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Issue 76 - Scottish Baking

Scotland Magazine Issue 76
August 2014

 

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Scottish Baking

Sue Lawrence serves up some baking traditions

In Scotland, amongst the rural population generally, the girdle takes the place of the oven, the bannock of the loaf.” F. Marian McNeil wrote this in her 1929 cook book and although it no longer rings true, since most kitchens nowadays have ovens, it perhaps explains the origins of some of our baking traditions. We have never had grand cakes or indeed many yeast-based breads, since the only way to bake bread with yeast (or brewer’s barm as was often used) was to get a piece of bread dough from the village baker, add some fruit and spices and ask the baker to bake it for you.

Our dependency on the girdle (“griddle” in countries other than Scotland) means that, to this day we have a plethora of oatcakes, scones and pancakes baked on the girdle. This is because the girdle, as well as the soup pan, were probably the only pieces of equipment in a rural Scottish kitchen.

Scottish Baking has evolved over the years, adjusting old recipes to add less sugar and less unhealthy fats – but the traditional old favourites still remain as popular as ever. Nowadays though, since baking has become the new hip past-time, there are many new baked goodies that we Scots love to both bake and devour. There is always something – old or new - to satisfy our insatiable sweet tooth.


Recipes

Cheese Scones

makes 8 large scones

The variations on this basic recipe are endless: add some finely chopped herbs (chives, thyme or oregano are good), a teaspoon of dried mustard or a few shakes of cayenne pepper to the mix. You can also cut them into tiny little rounds and serve them, as canapés, split and topped with cream cheese or soft goats cheese and then a sliver of smoked salmon, or roasted red pepper – or a halved cherry tomato.

450g /1 lb plain flour
2 rounded tbsp baking powder
125g /4½ oz butter, cubed
250g / 9 oz grated mature Cheddar
cracked black pepper, optional
2 large free-range eggs
milk
topping
extra grated Cheddar

Sift the flour and baking powder into a large bowl then rub in the butter. Stir in the cheese then add a pinch of salt, and the pepper (if using).

Place the eggs in a measuring jug, stir lightly then add enough milk to make up to 300ml/10 fl oz. (approx 150 ml/5 fl oz). Stir lightly then add most of this to the mix (enough to combine to a softish dough), then gently combine, getting stuck in with your (floured) hands. Bring together gently (you do not need to knead, only bring the dough together) and place on a floured surface then pat out till about 3cm / 1¼” high. Using a fluted cutter, cut out 10 large scones and place on a lightly buttered baking tray.

Brush the tops with any liquid left in the jug (add a splash more milk if necessary) then top with the extra cheese. Bake near the top of a preheated oven (220C / 425F / Gas7) for about 12 minutes or until golden and well-risen.Remove to a wire rack and leave until barely warm before splitting and spreading with butter.


Haggis Flatbreads

makes 6

The idea for these is based on those wonderful middle eastern flatbreads served with a spiced lamb topping. They are delicious served as a snack or as a light supper with salad.

500g /1 lb 2 oz strong white flour
1 x 7g sachet easy-bake dried yeast
1 tbsp olive oil
topping
tomato puree
about ¾ butcher’s haggis
olive oil
large handful mint and flat parsley,
chopped

For the flatbreads, place the flour and yeast in a bowl and stir in 1 tsp salt.

Make a well in the middle and pour in the oil then 300 - 325ml/ 10 - 11 fl oz hand-hot (tepid) water, enough to combine to a dough.

Using floured hands, bring the dough together then knead on a lightly floured board for 8 – 10 minutes until smooth and elastic. Placed in a lightly oiled bowl, cover and leave for 1 - 1½ hours somewhere vaguely warm until risen.

Punch down then divide into 6.

Roll out, with a rolling pin, to flat pitta bread shapes – elongated ovals.

Place on two to three oiled baking sheets, loosely cover with oiled clingfilm and leave again somewhere vaguely warm for about half an hour or until puffed up a little.

Then smear about one teaspoon tomato puree over each.

Chop the haggis up and crumble over each bread, taking right out to the edges. Drizzle with olive oil and bake in a preheated oven (220C / 425F / Gas7) for about 20 minutes or until puffed up and golden.

Remove and scatter chopped mint/parsley over each one, drizzle with oil and serve
at once.


Chocolate, coconut and cherry traybake

makes 28 squares

This was part of my childhood and I have always loved it. It is a doddle to make but you must leave the tray in the refrigerator for the specified time, so the chocolate can fully set, after it has been baked. If you try to lever out the pieces while the chocolate is still soft, it will simply all collapse on you.

450 g /1 lb quality chocolate (I like two thirds milk, one third dark)
200 g / 7 oz natural (uncoloured)
glacé cherries
4 medium free-range eggs
175 g / 6 oz golden caster sugar
250 g / 9 oz desiccated coconut

Melt the chocolate over a double boiler (or in a microwave on medium), then pour into the base of the prepared tin (buttered swiss-roll tin - 23 cm x 33 cm / 9 x 13”).

Smooth out with the back of a spoon. Allow to cool and harden.

Halve the cherries and place at intervals over the chocolate.

Beat the eggs in a bowl, then add the coconut and sugar. Stir until well combined, then carefully spoon this mixture over the cherries, taking care not to push the cherries into one corner. Pat down gently to smooth the surface. Preheat the oven to Gas 4 / 350F / 180C. Bake for about 25 minutes until the coconut mixture looks golden brown and feels firm to the touch.Leave to cool for at least 30 minutes before marking into squares, then allow to become cold. Place in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes until completely hard and cold, then remove the squares from the tin.


Brides Bonn

makes 2 rounds

Brides Bonn is a traditional Shetland cake or bread - formerly it was a sweet oat bannock then later it became a thick round of shortbread. This was broken over the bride’s head by the womenfolk as she entered the house for the wedding party after the church service. Guests would scrabble for pieces to take home and put under their pillows as they were meant to have special attributes that enhanced dreams: Brides bonn was also traditionally known as Dreaming Bread.

200g / 7 oz butter, softened
100g / 3½ oz golden caster sugar
200g / 7 oz self-raising flour, sifted
100g / 3½oz medium oatmeal

Cream the butter and sugar together until really creamy and pale: this will take 4 – 5 minutes in a food mixer (longer by hand).

Now add the combined flour (and pinch of salt) and oatmeal a tablespoonful at a time, only adding more when incorporated. When all mixed in, bring together with your hands and tip into 2 prepared tins (lightly buttered 18cm/ 7” sandwich tins). Using floured hands, press down so the mixture levels out.

Prick all over with a fork (ensure you go right through to the base) and “scallop” the edges by nicking round the edges with the edge of a spoon or the tines of a fork.

Place in a preheated oven (150C / 300F / Gas2) for 35 - 40 until golden brown. Remove the tins to a wire rack, cut each into 8 triangles then leave for 15 –20 minutes or so then remove from the tin while still a little warm but firm enough to be removed. Leave on a wire rack until cold.


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