These bannocks are more like a dry scone in consistency and are easier to make than the Selkirk bannock – for a start, you don’t have to worry about leaving it to rise or kneading the dough for ages.
Although they’re called ‘Fife’ bannocks, like the Selkirk bannock they are in fact made across Scotland now. The Fife bannock, along with the Brodick bannock, is one of my go-to varieties that I like to make. I choose to make this one when I’m looking for something more savoury than sweet.
Because there’s no fallaid with this type of bannock, you could designate a farl as the bonnach fallaid (to keep away unwanted attention from the Good Folk) if you want, by either putting a hole through the dough with your thumb, burning it as it cooks, or simply break off a piece and leave it for them as an offering.
6oz (3/4 cup) flour
4oz (1/2 cup) fine oatmeal
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
3/4 tsp cream of tartar
pinch of salt (or not, according to taste)
1 tsp sugar
1oz (2 tbsp) butter
6-8 tsp buttermilk (or milk)
1. Heat the oven to 220C/425F/gas mark 7 (or preheat the girdle, if using), grease a baking sheet, and lightly dust a clean surface with flour, ready for the dough for later.
2. Put all of the dry ingredients into a bowl, then rub in the butter with your fingertips.
3. Add a little buttermilk to the mixture and work into a dough, adding more buttermilk as needed until the mixture is just doughy enough to leave the sides of the bowl nice and clean. As you do this, say:
Progeny and prosperity of family
Mystery of Michael, protection of Trinity2
4. Turn the dough out onto the floured surface and knead lightly for a few minutes, adding more flour if needed to prevent sticking.
5. Press or roll the dough into a round shape, about 3/4in thick (or 1.75cm).
6. Cut the round into four, eight, or as many farls as needed and place on the greased baking sheet. Alternatively, you can shape or decorate each farl, add extra ingredients like dried fruit, spices or caraway according to the tastes of the person it’s being made for, and/or give a thick covering of caudle before placing it on the sheet. This adds a nice personal touch and can help you remember which farl belongs to whoever it was blessed for. If using the caudle, apply a thick layer to the top and sides of each farl. As you make each one, or place a farl on the baking sheet if you prefer not to alter them, say:
Progeny and prosperity to ________ (whoever it’s for – person or family name)
Mystery of Michael, shielding of the Lord3
7. Bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes (for four farls, allow less time if you cut the round into more), or until the bannocks are a light golden brown. Alternatively, bake them on a hot, greased girdle. If you use caudle, you will need to turn the farls over and apply a thick coat to the underside once the first layer of caudle has dried in the heat of the oven. This should take about five minutes. You can keep applying layers of caudle to alternate sides as the bannocks cook if you wish.
8. Cut the farls in half and serve them with butter and jam, or butter and sheep’s cheese.
1 Ingredient quantities taken from H J Dobson, Scottish Country Recipes: Traditional Fare from Hearth and Home, p37.
2 See Carmichael’s Carmina Gadelica, 1992, p590-591.
3 See Carmichael’s Carmina Gadelica, 1992, p590-591.