Today is another food story. I figured you’d want something yummy to go with Andrea Beaton’s coffee, so why not one of her talented mom Betty’s oatcakes?
One of the first things I learned to make when I came here was oatcakes. Bob loves them. We bought many different ones at the Co-op and I always picked up a bag whenever I found them. I relentlessly compared them, looking for that Cape Breton “je ne sais quoi” but no store-bought were ever as good as the homemade version. Luckily I had already made some friends here and Betty gave me her recipe for oatcakes. Bob no longer has to make do with grocery-store oatcakes. Hooray!
What are oatcakes, anyway? Well, they’re not a cake, they’re a cookie but they are made with half oats, half flour, and they can definitely sustain life. They are something like oatmeal shortbread, with no eggs and very little leavening. The hobbits could easily have survived a trek on this way-bread. Like shortbread is in Scotland, oatcakes in Cape Breton are a staple of life. Some folks use brown sugar, some don’t. I also sneak in a few non-traditional ingredients like a teaspoon of cinnamon or some minced pecans. This recipe is delicious in it’s basic form and with additions.
Betty rolls hers out and cuts them into rounds. I confess that unlike Betty, my hand with a rolling pin is pretty dang heavy and they came out tough as nails. I wanted that buttery crispness that dissolves in your mouth and not a tough cookie!
The secret for me was DON’T ROLL IT OUT FLAT. Instead, when the dough comes together, I form it into a long roll inside of plastic wrap and stick it in the fridge – sometimes overnight. It can also be frozen at this stage. Cut the log in half, make half a batch and freeze the rest for later when you need them in a hurry. Before COVID, when Bob and I would be separated for up to a month sometimes, I’d send him back to the island with a log of oatcake dough.
When I take them out of the fridge, I just slice rounds (or whatever shape they decide to be in), put them on a cookie sheet and bake them. The recipe below is Betty’s, with my variations noted. I include a gluten-free option as well. I’ve tested it and it’s downright delicious and doesn’t taste ‘healthy’ at all!