Friday, 22 March 2013

A tale of an Oatcake

I am at the moment researching regional and heritage bakes from around the UK but also into mainland Europe. These will form part of my cookery & baking courses both independently as well as with the cookery schools I have the pleasure of working with and now this has been extended to my Foodie partnership with Kay from "The Quirky Cook".

So moving on, as I digress, over the past months I have made some really good Twitter Chums and I know some of them are really into heritage and traditional foods... and Ale so I asked the friendly fellows in the Blackbird Bread nest down in sunny Twickenham if they would be interested in posting a guest blog for me. I was so happy when they agreed.

Mr and Mrs Blackbird runs a successful Micro-bakery in Twickenham, serving the local community with Real Bread, Cakes and Pastries. Mr Blackbird tends to do most of the breads & pastries where Mrs Blackbird has a flavour for cake and blog writing ( and strangly Dr.Who).  They have just started "Pop-up Croissant Sunday" where discerning real bread lovers order and pick up fresh warm croissants. Please pop over to their blog for details of their Micro-bakery . Please also follow them on Twitter @blackbirdbread.

Well at last here is the post.... (shh, but I do need to whisper that it is just a rumour, that oatcakes are a Derbyshire delicacy) but that’s another blog,,,,, ;)


Blog post from Blackbird Bread – Staffordshire oatcakes

Growing up in Staffordshire, I’d always been fed a regular supply of oatcakes. For anyone not from the midlands you probably think I mean the dry biscuits beloved of those recovering from tummy bugs; and the newly pregnant looking for a quick energy fix that wasn’t going to make them throw up! Not those ones. The Staffordshire oatcake is a wonderful thing, beloved by Stokies as much as the glorious bottle kilns that rise above the Potteries skyline. Stoke City FC even called their football programme after it.

Essentially a Staffordshire oatcake is a yeasted pancake with a surface like a pikelet or crumpet. In our house these were always bought in packets from the local market or bakers. We’d have them with our cooked Sunday breakfast. The flat, flexible pancakes are great for wrapping around bacon and eggs. Sometimes we’d have them toasted for tea with cheese and then rolled up with the melted cheese oozing through the tiny holes. My daughters are big fans of this!

The origins of this version of the oatcake are disputed. Some claim they derided from troops returning from colonial India having eaten flatbreads like chapatti and roti. Much as I like the idea of soldiers returning from the East demanding a little of the Punjab in Burslem, it’s more likely that the oatcakes’ origins go much further back, probably to those pesky Romans. There are certainly some regional variations in the counties bordering on Staffordshire.

Having abandoned Staffordshire for ‘down South’ sourcing oatcakes is a much trickier proposition. Whenever I visit, my mum has usually bought a packet that I can take home and pop in the freezer.

I was intrigued to see in Mr B’s copy of Daniel Stevens’ excellent River Cottage Bread book a recipe for Staffordshire oatcakes which made me think, if I can do these at home I can have them whenever I like.

It’s a very straightforward recipe, but with all pancakes the effort is in the standing over the stove cooking them. I couldn’t see Daniel Stevens’ recipe online but there is a version from the Hairy Bikers This uses less wholemeal flour than Daniel’s version and also includes a little white flour. Having made the River Cottage Bread book version this seems like a sound idea as, much as we wolfed down the oatcakes, they were very filling and this may lighten them a little.
.................To be honest, I couldn’t say that the homemade version were better than the ones I’ve always bought, however, it was interesting seeing what went into them and I’d encourage anyone keen on heritage recipes (especially Stokies!) to give them a go.

There are a few photos of the process involved.

A copy of Mr B's Book

Starting the process, all the dry ingredients in the bowl

Mixing it together

Just starting to get a little lively

If you look closely you will see the yeast bubbles making the lacey holes... not long till the eating stage, be patient.
Just pile them up....

Now is the time to pile them with cheese, slam under ther grill and scoff'em.
a big, big thankyou to Mr & Mrs Blackbird Bread for this, I'm hoping to get the fabulous Bread Angel @fabuloaf to write one for me........

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