Baking for Bookworms: Oatcakes from Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander

IMG_9565

When Claire first arrives in the 1740s (from the 1940s), it naturally takes her a while to adjust and figure out exactly where she is. When she is brought to the laird of clan MacKenzie, she is brought refreshment and questioned about her presence, but not before she does some snooping and finds out that it’s 1743:

“He had brought with him the tray of refreshments; mugs of ale and fresh oatcakes spread with honey. I nibbled sparingly at these; my stomach was churning too vigorously to allow for any appetite.”           98

Though this is one of the first mentions of oatcakes in the book, it certainly is not the last, and it’s no wonder given that oats were the most common grain available in Scotland at the time. Gabaldon uses kippers and oatcakes in the book to give the setting a distinctly Scottish flair–the setting is inextricably twined with the magic of the story.

I was surprised to find that Scottish oatcakes were more closely related to a cracker than a cake or a bread. I had thought they were sweeter, thicker, and quite different, but as they are, I find them to be very pleasing and quite simple to make. After reading and comparing many recipes, I created this one. You can make a more savory cake by omitting the sugar and you can also add spices.

IMG_9567

Scottish Oatcakes

  • 2 cups steel cut oats (also called pinhead oats)
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon brown sugar (optional)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons butter (or shortening)
  • 1/3-1/2 cup hot water (depending on texture)

Preheat oven to 375F.

In a food processor (or you can do this in a bowl with a pastry cutter), put all dry ingredients and pulse until oats are the desired size– a mix of large and small pieces is okay.

Drizzle in the melted butter and the hot water until just combined.

Traditionally, the cakes are rolled with a rolling pin into a circle and then cut into triangles. I pressed my dough into a circle and cut it afterwards. You can also roll the dough into balls and press them flat, or cut the dough into any shape that pleases you.

Spread the oatcakes with honey, as in the book, or with anything that strikes your fancy like jam, cream cheese, or peanut butter. You can also use them to dip into stews or soups.

These oatcakes really surprised me–has there ever been a time where you heard or read about a certain food only to find it was quite different than what you had pictured? Let me know in the comments.

Women Writers Reading Challenge #35: Outlander by Diana Gabaldon

IMG_2873
This book is a little worse for the wear–my mom’s puppy decided to chew on it, it got wet and bent out of shape on the trip…but for all that it’s still worth reading.

My mom has wanted to read this series for ages, so when Hanukkah rolled around, we knew exactly what to get her. She’s since read the next one in the series and purchased (and watched) the first season of the Starz series. She loaned me this book, quite certain I’d be hooked, and, as usual, she was right.

I haven’t seen the show yet (as I wanted to read the first book first), but I am now very eager to do so. The series is nominally a fantasy as it involves time travel and a bit of magic at one of Scotland’s stone circles, but I think it is better described as historical romance, as most of the book takes place in the mid 1700s and is mostly concerned with romance. What makes this series so intriguing is the surprisingly good writing, captivating plot and historical details, and the strong character of the protagonists. I probably won’t be reading the rest of the series until the end of the challenge next year, but I hope Gabaldon’s series picks up on the interesting mystical elements and expands on them. I really enjoy how she plays into historical events, and I’m intrigued to see where those threads lead as well. In short, I want to read more and I’d definitely recommend this series for anyone who loves a Scottish accent, loves a good romance, and enjoys men in kilts (yes, yes, and yes).