December 31, 2008

Recipe: Bannock-on-a-stick

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)
- water
-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.
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).
Putting the Dough on the Stick
- 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.


Matt, Kara, Hunter and Cavan said...

Well now all I will want for the next week is bannock!

The bannock in Kugluktuk was like heaven... a lard filled heaven, but that was fine! I have never tasted such amazing bannock before and I miss it terribly. Every Friday at the nursing station they would cook up bannock and non nurses like rcmp and me would sneak over to eat it. Especially on the days the janitor made it. She would wrap hot dogs in bannock! yummmmmmmmm!!

And I love the fire box!!!

Anonymous said...

I am happy you posted this. I was going to ask in a comment last week if you could post the recipe. Very good to know! Thanks!

Jennybell said...

I have never heard of this.
Sounds like a biscuit on a stick. It it like a biscuit or more like a soft pretzel?
If it's like a biscuit could you use canned dough In a pinch?
I haven't been around a campfire in years! We're townies! Plus I hate hate hate camping! Cabin, yes. Tent, Oh H*LL no! I love indoor plumbing!

Meandering Michael said...

Jennybell, it's not like a biscuit and not like a pretzel. I don't really know how to describe it other than to say that it's bannock.

If you're ever in a cabin with a woodstove, you can make it that way.

I'm really curious...what the heck is canned dough?

Heather, aka: Mum said...

So I'm not the only one that hasn't heard of canned dough! Yaaaa!

Growing up we always made bannock on a stick (in Algonquin Park) but as I recall, the dough was runny...we would dip our sticks into the batter, roast it over the open fire & just as it turned golden, we'd dip it again,,,thus a layered bannock! Oh...& we use to dip the stick in water first so that it (the stick) wouldn't burn so easily!! OMG it was to die for!!!What a great child hood memory...thanks for sparking it :)

Jennybell said...

Canned dough, I meant like canned biscuit dough, or in a tube like Pillsbury ( where you break the seal with a spoon or drop it in the grocery aisle like I did once and they explode everywhere.(? Have Pillsbury In Canada?) if they don't have Bannock dough ready made in some sort of form you should invent it!
I've never been in a cabin with a woodstove, the cabins I'm talking about have jacuzzi's and satelite TV.:)

Meandering Michael said...

Ah! We have those Pillsbury thingees.

I don't think I'll invest in bannock-in-a-tube. Being able to mix it on-site is part of the appeal. It's great being able to pack the ingredients dry and then just add water when you get to the lake/creek/river, etc.

Cabins with jacuzzis and satellite TVs? Are you sure they can really be called a cabin by that point?

Anonymous said...

I am a teacher in a Northern Ontario community (fly-in). I am enjoying many new experiences during my first winter here. My students and I will be having a cook-out tomorrow. I was surprised that they had never cooked bannock on a stick before. I used to do it regularly on canoe trips. I really appreciate not only your recipe, but the many helpful tips! We went out with snow shoes today to "blaze a trail". The snow is quite deep. We also prepared a spot for a fire and dug down to where the last cook out fire was. We never did get the fire going that day. I am thinking the dried out xmas trees we dragged out there will help get this one going.

BTW - stay away from the "canned dough". Full of all kinds of chemicals and such. Why anyone would want such a thing when bannock is so easy to make is beyond me. To each his/her own I guess.

Meandering Michael said...

Hi Holly!

I'm not sure how big a pit you dug for the fire, but it's not uncommon for a winter fire in a snow pit to be starved for oxygen. A pile of dried-out X-mas trees will make for an impressively large fire... :)

Do you mind if I ask which community you teach in (or the next closest "fly-out" community)?

Anonymous said...

Our "pit" is not really that deep - we just dug a bit of the snow out of the way to prevent steam from putting out the fire. Last time we generated lots of smoke - but not too many actual flames were available for the kids to cook on. I don't know if the material we were trying to burn was wet, or if the -40 temp was a factor. Either way, I think we will have more luck with dry material.
I am teaching in beautiful Fort Albany which is roughly half way up the west coast of James Bay. The closest fly out place is Moosonee or Timmins. It is an incredible priveledge to be here. I have learned much, but I still have a long way to go. I was never much of a winer fan in the South - I have been converted now. Winter in the bush is so incredibly beautiful - as long as you are dressed to stay warm!

Meandering Michael said...

Neat! Without having been there, I can't comment on what might have prevented the fire from taking, whether it was the dryness of the wood or the type of wood or what.

I find that lighting a bundle of dry spruce twigs (the little dry ones that you can find around the base of pretty much any spruce tree) works well. Hmmm... maybe I'll post a blog entry on lighting a winter fire...

Anonymous said...

I think that would be a great idea! It is an interesting learning opportunity for me as I don't know the trees here as well as I do in the South. Fortunately, my students are good experts in this area. I had never seen the "Grandfather's Beard" moss before, but it is always a good fire starter...if you can reach it. I am short and it is often up too high for me to get at. With no birch trees to rely on it would be great to have some other options for getting a blaze going.

Anonymous said...

For the second year in a row, I have prepared this bannock for our Scouting year end "Family Camp". This is where all the Beavers, Cubs, Scouts, Venturers etc. and their families get together for a big camp out....usually over 100 people. Both years it has been a big hit. I typically find 10 to 12 sticks in the size you recommend or longer and wrap the end of the stick with about a foot of tin foil. This allows for a better cooked dough - as well, the sticks can be used a dozen times easily. I have always provided butter, cinnamon and sugar, strawberry jam, homemade nanking cherry jelly, Johnny's seasoning (basically an awesome garlic powder mix available at Costco) and, believe it or not, pancake syrup and canned cake icing. Depending on the time of day and how cold it is, depends on the flavor you want to have. Thanks for posting the recipe, it sure is easy to follow. Or maybe it's easy to follow because I've done it so many times! I usually make up 5 or 6 double batches and make out a bunch of pancakes for people to come and take and wrap around the stick. I'm always asked for the recipe when I prepare so I keep a few dozen printed and ready to hand out.

Meandering Michael said...

Thanks, Anonymous! I love the flavour suggestions.

Anonymous said...

Your recipe is amazing im in scouts and ill bring tons of this stuff to camp, i find its best if you either dip the cooked bannock pieces in cinnamon and sugar or our favorite NUTELA

Melissa said...

Thank you so much for this recipe. We're having a fire in the back yard and I thought I would teach the kids how to cook bannock over the fire. Great recipe :)