There are many recipes to choose from when making bannocks, from sweet to savoury, from doughy to ‘drop’ varieties, as well scone-like, bread-like, or biscuit-like in constistency and texture.
I’ve reconstructed a ‘traditional’ way of making the bannocks for a festive occasion, using Campbell and McNeill as my main sources, and have had good results using the blessings for several of the bannock recipes, although I’ve only seen references to such blessings being performed with the more traditional style of oatmeal bannock. There’s no reason why such blessings wouldn’t or couldn’t have been carried out with the more modern versions, as they were being made, but it’s only fair to point this out, I think. I’ve left the blessings as they’re found in Carmichael’s Carmina Gadelica for context, though they can be easily adapted to call on deities that you feel are more appropriate to your circumstances and/or the occasion; I tend to call on Brìde and the Cailleach, or the Dagda and Brìde.
To start with I preferred sticking with the traditional type of oatmeal bannocks, because I felt they were more ‘authentic’ and in keeping with what would have been made in pre-Christian times. To be honest though, I had a hard time getting any decent results to begin with and on my first attempt, I ended up with very dry, brittle and slightly burnt bannocks. After some more practice I finally managed to get better results – especially with a little mixed spice and sugar added to make them taste a little less bland, but ultimately I have to admit the more modern recipes like the Fife and Selkirk bannocks have more appeal to my tastebuds, and overall they’re easier to make.
Bannocks are traditionally served with sheep’s cheese and sometimes caudle on festival occasions, but jam (or jelly, if you’re from across the Pond) also goes well with them, especially if you try a sweeter version like the Fife bannock – although some of the sweeter varieties do just fine on their own, or with a little cream or custard if you’re feeling decadent.
On some occasions the bannocks were coated with a thick batter of caudle, or else the caudle was a runny custard-like drink that was served separately or poured over the cooked bannock, or (with a thinner caudle) used as a glaze rather than a coating as the bannocks were cooked.1 A recipe for the thick caudle batter and how to apply it to the bannocks is given, as well as a few different types for making a drink.
I found a decent converter for UK to US measurements, so I’ve now given both measurements in the recipes.
Types of bannocks and caudle
Strùthan – a modern version of the traditional struan with a sweet caudle coating
Oatmeal bannocks – a simple, traditional savoury dough recipe
Drop bannocks – a traditional savoury ‘drop’ recipe
Fife bannocks – a sweet bannock, quite like a scone
Pitcaithly bannocks – a sweeter version, like a citrusy shortbread
Selkirk bannock – another sweet version, more like a bread with dried fruit
Yetholm bannock – and another sweet version, with a gingery kick
1 McNeill, The Silver Bough, Volume 2, 1959, p68.