Monday, January 17, 2011

What is bannock?

Recently I was asked by a friend "What is bannock?"  I guess I sort of assumed that everyone knew what it was.  I was wrong.   Now that I have read the (written) history of bannock, I see now, it's a Canadian thing.

The first time I tried a piece of bannock, I was 13.  It was served with moose meat soup, which is what bannock is usually served with - soup, of some sort.  It was pretty spectacular.  Soft on the inside, but crispy and golden on the outside.  The type I tried was baked in the oven.  The other kind is pretty much the same dough, just fried in oil.  I`ve heard of it being called fry bread, fried bannock, and new to me is grease bannock.  I suppose because it`s cooked in oil. (aka grease?)

So, some history and background on this deliciousness.

Bannock is the unleavened bread that is strongly associated with both Native and Metis cultures. The Fur Trade travelled on it, and it is a common feature at Metis, Native, and Northern Manitoba festivals today, and it is eaten in tens of thousands of homes.

The “Michif Dictionary" gives two alternative phrases for the English word “Bread”: “Li Paen” derived from French “le pain”: and “Puhkwayshikun” from the Assiniboine Indians. The word “Bannock” however is neither Matis nor Native. It’s the Gaelic word for Bread.

When the Scottish Fur Traders intermarried with Native and Metis women, they brought with them their cooking habits and terms. Today’s Bannock is probably neither the original Native bread, that was based on corn flour, or is it the same as the Scottish Bannock or Tea Biscuit.

It is an adaptation of old ideas to a new land for the Pioneers giving a distinctive regional food reflective of our mutual History.

So there you have it.  The history of bannock.  I know there is more to it, but my manic brain isn't able to focus on google for very long. If you want to add something - leave a comment.

You'll hear people give different definitions for bannock.  Some say "real" bannock is just flour, water, and baking powder, some add eggs, oil, sugar etc.

My version is as follows:

(I measured some of the ingredients with this blog in mind, usually I just dump it all in)

4 cups of flour
4 tbsp baking powder ( approx, I just dump in it, like I said)
*about* 1/4 cup of oil
some sugar (I'd guess about 1/8 - 1/4 of a cup)
some salt ( 1 tbsp) if I had to guess.
2 cups of cool water ( I measured this)
1 egg ( i think, i cant even remember if i threw one in, you can , or you don't have to, your call)

Like most recipes, you blend up the dry ingredients, and make a well in the centre, and add the wet ingredients.

Mix it all up so it's a ball of dough, and turn it out on to the counter, make sure you spread some flour around first.  Shape it in to a flat ... oval?  I suppose it could be called an oval.  I dont think the shape matters, just flatten it out so it's about two inches thick. A little excess flour on the outside of the bannock is a good thing.

Put it on a cookie sheet that has been lightly dusted with flour and bake it at 350 for about 20 - 30 min.  When you take it out, you can brush it with some butter, or leave it, it's up to you.

(Please ignore the indent on the left side...I had a helper and she decided she would try to rip it apart while I was shaping the ball of dough, I was in a hurry.)

Now, let it cool a bit, cut a piece off, slice it in half, and put your favourite topping on it.  I like margarine & jam, or honey.  My kids like peanut butter &'s whatever.  Your choice.

So, that was the baked kind, the other way to do it is to roll out the dough (same recipe) and slice it in to square like pieces, and slice a slit or two through the centre (to allow the oil to get to the top) and fry it in hot oil.  A lot of people cook it in a frying pan on the stove, but I don't like to risk a grease fire...and I also have a deep fryer, so I do it in my deep fryer.  Fry it up until it's golden brown, when you take it out of the oil, it's good to put it in a bowl lined with a paper towel or something to absorb the excess grease.

From here, there are so many possibilities.  You can dip in powdered sugar, or mix up some white(or brown) sugar and cinnamon and roll it in that.  You can sprinkle salt on it (I would eat this every day if it wasn`t horrible for me) or you can just slice it open and d like you would with the baked variety.  Another way to eat it is to form them into large circular shapes and fry them.  After that, you top them with taco toppings and that my friend is one delicious taco.

So there ya go.  That should answer your question.  ``Whats is bannock?``  Go and make some...and while you're at it, make some soup.  It's good for your soul. 


  1. Thanks! I learned something new today! I think I will have to try and make some...with soup, of course! :)

  2. Good stuff, it is delicious, and so easy (and cheap!) to make. :)

  3. That looks so yummy! I totally forgot I had an account.