Bannock recipes are like fingerprints: Everybody's got their own and no two are alike. If you travel in bannock-making circles, you've probably noticed that everyone who makes bannock claims that they have the best bannock recipe - but that they can't make it as good as their mother or grandmother does/did.
Last week, I promised to share my recipe for bannock-on-a-stick. I'm not sharing this recipe to compete with all those best bannock recipes out there; I'm sharing it because I think the act of making bannock is worth sharing, whether it's baked or deep-fried or cooked in a cast-iron pan, open to the fire. I have many fond memories of sitting around the campfire with family and friends and even complete strangers, engaged in the most social form of bannock-making: bannock-on-a-stick.
The recipe is simple enough. I got it from my Mum. The execution, however, can be challenging, especially if you're not used to cooking over a fire. For this reason, I've included some tips, gleaned from a lifetime of bannock-on-a-stick-making memories (both triumphs and tragedies) that will help you make that perfect, deliciously golden tube of bannock...
-Makes about ten servings. Halve the recipe for smaller groups:
- 3 cups flour
- dash salt
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 2 tbsp lard or Crisco (canola or corn oil can be used as a substitute)
-Before leaving on your trip, mix dry ingredients and the lard (or oil) in a large Ziplock-style bag (double bagged) or sealable container. Do not add water.
Making the Stick
- Select a piece of straight, dry, wood, about the thickness of your thumb or slightly thicker. Your stick should be about an arm's length long.
- Using a sharp knife, shave off 8-10" of bark at one end of the stick. The stick does not need to be pointed.
Tip: Don't use green wood. It will give your bannock a bitter taste.
Mixing the Bannock Mix with Water
- Gradually add water to the dry ingredients. Mix with your hands or a stick or whatever you've got that's clean and handy. Your dough should be slightly sticky, so it will adhere to itself and the stick. Be careful, though. If you add too much water, your dough will droop off the stick when you cook it.
Putting the Dough on the Stick
Tip: If this is your fist time making bannock-on-a-stick, I recommend that you bring the bannock mix in re-sealable bags, but also bring a container for mixing water into the dry ingredients. Reserve some of the bannock mix in case you accidentally add too much water. As you become more comfortable with the amount of water to be added, you can keep your hands clean during the mixing by mixing the dough directly in the bag (if you intend to use the whole amount of bannock mix).
- Take some dough, about the size of 1-2 golfballs, and wrap/twist around it the stick. Twisting it around the stick helps to keep the dough from splitting along the seam (and falling off) as it cooks.
- If you want your bannock to cook quickly, apply the dough thinly. If you have a little more patience and want your bannock more bread-like, use more dough and wrap it a little thicker.
Tip: You can "wash" the dough off your hands by vigorously rubbing them together. The dough will dry up and fall off. It's best to do this over the fire so the little dough bits don't attract animals.
Cooking the Bannock over the Fire
- Build a small campfire. Please use appropriate safety measures. You don't need big pieces of wood; wrist-sized pieces of wood will give you better coals faster than big logs will.
- Be patient. Cooking your bannock over flames will blacken the outside of your bannock and will leave the inside doughy. Instead, wait until a good bed of coals has been made and cook your bannock over the coals, rotating your stick as needed.
Tip: If you want an efficient and contained fire that won't leave a fire scar, I highly recommend the Liard Firebox.
Removing the Bannock from the Stick
-If your bannock is golden brown and you think it had cooked right through, it's time to remove it from the stick. Be careful, because it will be hot! (I know that's kind of obvious, but you'd be surprised how many people forget that...)
- If your bannock slides easily off the stick, it's cooked through. If it wants to cling to the stick, the inside is still doughy and it needs to cook longer.
Tip: Slice along the length of your cooked bannock with a knife and tuck some of your favourite jam into the hole for an extra-tasty treat.
One Final Thing
- Ensure your fire is completely extinguished before leaving the site.
- Remove all food and garbage, even if it's not yours.