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They are simple, and in the woods, simple is good.  Add some honey to some simple bread and after a few days or weeks of bagels and Wasa bread, it tastes like manna from heaven.  It’s hot, light, delicious, and comforting.

"Bannock" is a Scots word of Celtic origin. The Oxford English Dictionary states the term stems from panicium, a Latin word for "baked dough", or from panis, meaning bread. Its first cited use was in 1000, and its first cited definition in 1562. Its historic use was primarily in Ireland, Scotland and Northern England. The Scottish poet Robert Burns mentions bannock in his Epistle to James Tennant of Glenconner, in reference to Alexander Tennant.

Early history

The original bannocks were heavy, flat cakes of unleavened barley or oatmeal dough formed into a round or oval shape, then cooked on a griddle (or girdle in Scots). In Scotland, before the 19th century, bannocks were cooked on a bannock stane (Scots for stone), a large, flat, rounded piece of sandstone, placed directly onto a fire, then used as a cooking surface. Most modern bannocks are made with baking powder or baking soda as a leavening agent, giving them a light and airy texture.

Varieties

Bannock varieties can be named or differentiated according to various characteristics: the flour or meal from which they are made, whether they are leavened or not, whether they have certain special ingredients, how they are baked or cooked, and the names of rituals or festivals in which they are used. Historically, specially made bannocks were used in rituals marking the changing of the Gaelic seasons: St. Bride's bannock for spring (February 1), Béaltaine bannock for summer (May 1), Lughnasadh or Lammas bannock for autumn harvests (August 1), and Samhain bannock for winter (end of October). Other special Scottish and Gaelic bannocks include beremeal bannock, bride's bannock, cod liver bannock, cryin' bannock, fallaid bannock, fife bannock, Hogmanay bannock, Marymas bannock, mashlum bannock, Michaelmas bannock, pease bannock, Pitcaithly bannock, salt bannock, sautie bannock, Silverweed bannock, St. Columba's bannock, teethin' bannock, Yetholm bannock, and Yule bannock.

Selkirk Bannock

A well-known Scottish bannock is the Selkirk Bannock, a spongy, buttery variety, sometimes compared to a fruitcake, made from wheat flour and containing a very large quantity of raisins. The first known maker of this variety was a baker named Robbie Douglas, who opened his shop in Selkirk in 1859. When Queen Victoria visited Sir Walter Scott's granddaughter at Abbotsford she is said to have taken her tea with a slice of Selkirk Bannock—ensuring that its reputation was enshrined forever. Today, Selkirk Bannocks are popular throughout Great Britain, and can be found at most large supermarkets.

Inuit bannock

Bannock, also known as frybread, skaan/scone or Indian bread, is found throughout North American native cuisine, including that of the Inuit/Eskimo of Canada and Alaska, other Alaska Natives, the First Nations of the rest of Canada, the Native Americans in the United States and the Métis. Today, bannock is a growing culinary trend across Canada with non-aboriginal people.

How it's made

As made by indigenous North Americans, bannock is generally prepared with white or whole wheat flour, baking powder and water, which are combined and kneaded (possibly with spices, dried fruits or other flavoring agents added) then fried in rendered fat, vegetable oil, or shortening, baked in an oven or cooked on a stick.

Type of bannocks

A type of bannock, using available resources, such as flour made from roots, tree sap and leavening agents, may have been produced by indigenous North Americans prior to contact with outsiders. Some sources indicate that bannock was unknown in North America until the 1860s when it was created by the Navajo who were incarcerated at Fort Sumner, while others indicate that it came from a Scottish source.

Most bannock recipes came from old-style camping legend, Calvin Rutstrum. Frankly, it was a chemical bomb using horrendous amounts of baking powder and no shortening, so it was dry and metallic. If anything contains a tablespoon or more of baking powder, run the other way unless you like the taste of aluminum.

What’s better is that the basic recipe is also good for pancakes, fish batter, etc. Think Bisquick or Krusteaz without 10,000% of your daily recommended dosage of salt. Sure, you can use those pre-made mixes, but this recipe is so simple, it’s a shame to subject your tastebuds to pre-packaged sodium bombs.

How to Make Bannock Bread

Ingredients

  1. Homemade pre-packaged Bannock Mix

  2. Water


Basic Bannock Mix 1

1 cup flour (white or a mixture of white and whole wheat)
1 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. sea salt
1/4 cup dry milk powder
1 tbsp. shortening

DeLuxe Bannock Mix

1 -1/2 cups flour (white or a mixture of white and whole wheat, or 1 cup flour + *1/2 cup coconut flour)
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. sea salt

1 to 2 tsp. sugar OR *Xylitol
1/4 cup dry milk powder (4 Tbsp.)

1/4 cup powdered eggs (4 Tbsp.)
2 Tbsp. powdered butter, or 2 Tbsp. virgin coconut oil/shortening cut in to a fine meal consistency.

OPTIONAL:  Raisins, dried fruit, nuts, seeds, or whatever you like for a dessert bannock. Bacon bits, diced Spam, dried or fresh herbs, or cheese for a savory bannock. *Healthier


Make the dry/shortening mix at home ahead of time. Sift dry ingredients, and cut shortening in with a pastry cutter or two knives until you have a granular, corn meal-like mixture. Package in zip-lock freezer bags. Double bag it if you’re going to be on a long trip. I’ve found that you can make large batches at once and make enough bannock mix for a trip in about fifteen minutes. Just make sure you sift the dry ingredients well, so you don’t get spotty leavening problems. If you’re carrying your oil, or shortening separately, mix it in well before adding the water.

Directions

Baking bannock is relatively simple once you get the hang of it.  Your first ones will be dark and maybe burnt on the outside and gooey on the inside.  Don’t despair, just pretend it’s a jelly donut and try again. The key is a moderate, consistent heat.  While flames don’t indicate a bad cooking fire, red glowing coals and embers from hardwood are best.

1. Start with a small cast iron frying pan and oil it well.

2. Pour a little water into the bag and squoosh it around in the bag (squooshing is a technical term), adding it a little at a time until you reach a bread dough consistency. You want a firm, not sticky consistency. Because the water and baking powder form carbon dioxide to make the bread light, the faster you go from mixing to skillet, the lighter your bannock will be. There will be lumps, of course, but we call them flavor bursts. I say “some water” because how much you add depends on the humidity and of course, personal taste. Kneading the dough is important, so spend a little time until the dough is smooth and shiny. You don’t want it any thinner than a muffin consistency. If you’ve never baked a muffin, think spackle. You can distribute the dough with a poke of a finger or a stick or a spoon if you’re the civilized sort. Remember, it’s always easier to add water than take it out, right?

  1. 3.Squeeze the mix out of the bag and onto the warmed pan (not scalding hot — if the oil is smoking, it’s way too hot).  The pan can be warmed over the fire if you have a grate, or leaned against a few logs near the heat source.  It shouldn’t hiss or sizzle like a pancake batter…that means things are too hot. Cool it off and be patient.  The bread will start to rise slowly.

4. Your bannock will start to look loaf-like.  At this point you’ll want to flip your loaf.  A little shake of the pan and flick of the wrist can turn it over, but a spatula is fair game too.  At this point, just keep turning it.  You’ll know when it’s done.  It’ll look a lot like the picture here.

If you have a lid, you can try to cook your bannock dutch oven-style and put coals onto your skillet lid. Otherwise, you can turn it over to cook the top (carefully!) or else when the bottom is done, prop the pan up against a log with the top facing the fire. This is my favorite sort of “semi-reflector-oven” method. I believe it also makes a lighter bannock.

One of the oldest and most traditional methods of baking bannock is to roll it into a long string and wind a single layer of it around a one inch green limb. Prop the limb up close to the fire and turn it until the bannock is done all around (see photo in side bar).

Your Campfire

You don’t need a big fire to cook bannock. You just need one with hot coals. I usually wait to cook bannock until an evening when I’m going to make a fire anyway, then start a fire, let it die down to red-hot coals and get it going again after I finish the bread. Keep in mind that your bannock picks up the flavor of smoke, so select wood that you know tastes good to you. You might not be able to tell the difference, but if you have an advanced camp-cooking palate, you may.

Gather a Stick

Since, you’re going to cook the bannock on a stick, you need to gather the perfect stick. Preferably, pick a stick that’s freshly cut, green and taste good, like aspen. If you’re camping in an area that doesn’t allow the gathering of green wood or in a popular camping area, save the trees and find a recently dead and down branch.

Look for a stick that ranges in size from two fingers to wrist thick. The bigger sticks are heavier, which is a concern, because you’ll have to hold the stick over the fire for about 10 minutes. The smaller sticks force you to make a long loaf, which makes it hard to evenly cook the middle and end. I find a stick about three fingers wide works best.

Once you have your stick, remove both the inner and outer layers of bark. Then, temper it by holding it over your fire until it becomes hot to touch. Don’t burn the stick or your bread will take on that taste. By tempering the stick, the bread will cook from the inside as well as from the outside.

Wrap the Bannock

Take the bread dough and roll it into a snake-like shape. You’re in the woods, so it doesn’t have to look perfect. Start wrapping the dough around the stick. As you wrap, spiral the dough down the stick and compress and spread it, so the dough is less than a half-inch thick. Any thicker and the dough has trouble cooking through.

Find a Hot Spot Above the Fire

The inside of the dough wrap needs to cook before the outside finishes, so you need to find a distance above the fire where the temperature is just right–if you hold it too close the outside will brown too quickly leaving a wet, doughy interior. Find the right distance by holding your hand over the fire. When you find a place you can hold your hand for around 10 to 15 seconds, you’ve found the right height.

Cook the Bannock

Hold the bannock over the fire at the right distance and let it cook. Rotate the bread so all the sides cook evenly. At first, rotate the bread more often to help stop any sag in the dough. Be careful not to allow the bread to get to close or you’ll end up burning a side. It takes around 10 minutes to cook the bannock.

Take the Bannock off the Stick

When the bannock is finished, it should easily come off the stick. If it’s not done, the bread dough will stick making it hard to slide. You want bread that’s dry and fluffy. To help remove the dough, rotate a small section until it breaks and pulls off. Work the rest of the bread off the stick. Enjoy with butter, ghee, coconut oil, jam, preserves, nut butter, or cinnamon and sugar.

Baking bread in the wilderness, the oldest and most comforting staple in the human lexicon, is about taking the comforts of home with you and enjoying yourself, not choking down some freeze-dried Hungarian goulash that looks, smells, and tastes like wallpaper paste.

Bannock Bread On The Trail
Bannock Bread On The Trail

DYNAMIC_FORCE_INSTITUTE_1.html
The way of the Long Hunter
The way of the Long Hunter

Unless you’ve spent a lot of time in the woods on longer trips, you’re probably unfamiliar with bannock.  Bannock is a Gaelic-rooted word that comes from the Latin panecium, which means baked things. Add a thousand years of passing the word from Hadrian’s soldiers to Scottish ones and you see how panecium became bannock.

A bannock is a small, flat loaf of bread risen by a leavening agent, most often a chemical one, although yeasty bannocks are sometimes baked, as in a sourdough recipe.  They are meant to be cooked hearth-side, whether it be a fireplace or a campfire.

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