Scottish Breakfast Bread, or Baps

The first year I moved to Charleston, I roomed with Archibald MacLeish Martin, a member of the St. Andrews Society with deep roots in the Lowcountry. Some 20 years later he asked me for a good recipe for shortbread; the family had misplaced his grandmother’s. If they should find her yellowed papers, they might well find among them a copy of Meg Dods’s The Cook and Housewife’s Manual, which appears regularly in the inventories of 19th-century Charleston libraries. First published in 1826, the book helped the Scots who settled along the Cooper River maintain traditional kitchens in the Lowcountry, where more than a fourth of the white population had roots in the British Isles.

Baps, the breakfast rolls of Scotland, appear in several Lowcountry recipe collections, including Harriott Pinckney Horry’s from the 1770s. By the time her cousin published The Carolina Housewife in 1847, baps in the Lowcountry, and elsewhere in the South, included eggs and other enrichments. The following traditional recipe comes from Marian McNeill’s The Scots Kitchen of 1929, and she notes, “Baps appear exclusively on the breakfast-table, and should be eaten warm from the oven.”

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  • 1 pound (about 4 cups) unbleached (all-purpose) flour, plus a little extra for dusting
  • 1 teaspoon pure salt
  • 2 ounces (about cup) lard
  • 1 ounce fresh compressed yeast
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 cup tepid milk, plus milk for glaze


Sift the flour and salt into a warm bowl. Rub the lard into the flour with the fingertips, until it is evenly distributed. In another bowl, stir the yeast and sugar together with a wooden spoon until they are liquid. Add the milk to the yeast, stir, then strain the mixture into the flour. Stir it all together to form a soft dough, cover the bowl, and set to rise in a warm, draft-free place until about doubled in size—about an hour.

Punch down the dough and turn it out onto a floured surface. Knead it lightly, then divide it into pieces of equal size to form oval shapes about 3 inches long and 2 inches wide. Brush with milk or water to give them a glaze and, if “floury baps” are desired, dust them with flour just after brushing them.

Place the baps on a lightly greased and floured sheet pan and set again in a warm place to rise for about 20 minutes. In the meantime, preheat the oven to 425°. To prevent blisters, press a finger into the center of each before placing them in the oven. Bake for about 20 minutes or until they are lightly browned. Serve warm with butter and jam.