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Bannock (Canadian Skillet Bread)

June 15, 2011

Ahoy, readers!

Since moving to Canada two years ago, I have always been curious to learn more about Canadian cuisine. After being here for two years, I am still not convinced that there is such a thing as Canadian cuisine—and if there is, then I have no clue who eats it. Sure, there are a handful of signature Canadian dishes, many of which I’ve even recreated here on this blog, such as our recent vegan (gnocchi) poutine, vegan tourtière, and my very own vegan spin on Timbits. But I have yet to discover any sort of flavors or seasonings or culinary techniques that define Canadian cooking in the way other ethnic cuisines are identified. And unfortunately, I am not going to put an end to this ignorance today. However, I did recently discover a new Canadian dish which both tastes great and is easy to make, so I thought I’d at least share that with you!

The dish is bannock, a flat quick bread which is cooked by pan-frying a slab of dough in a skillet, somewhat like a pancake. I found out about this bread from watching this week’s episode of Top Chef Canada, where it popped up in chef Dale MacKay’s almost-winning dish representing the British Columbia Interior. Now a common Canadian campsite meal, the origins of bannock in fact trace back to the indigenous Aboriginal peoples of Canada—so that’s right, this bread is legit Canadian. But it makes sense why bannock would be popular in their cultures as well as among campers. In its simplest form, it requires only flour, salt, baking powder and water to make, about fifteen minutes to prepare, and no more than an open flame and a skillet to cook. Just mix together the ingredients to form a dough, throw it on a griddle, fry for ten to fifteen minutes, and you’re set! Sure, it’s not going to win any awards for style or composition, but for an effective and quick bread, it really can’t be beat, especially if you love that salt-and-baking-powder taste in breads and biscuits as much as I do. Plus, the recipe is easily modified to accommodate whatever other ingredients may be available as well.

For my first foray into bannock baking, I decided to follow this basic bannock recipe found on the webpage of the Government of British Columbia’s Ministry of Forests and Range—so that’s right, my bannock was extra legit Canadian. This webpage also includes many other bannock varieties, should you want to experiment. Other bannock recipes can of course be found around the internet as well, but once you get the basic idea of the dish, it’s really yours to mess with, and hard to mess up.

Aside from its history and ease to make, what I like about bannock is that it’s also the perfect summer bread, as there’s no need for an oven, so you can keep your kitchen cool while still enjoying some freshly cooked bread. This also makes it a really good breakfast bread to have in one’s cooking repertoire, especially given its short prep and cooking time.

So I hope you enjoyed learning about bannock! I promise you will also enjoy eating it as well, so give it a try the next time you’re hankering for some bread or biscuit. And please, if you can, help cure me of my ignorance of Canadian cuisine, and let me know if there are any other Canadian dishes that I need to try!

Until we eat again,

Willie

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6 comments

  1. Hey Willie,

    Thanks for posting this. I tried it today for breakfast with some jam and it was quite tasty (and easy to make to boot). Hope things are going well at UToronto.


    • Glad to hear you liked it, and that you read my blog! I really like this bannock recipe, too. Everything is well up here in Toronto (it’s warm here now! finally!). Hope everything is likewise well in Irvine.


  2. […] since I moved to Toronto (for the record, it’s three dishes long: tourtière, poutine, and bannock). The problem is that I just never come across many distinctly Canadian dishes in person (in fact, […]


  3. While most people believe that Bannock has its roots in traditional Native foods it is in fact a traditional Scottish food. The word Bannock is the Galic word for bread, if you cut the Bannock up into pieces they become scones, in Scotland the words Bannock and Scones can be used interchangably. Do a search on traditional Scotish dishes and you will find Bannock mentioned frequently and you will probably find info on Selkirk Bannock old enough and famous enough to have its own name, this was a fancy Bannock served only on holidays. Even the Great Poet Robbie Burns speaks of Bannock.

    That being said todays Bannock is more likely to be a blend its traditional Scotish roots and the the original Native bread that was based on corn flour (In most of North America, Native peoples had no access flour untill the arrivals of Europeans and used flour substitutes such as corn), a tribute to old ideas melding together to reflect our shared history.


    • That’s awesome—thanks so much for this information! Really interesting stuff. Do you know if bannock is still made in Scotland today (even if only while camping)?


  4. Actually, bannock is a traditional Scottish bread… early settlers actually taught it to the Aboriginals… either way, it’s my favourite food, and is great mixed with nuts and dried fruits.



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