Spring is here and it’s time for bannocks! The warm weather, green grass, and blooming flowers are a welcome sight. We have finally made it through another cold, dark winter. Spring and summer are times to celebrate the bounty of the earth, to give thanks for what we have and all that we will receive in the coming months. One of my favorite ways to reconnect with nature is by baking bannocks for Beltane.
Beltane is a Gaelic festival marking the beginning of summer. It is celebrated on May 1st, halfway between the spring equinox and summer solstice. Beltane traditionally marked the time when flocks were driven to their summer grazing lands and would not return until autumn/winter. For our ancestors, this was an extremely important time of year as they relied on their herds for survival throughout the long winter months.
As I bake bannocks now, I think back on their journey and am reminded why celebrating Beltane is so important to help us to remember and connect to the spirit of our ancestors.
Since the old days, Beltane bannocks have been a popular custom in parts of Scotland. It’s said that if you eat one on the morning of Beltane (May Day), you’ll be guaranteed abundance for your crops and livestock.
Traditionally, the bannock is made with animal fat (such as goose fat or bacon grease), and it is placed in a pile of embers, on top of a stone, to cook in the fire. Once balckened on both sides it would be eaten with eggs and milk. For the recipe I’m sharing today. a substitution of butter is used instead of animal fat, but you could certainly use bacon fat if desired.
Eating bannocks on Beltane morning involved a simple folk magic ritual of sorts. The bannock would be separated into nine pieces and each would represent something that would preserve a herdsmen’s livestock or perhaps lead to the destruction of some wild animal: a fox, a wolf, a boar, etc. The person performing the ritual would hold one piece in his hand with their back to the fire whilst asking for the protection of their livestock. They would then toss each of the nine pieces over their shoulder into the fire while reciting a rhyme of protection.
In many ways, the Beltane celebration is about renewing and strengthening our relationship with the earth, where so much of our energy comes from. From our crops to the animals we raise, it is all intimately interconnected with our environment; a fact that we too often forget in recent times. One of the great things about practices like the bannock custom is that they help us to remember this interconnectedness and reinforces what we already know – that everyone and everything relies on others for some aspect of their livelihood.
Whether you celebrate Beltane or not, these bannocks are sure to be delicious. I felt that this was the perfect place to share the recipe for a tradition with such deep roots in our past. Enjoy the bannocks, and may they bring you abundance and prosperity in the coming year!
Bannocks Recipe - A Magical Beltane Breakfast Treat
- 1½ cups oat flour place rolled oats in a food processor. Process until it becomes flour consistency
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- 6 Tbsp butter melted
- ⅓ cup water
- Preheat oven to 350°F.
- Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- In a large bowl, combine the oat flour, flour, baking powder, and salt.
- Make a well in the dry ingredients, then pour in melted butter and water. Mix until it forms a ball of dough. If dough appears dry and crumbly, add a bit of water 1 tsp. at a time until you have a ball of dough that doesn’t fall apart.
- Cover the bowl and let the dough rest for 10 minutes.
- Turn the dough onto a floured surface and roll out to desired thickness, between ⅛ to ¼-inches.
- For round bannocks: using a 3-inch round cookie cutter or a glass to cut out circles.
- For rectangular bannocks: Roll out the dough to an 8- x 10-inch rectangle (cut into 16 pieces), or an 8- x 9-inch rectangle (cut into 12 pieces).
- Place the cut dough pieces on the prepared baking sheet. Bake for 20-23 minutes.
- Remove to wire rack to cool. Enjoy with butter, jam, or both!