding three times the number of servings.

Staffordshire oatcakes were once cooked in the kitchens of private households and served through the window. Small and large commercial producers sell oatcakes today in local stores and distribute them to food markets. These pancakes can be served plain or layered, with various toppings, including jams, cheeses, eggs, and meats. A filled oatcake is often rolled up to secure the filling. Oatcakes commonly accompany breakfast but can be consumed at any time of the day as part of a meal or a quick snack.

Scottish oatcakes are thicker and harder than the Staffordshire version, resembling crackers in consistency and appearance. Oatcakes are considered a traditional food in Scotland, dating as far back as the 1300s, when soldiers cooked oatmeal patties on hot metal plates for sustenance. They have been served daily alongside meals for hundreds of years. These oatcakes are now commonly offered with specific dishes or eaten in lieu of other breads.

The texture of Scottish oatcakes may be fine or coarse, depending on the recipe. The dough is formed with oatmeal, bicarbonate of soda, and a source of fat and then kneaded until soft. The disc shaped patties are then fried on a griddle or baked in the oven. They can be eaten plain or sweetened with a sugar glaze. Scottish oatcakes are also commercially produced, a number of brands selling the oatcakes as snacks or meal accompaniments.

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