Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Broonie (Orkney Gingerbread)

Orkney consists of about 70 islands and skerries, and is located to the north-east of the top of Scotland. In common with its Scottish neighbours and the northern counties of England, oats and barley (in Orkney a variety known as bere is grown, locally called corn) are the cereal staples used for breads and bannocks, and, less/more essentially, ale and whisky. Oatmeal is a primary ingredient in Broonie, a pale gingerbread made with black treacle, butter, brown sugar, wheat flour, egg, ground ginger (never!) and buttermilk.

Gingerbreads, although found throughout Britain, do seem to be particularly popular amongst those living at the top of the country and often include locally grown oats in the form of oatmeal. Parkin, traditionally eaten in the north of England on November the 5th, is another form of gingerbread that includes oatmeal, as does the Scottish Perkin. With Bonfire Night not too far off (fast followed by the big December event that I need not name) I feel a follow-up gingerbread baking session coming on already.

F. Marian McNeill's 'The Scots Kitchen' carries a recipe for Broonie - just one of 67 recipes that the book contains that make use of oats or oatmeal. Under her recipe is the note 'Correctly, Brüni, a thick bannock (Orkney and Sheltand)'; Brüni is a Norse word for a thick bannock. As I have touched on previously, bannocks are a very old form of bread and also the forefathers of the scone. Bannocks were historically cooked on the girdle, but more recent recipes are oven-baked. F Marian McNeill's recipe for Broonie and that of Julie Duff in 'Cakes - Regional & Traditional' are oven-baked. Both recipes contain identical ingredients (although Julie Duff uses self-raising rather than plain flour with the addition of baking soda), but McNeill uses less butter and ginger, and she uses equal quantities of flour and oatmeal (175g each), whereas Duff uses 225g of self-raising flour and 115g of oatmeal. McNeill unfortunately has omitted the amount of sugar required for her recipe, so I am unable to bake two Broonies for comparative purposes/filling a large Broonie-sized hole in my tummy. This is probably for the best...

Broonie (from Julie Duffs 'Cakes - Regional & Traditional)

225g self-raising flour
2 level teaspoons ground ginger
115g medium or pinhead oatmeal
115g butter (cubed, at room temperature)
115g pale brown sugar
2 tablespoons black treacle
1 egg
150ml buttermilk

1. Preheat oven to 160c/325F/Gas 3. Prepare a 900g/2 lb loaf tin (grease and line - you know the routine).
2. Sift the flour and ginger into a bowl and stir in the oatmeal. Add the cubed butter and rub in using your fingertips until you have the texture of fine breadcrumbs. Add the sugar and stir well.
3. In a small saucepan gently melt the treacle over a low heat and set aside to cool slightly (daringly, I warmed mine in the microwave). Beat the egg into the treacle and then add to the dry ingredients together with the buttermilk. Mix all the ingredients together thoroughly.
4. Pour into your prepared tin and bake for approximately one hour (until well risen and a skewer comes out clean).
5. Leave to cool in the tin.

Broonie is one of those cakes for which the instruction is given - 'this improves after a few days wrapped in foil and stored in an air-tight tin' - all very well, but a real test of self-restraint when faced with a freshly baked cake of fragrant and warm charm. Naturally, I cut a few slices to try fresh, and then wrapped the rest of the loaf to try again in a day or so. The Broonie was surprisingly light in the mouth, but was a little dry in texture - something that the day or so of resting helped a little -so a generous topping of butter was a good addition to each slice, but for less indulgency serve with a cup of tea.

Ellis, my young Junior taster (yep, he is now on solids, can't believe we are here already) tried a cube of Broonie, but decided it was not for him. This followed on from the failure of oatmeal porridge, so perhaps I should take note of his lack of enthusiasm for oats. Sweet potato on the otherhand... If anyone has a sweet potato cake recipe?


sheila said...

(in response your question about using sweet potatoes)

I'm guessing you were more tongue in cheek, but I grate sweet potatoes into a muffin recipe, and add ground cardamon, and everyone who eats them marvels at what great muffins they are, but no one has yet guessed that they contain sweet potatoes.

Joanna said...

I love this recipe ... do you think it would work as well if I substituted oil for the butter (no butter allowed in a post-heart-attack diet)?

And, Sheila, the muffins sound GREAT ... can we have the recipe, please?

Amazing that your baby is on solids - keep on trying with the porridge - I know a baby not much older than yours that only eats porridge ... it's such good food for a lifetime's health


Aimée said...

This looks great!I love gingerbread..now if only my little one were less picky!

AnnaW said...

Shelia, thanks for the recipe tip. I imagine that sweet potato muffins would be not dissimilar to carrot cake, i.e. very nice. I like the idea of adding a pinch of ground cardamon. Would you top the muffins with a cream cheese icing like that used for carrot cake? I suppose it will be a while before the wee one can eat a whole muffin, but there is no harm in getting some practice in. Plus - cakes with a vegetable content - surely there must be some (small) health benefit?

Hello Joanna, I'm afraid that oil wouldn't work in this recipe, but by happy chance I did find on the internet a low-fat recipe for Broonie that uses water to help bring the mixture together. The addition of apple puree sounds delicious.

Aimée, I have just visited your site. I think that your little boy is very lucky to have such a creative chef for a mum!

Gigibird said...

I am going to make this tomorrow!
I have the book this recipe comes from ( I think) but I also have Elizabeth Craig's Favourite Scottish recipes so I shall look through to see if she has a recipe for it also....

sheila said...

Hi again,

You can find the cardamon/sweet potato muffin recipe here:


Feel free to adjust the sugar/sweet potatoes/whole wheat flour as you like. I prefer the WW flour because it gives the muffin a hearty deep taste. And by all means, add more sweet potatoes if you like. I was being rather conservative.


AnnaW said...

Thanks Shelia! I'll give them a go.

Best wishes

Malcolm Cinnamond said...

Strange, isn't it, that there are several books with broonie recipes, but since I moved to Orkney earlier this year, I have yet to see any on sale in shops or cafes.

Just as you can't find a Shrewsbury biscuit/cake in Shrewsbury (where I used to live).

I have a feeling someone's making all this up just to confuse me.

Carolyn said...

This looks interesting - being a southerner - something I have never seen before

Anonymous said...

I've made this recipe for my family, and they love it. Apologies for not converting the measurements to the British equivalents. I've enjoyed reading your blog this evening, btw. :)

Sweet Potato and Zucchini Bread

2 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup applesauce
1/4 cup vegetable oil
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups finely grated zucchini
1 1/2 cups sweet potato (bake 2 sweet potatoes on sheet pan and scoop out insides)
1 cup chopped walnuts, toasted

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Butter and flour 9x5x3-inch loaf pan. Sift first 5 ingredients into medium bowl. Beat sugar, applesauce, oil, eggs and vanilla to blend in large bowl. Mix in zucchini and sweet potato. Add dry ingredients and walnuts and stir well. Pour batter to prepared pan. Bake until tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 1 hour 20 minutes. Cool bread in pan on rack 15 minutes. Cut around bread to loosen. Turn out onto rack and cool completely.


Anonymous said...

Oops, almost forgot. When my daughter was a baby, she didn't care for oatmeal either. I found that by stirring in applesauce, she would eat it.


Anonymous said...

Dear Anna,
My name is Isabella and I am a mother of two (8 years, and the youngest 11 months). I am Italian, but I lived for two years in the U.K and I loved the british cusine. I love cook, cookies and cakes and to look for book of british cakes recipes. So when I saw your blog I have been delighted. May I link you on my blog ?

Plume said...

I have a recipe for sweet potato biscuits and cake on my blog but it's in french

I can translate in english, thought, if you want.
Leave a comment on my blog if you want me to translate it!

AnnaW said...

Thanks for the recipe Mares, and the tip about the oatmeal! I'll give it a go. Now the weather is cooler it is nice to start the day with a bowl of porridge, so I am keen to encourage Ellis to join me.

Hello Isabella. Glad that you have enjoyed the blog. I would be delighted if you linked to me from your blog.

Bonjour Plume. Merci pour la recette! I like to practice my French so I shall work from your original.

David Hall said...

Fantastic! I love ginger bread. It is great to see classic British variation isn't it? I need to do this right now but I can't, so it will have to wait for the weekend. Brilliant!


Malcolm Cinnamond said...

Made the Broonie last night and it's terrific. Won't last much beyond tomorrow.


Anonymous said...

Nice blog, very informative contents you have... I also have similar like this, would you mind if I ask you for a link exchange? Regards...

Catherine said...

I really love your blog-- I hope you start posting again soon!

David Hall said...

Hi Anna

Check over at BookTheCook - would appreciate your comments on our humble stotty cake, have you tried one out yet?


Anonymous said...

Just found your blog recently and I'm so glad I did. I've enjoyed rummaging around in your archives immensely.

Ann at Redacted Recipes

Anonymous said...

can hardly wait to try this.

Pacific Northwest U.S.-ian question though? This isn't "self-raising" flour territory -- any idea how to make "home-made" self-raising flour??? thanks!

AnnaW said...

Chimene, according to the Leith's Baking Bible, you can convert plain/all-purpose flour to self-raising by the addition of 4 level teaspoons of baking powder per 225g/8 oz. of plain/all-purpose flour. An english teaspoon holds 5 ml of liquid - I imagine yours are of similar proportion??

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