It’s been a busy few months. There. Now you understand why I’ve not posted much.
The Canadians in the audience know about bannock (probably they know at least three different KINDS of bannock). Everybody else is in the dark. Not for much longer — but you know I’m gonna digress. First, however, here’s the basic and expanded recipe stuff, so you can dive right in (or print it out and move on) if you’re not into reading an old hippie’s rambles. Besides, a ramble goes down good with some fresh hot bannock!
(Scones, Frybread, Biscuit Pone, Trail Bannock & Shortcake)
2 cups flour*
2 round teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 Tablespoon sugar
2 Tablespoons oil
Approx. ½ cup milk, water or yogurt
Sift dry ingredients together. Cut in oil with pastry blender. Add milk and stir to wet ingredients. Turn out on floured board and knead gently to make a dough ball.
* Can use 1 ½ cup flour, ¼ cup flaked grains (any variety or mix) and ¼ cup cornmeal.
Heat deep oil to 350F. Divide dough into six pieces. Flatten/stretch dough to approximately 6-inch round. Place in oil, turn after 30 seconds. Cook until evenly browned, turning back to finish first side. Drain on paper towels. Serve warm.
Baked Bannock/Biscuits/Biscuit Pone
Preheat oven to 425F (400 for Biscuit Pone).
For bannock, divide dough in six pieces. Form to approximately 6-inch rounds and bake on parchment-lined pan, about 20 minutes or until browned.
For biscuits, pat out dough ½ inch thick. Cut with biscuit cutter and bake on parchment-lined pan, about 20 minutes or until browned.
For biscuit pone, place dough ball into a parchment lined spring-form pan, pat out evenly. Bake at 400F 20-25 minutes or until browned.
Pre-make a mix by combining dry ingredients (adding enough milk powder to make ½ cup of milk) and cutting in oil. Package in convenient amounts in zip-loc™ bags. To make dough, pour water into bag, reclose and knead bag to mix. Can be baked in a skillet or Dutch oven, as desired. (Can add dried fruit, chopped jerky and other ingredients to mix if desired.)
2 cups flour
½ teaspoon salt
¼ cup sugar
2 rounded teaspoons baking powder
3 Tablespoons oil
Approx.1/2 cup milk, water or yogurt
Optional fillings (approximately 1 cup of any)
Frozen Saskatoon berries
Other firm berry fruits as desired (huckleberries if you have them!)
Dried currants or raisins (or other dried fruit)
Mix of toasted walnuts/grated orange zest/dried cranberries
Preheat oven to 400F.
Sift dry ingredients together. Cut in oil with pastry blender. Add filling and toss to coat with flour mixture. Add milk and stir to wet ingredients. Turn out on floured board and knead gently to make a dough ball.
Flatten dough ball ½ inch thick and cut into six equal wedges. Bake on parchment-lined pan approximately 25 minutes or until browned.
Make sweet bannock dough as above. Divide dough into six pieces, and pat into 4-6 inch rounds. Before baking, sprinkle with additional sugar. To serve, place on a soup plate, cover with strawberries or other berry, top with whipped cream.
I’ve been “thinkmowing” the last few days. Which means I’ve been mowing in the orchard. “Mowing” with a scythe because it’s quieter, runs on beer and sandwiches, and gives me an excuse to practise that set of skills (including keeping the blade sharp and moving well with the scythe). Spend a day cutting tall grass with a scythe and once everything is working smoothly I’ll start thinking about something. Not usually world peace, usually not the deplorable state of our national politics, never about baseball. I might think, “Gee, I never think about baseball” but that’s as far as I go.
As I cut swaths, and then (because I don’t need the hay) forked up the grass into a wheelbarrow for endless trips up the hill to this year’s compost pile, I got to thinking about bannock, trail bannock, scones, biscuits, biscuit pone, and shortcake. There IS a common thread: they all have pretty much the same ingredients except for some additions here and there. It’s all a simple quick-bread dough, either baked or fried. It may seem there’s no romance in it, but bear with me. (It’s always amazing to me how much true love resembles fresh bread.)
My mother was a Bisquick(tm) Believer. If you lined up all the Bisquick(tm) boxes my mother emptied during my growing-up years…well, you’d have a lot of Bisquick(tm) boxes lined up. Mum also believed in Campbell’s soup, Crisco, and all the other post-World-War-II conveniences that promised to free women from the drudgery of the kitchen. When she was a girl (almost a century ago, now) she didn’t have that stuff. She also didn’t have electricity, running water or toilet paper — which explains to me why she and millions of other women of her era dumped the kerosene lamps, wood cookstoves and copper wash boilers in favour of being “modern.” In my young-hippie years she was unfailingly dismissive about Back-to-the-Landers and other people in search of a seemingly simpler lifestyle.
Even the convenience foods Mum used were somewhat healthy because people hadn’t got used to eating crap all the time yet. Now they’re downright toxic, which is why as an Old Hippie I’m still livin’ la vida local. There was a song back in the Eighties by the Bellamy Brothers: “Old Hippie,” which became a kind of theme song for me. “So he grows a little garden in the back yard by the fence / He’s consuming what he’s growing nowadays in self defence…” (David Bellamy, 1985).
So here’s the thing about Bisquick: it was “invented” by a camp cook who realized that he could put together the dry ingredients and the fat for a batch of biscuits, then just add water or milk whenever he wanted to make some. Over the years people kind of forgot they could do it themselves, and do it better — which is really what this is all about.
To get a handle on this, let’s define some terms: Bannock is a baking-powder leavened quick bread. It can be baked, fried, or roasted over an open fire. Trail Bannock is usually made outdoors as part of the camping experience. If you’re from Oz/NZ/South Africa you might know it as Damper, while if you’re from the American South the term Biscuit Pone will resonate for you. Plain old Biscuits are the same as the pone, but smaller (“pone” is a round freeform loaf). Scones are often thought of as “griddle scones” or “girdle scones” and are cooked on a flat metal plate (“girdle” to the Scots). This is where things begin to go off the rails a little.
My mother had a lot of quirky traditions. When I was a kid, every year at the Oregon State Fair, she would beeline for the booth where the Fisher company was selling “State Fair Scones.” Their scones were wedge-shaped, dotted with dried currants, and clearly baked in an oven and made from a mix. In fact, they’d sell you a box of the mix right there. They were like a somewhat sweet biscuit, instead of more like a griddle cake. Hot out of the oven, with a spoonful of raspberry jam in the middle, they were what she wanted first. Right away she’d figured out that she could make them with Bisquick(tm), but that didn’t stop her from going to get one as fast has her legs could carry her every year. What I grew up on as “scones” would probably make any genuine Scot shake his head and say, “Laddie, ye’ve bin sadlie misled.” But I love them anyway.
Finally, my mother absolutely detested “Strawberry Shortcake” served on Angel Food cake. She wanted a REAL shortcake — in other words, a sturdy cake made with a little extra fat or shortening. (Now you know where the “short” comes from in “shortcake.”) The old Marshall Fields store in Chicago, downtown under the “El”, served real shortcake. My parents used to go into Chicago to get some during WWII when Dad could get leave before he went off to the Pacific. I dimly remember being dragged in there for it when I was about four years old. Mostly I remember the sound of the elevated train rattling by, and not being sure why this was so special, and noticing that Mum and Dad were paying attention to each other and not to me. Anyway — make that shortcake with Bisquick, Mum figured, and it would be right. And it was.
The essential lesson here is that you’re not really saving any time by buying a big yellow box of Bisquick. Most of the time I can have breakfast scones ready to go in the oven by the time the oven is hot. Doesn’t matter whether it’s the electric oven that we use in the warm months or the wood cookstove we use in the cold months; takes about the same amount of time to heat up the box. I can vary the ingredients to suit what’s on hand (or like most people, use up what’s in need of using up). You can have quick breads hot out of the oven, or hot off the fire, or hot out if the fryer almost as fast as you can think of making them.
I’ll warn you though — humans are “wired” to love the taste of anything fried. A nice golden bannock, still sizzling with hot fat, will taste so good with a bowl of hot stew. A baked bannock just ain’t the same.