Bannock is an ancient form of bread that can be cooked over an open fire by just about anyone. Aboriginal people of North America from the Navaho to the Inuit all cook a form of bannock based on the ingredients available at the time. Scottish settlers also brought their variation of the recipe over to North America with them, yet no one place on Earth claims to be the originator of the bannock recipe.
Bannock is an unleavened bread (a bread without yeast) and is best cooked over a campfire in a frying pan, a dutch oven, and even on a stick. The simple ingredients that make up bannock are available almost everywhere. Recipes vary slightly from region to region, along with the actual method of cooking.
Scottish people bake a version of bannock with lots of raisins and oatmeal flour, while campers of Canada and the United States bake with whole wheat flour and put in fresh blueberries or other wild berries. Aboriginal people in Southern North America use a corn flour made from maize along with wheat flour. Some other modern additions to a bannock recipe are chocolate chips, jam, and a mixture of cinnamon and brown sugar.
Bannock was made popular among the voyageurs who first visited North America. They travelled in canoes and on foot so provisions had to be kept simple. Stone ovens were not practical to build in the woods where the voyageurs traveled so a bread that could be cooked easily over a fire pit was also a necessity. Bannock filled all of these requirements and since it does not necessarily require eggs or milk there was no need to worry about the ingredients spoiling.
All bannock recipes have the same basic ingredients: flour, baking powder, sometimes salt, butter or shortening or a cooking oil, and water or milk or buttermilk depending on where you will be baking. Sometimes bannock is fried in oil on a stove but it can also be baked in a 12” frying pan over a campfire. For a crispier bannock spread the dough about half an inch thick in the frying pan or for a fluffier and moister bannock spread the dough about 1” to 2” thick in the frying pan.
Here is a basic bannock recipe for baking over a campfire that you can try for yourself. Build a campfire about 2’ in diameter in your usual way. Burn hardwood down to a low flame with lots of red hot coals to create the medium heat needed for baking.
Since bannock will pick up the scent of the wood smoke try to use wood such as hickory, maple, or oak and avoid using softwoods such as pine, hemlock or cedar. A cooking stick should be about 3’ long and ¾” in diameter made from hardwood. Make the cooking stick by removing 8” of the bark from one end of the stick with a knife.
2 ½ Cups All Purpose Flour
1 Teaspoon Salt (if desired)
¼ Cup Butter or Margarine
1-2 Tablespoons Baking Powder
1 Cup Water, Milk or Buttermilk
1-2 Tablespoons Vegetable Oil to grease frying pan
Directions for cooking in a pan or dutch oven:
1. Mix together flour, baking powder and salt (if using).
2. Cut in butter or margarine with a fork or pastry blender until it is in pea sized pieces. Butter can also be softened or melted if desired.
3. Add water, milk, or buttermilk until the dough can be handled without being overly sticky.
4. Knead about 10 times lightly on a floured cutting board until dough reaches a smooth consistency.
5. Flatten dough to ½” to 2” thickness and about 8” in diameter.
6. Spread oil in a preheated 12” frying pan and place dough in the center of pan.
7. Bake about 15 minutes or until golden brown.
Directions for cooking on a stick:
1. Prepare dough as described above.
2. Roll dough into a long string about 1” in diameter.
3. Cut dough string into 6” lengths.
4. Wrap dough fairly tightly around a cooking stick and press lightly together.
5. Cook by holding stick over a low flame-hot coal fire until browned, about 10 minutes.
6. Remove dough from stick and fill with chocolate chips, or jam, or cinnamon and brown sugar.
Copyright 2019 Mike Wilson