The food: oaty bannock bread

The story:

On a recent trip to Halifax, Nova Scotia, I ate at McKelvie’s, a fish and seafood restaurant. I’m sorry to say that I found the fish entrées mediocre-tasting and overpriced, but the bread – a slightly sweet, cakey, oaty, raisin-studded variety that I could have eaten all night – was delicious:

McKelvie’s bread, photographed in situ

Back home in Toronto, I went online to try to find out more about that bread, and came across an unattributed recipe for bannock listed on several aggregate recipe sites, always with the same, rambling explanation about bannock’s origins (which are both Scottish and native North American, apparently), and a mention that the recipe in question produces a bread similar to that served at McKelvie’s in Halifax.

I decided to give it a whirl, but the simple instructions – basically mix, pat into pie tin, bake – made me wonder if a bread-like texture could possibly result, especially when the baked product came out looking like this:

So I hedged my bets and also tried a more complicated recipe for Oat Bannock that called for yeast, kneading, the leaving of dough to rise in a warm place, punching down, etc.

The complicated recipe produced a brioche-like bread with a beautiful browned crust and decent texture that looks like a cross between a panettone and something that I’ve come to understand is called Selkirk Bannock:

but I found it too yeasty tasting, no doubt because a) I ineptly handled the dough during the kneading stage, and b) it failed to rise the first time it was supposed to, after I failed to put it in a warm enough place.

The simpler recipe, meanwhile, yielded a bread that did taste much like the one at McKelvie’s (delicious slathered with butter), albeit with a denser texture and crumb.

Possible morals arising from this story (take your pick):

1) simplest is best
2) you CAN believe some of what you read on the internet
3) my hands do not work well with doughs that require handling
4) bread that tastes like cake is good

Oat Bannock, McKelvie’s Style

1 c Whole wheat flour
1/2c All purpose flour
1/2c Rolled oats
2 Tbsp. Sugar, granulated
2 tsp. Baking powder
1/2 tsp. Salt
2 Tbsp. Butter, melted
1/3c Raisins; optional
3/4c Water; approximately

Stir together flours, oats, sugar, baking powder and salt.
Add melted butter, raisins (if using) and water, adding more water if needed to make sticky dough.
With floured hands, pat into greased pie plate.
Bake in 400F oven for 20 to 25 minutes or until browned and tester comes out clean.
Cut into wedges.
VARIATIONS: In place of raisins add chopped dried apricots or fresh berries.


4 thoughts on “Bannock!

  1. la femme fraîche says:

    I always try to make my life harder but doing things the more complicated way. I think along the same lines as you did when you made your bread…”it’s too easy, there’s no way it could work” But it sounds like the overall outcome was successful! Sounds great.

  2. Tricia Russell says:

    My husband and I had our honeymoon in Nova Scotia in 1989. Nearly 30 years later, I’m going though my cookbook transferring all my recipes to an online version. I came across the placemat that I used at McKelvie’s which had the recipe printed on it… it’s very close to yours. This one has bran added, slightly more sugar, less raisins and less BP. I’m going to give it a go!

    I know your post is 7 years old, but I just had to comment!

  3. Tricia Russell says:

    Actually, looking a little more closely, there are more differences. I think I’ll try both!
    (and it’s more baking powder, not less)

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