Scottish oatcakes

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Preparation info

  • Difficulty

    Medium

  • Makes about

    20

    oatcakes

Appears in

Oats in the North, Wheat from the South: The history of British Baking, savoury and sweet

Oats in the North, Wheat from the South

By Regula Ysewijn

Published 2020

  • About

These biscuit-like oatcakes can be considered a crispbread, as they were traditionally made as a long-lasting, easy-to-bake alternative to bread. Before the advent of ovens they were baked on a griddle – a flat iron disc suspended over or placed over a fire.

Scottish oatcakes are usually round, but sometimes they are made into large rounds and then cut into four to create farls. Florence Marian McNeill, who wrote The Scots Kitchen in 1929, uses medium oatmeal. She was from the Isle of Orkney, where today Orkney oatcakes are made into farl shapes. The bakery on Orkney also makes an oatcake with a portion of barley or beremeal flour.

In Scotland, you can find many varieties of oatcakes. There is a fine version made with oat flour, a rougher variety made partly with oatmeal, and one made partly with pinhead oats for extra texture. Oatcakes can range from very brittle and fragile to hard and sometimes even chewy, depending on the choice of oats, the amount of water used and how long they were baked. Sometimes they are made by roasting the oats and oatmeal first to create a darker oatcake. Lard used to be traditional but has now been replaced by vegetable oils. While butter is an option, I find it is very rich, creating almost a digestive biscuit.

Today oatcakes are often served with a cheese board. I think they’re the perfect partner for haggis – spread the haggis onto the oatcakes like a pate, and wash it down with a wee dram. I personally like any kind of oatcake and my larder is always stocked with them. They’re my favourite thing to take with me for those little bursts of hunger during long and busy days. When you have oatcakes, you have a meal.

Ingredients

  • 150 g ( oz) porridge oats or oatmeal
  • 150 g ( oz) oat flour
  • ½ tsp sea salt
  • 80 ml ( fl oz) vegetable oil, melted lard or melted butter
  • 50 ml ( fl oz) hot water
  • oat flour, for dusting

Method

Preheat your oven to 190°C (375°F) and line two baking trays with baking paper.

Mix the oats, oat flour and salt together, then mix with the oil, melted butter or lard. Add the hot water and mix well. Let the dough rest for 10 minutes so that the oats can swell.

Knead the dough, but if it is still too crumbly, add more hot water and let it rest again – one type of oats can be drier than another.

Roll out the dough on a work surface dusted with oat flour until it is about 5 mm (¼ inch) thick. Use a 6-7 cm (2½-2¾ inch) cutter to cut out the oatcakes.

Transfer the oatcakes to the baking trays and bake for 10-15 minutes.