The grace of a grey bannock is in the baking of it… Scottish Proverb
Oatcakes or Bannocks were traditionally eaten on old-world feast days to mark the changing seasons. And roundabout Feb 1st or 2nd, they were known as “Bannoch of Bride” in honor of St. Bride or Brìghde. St Bride of Brightness, as she is known in Scotland, shares many similarities with the Irish goddess Brighid (and St. Brigid) who returns to the earth on the eve of her feast day, also known as Imbolc, to herald the arrival of spring. And to honor the occasion, bonnach (bannocks in Scotland) were baked and left out in the hope she would leave her blessings of fertility, prosperity, and good health in return. (To learn more about Brigid & her Feast Day click here)
According to this wonderful source for all things bannock, oatmeal bread was once a staple of the everyday diet, but during festival and feast days it was often dressed up with seeds, berries, herbs, and honey. Recipes varied according to the region and period, but the earliest bannocks were dense, flat cakes of unleavened oatmeal dough, formed into a round or oval shape, then baked on a girdle (think griddle). The “most luxurious kind,” according to Isobel Grant, author of Highland Folk-Ways were “covered with caudle, a thin batter of eggs, milk and butter and then baked before the fire.”
Generally speaking, making the Bannock of Bride was a ritual that ensured the prosperity and well-being of the household. Prayers like the following were said over the kneading, “Progeny and prosperity of family Mystery of Michael, protection of Trinity”. Then the bannock would be cut into quarters and the prayer continued “Progeny and prosperity to ________ (whoever it’s for – person or family name) Mystery of Michael, shielding of the Lord”.
On the Quarter Days (like Imbolc) the boundaries between worlds are stretched thin so the Bannocks were often sprinkled with water from a holy well to prevent the Good Folk from stealing them. And it was possible to avert any bad omens or bad luck by serving the cake with plenty of butter ‘without the asking.”
On the eve or day of St. Bride’s Feast, Bannock cakes were given out to small girls who went around town with a Bride doll (usually a straw effigy of Brigid) and it was customary for mothers to give out gifts of bannocks and butter. Bannock was also left out as an offering for St Brigid as she visited local households’ farms to bless them.
Today bannocks come in a large variety of types ranging from cake to shortbread, can be thick or thin, include dried fruit and spices, and are usually leavened to have more of a cake-like consistency to suit modern tastes. For this recipe, I chose to make a more authentic version using only oats and oat flour. I added a couple of tablespoons of sugar and minced rosemary for flavor (and because it is a herb sacred to Brigid). This I cut into four quarters to mark the “cross-quarter day” of Imbolc (halfway between the winter solstice and spring equinox) and topped it off with a “caudle” of eggs and cream, and several generous sprinklings of sugar.
To be sure, these simple little oatcakes aren’t fancy or sweet, but they are sweet-ish, hearty and savory. Bannocks can be distinguished from oat cakes because they are baked on a girdle (think griddle) where oatcakes are toasted before the fire after having been partly baked on a girdle. So I’m going to try toasting my Bannocks this year during our annual Imbolc Bonfire! I’ll let you know how it turns out!
Rosemary Oat Bannock
Makes two small Bannock cakes (or eight pieces total)
- 1 cup rolled oats
- 1 cup oat flour
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, chilled
- 1/2 cup cream or milk (plus one extra tablespoon for the caudle)
- 2 tablespoons minced fresh rosemary (1 tablespoon dried)
- 1 tsp. of grated orange zest (optional)
- 3 tablespoons of sugar (and three more tablespoons for sprinkling)
- 1 egg yolk (for the caudle)
- Preheat the oven to 400°F. Grease a cast iron skillet or baking sheet.
- Place the oats, flour, salt, sugar, rosemary and orange zest in a large bowl, mix together with a fork. Cut the cold butter into the flour mixture. Stir in the cream until all the flour is absorbed.
- Gather the rough dough together and place on a surface lightly dusted with oat flour. Knead until the dough holds its consistency (but don’t overwork).
- Divide the dough in half and roll out each half into a circle about 1/4 inch thick.
- In small jar, vigorously mix your egg yolk with a tablespoon of cream. Then brush the mixture over the top of the bannock. Sprinkle with sugar.
- Cut each circle into 4 wedges and arrange the wedges 1/4 inch apart on the baking sheet.
- Bake about 20 minutes or until golden and crisping at the edges.
Note: you can also apply a second brushing of caudle and sugar halfway through baking – I did!
47 thoughts on “Rosemary Oat Bannock For Imbolc”
must try this-thank you!
wow I love your recipe with a healthy dose of historical detail and beautiful pics it makes me miss Scotland as I used to live there
St. Brigid was named after Brigid because her father was a Druid. She is NOT the earth goddess.
This mistake is often made because of the name.
Sorry if I gave that impression, but I do state in several articles and the video that she is a goddess associated with the sun. And her lineage appears to go back beyond the Druids as she was a member of the Tuatha Dé Danann!
She is a goddess…in the Celtic world, a living person can become a divine entity, and that is why so many have “earthly” lore. She was born “between the worlds”…the threshold so from birth was recognized as a gifted one. The Celts had that concept of divinity long before Jesus was “born” and became a god….
This looks lovely. So, am I reading correctly that this recipe will make two rounds for baking? “Divide the dough in half and roll out each half into a circle about 1/4 inch thick.”
hello! yes you can make two rounds for smaller bannocks (cookie size) or 1 large one for, well larger bannocks! It’s really up to you – but obviously the smaller will cook a wee faster…
I made these for my Druid Grove Flame and Well, for our Imbolc Ritual. They came out not as thick due to high elevation in Colorado but they are quite good!!! Today I make a double batch. Last night was my trial batch. Thank you sooooo much for your recipes and words. I love what you do and am happy to support you on Patreon. xxx
Thank-you so much for becoming a Patron!!!! I’m glad you liked them. I’m making another batch myself for Imbolc. xoxo
How many servings would you say this makes?
If you divide the dough into two as recipe directs and then cut each of those into 4 quarters = 8 small bannock (cookie size). Or if don’t divide and make into one large bannock cut into 4 quarters = 4 bigger bannocks (i.e. small piece of pie). Hope that helps!
Baked this early this morning. It was lovely. The smell…..heavenly.
lovely! happy imbolc to you!
Happy Imbolc! What size iron skillet for one bannock? Thank you
Hello! I would say medium size – 8 inches or larger. Of course you could also bake on a cookie sheet! Enjoy!
These are amazingly delicious! Like the woman in Colorado, mine were somewhat flat because of my Montana altitude, but this did not affect the taste. Did I mention they are amazing? Thank you!
I think they are supposed to be flat.. no leavening agents! But they do taste good!
This is a beautiful recipe! I like the orange zest and rosemary best but have used other fresh herbs to celebrate other seasonal changes. I have used lemon zest with lemon thyme/oregano/ or basil. And for today (Mabon) I am back to orange zest and sage. And for Yule, I thought maybe orange zest with gingerbread type spices? This is an amazing recipe.
Thank-you Tim! It is one of my favourite recipes too…I make it all the time! And I love the idea of changing the herbs to suit the seasons and it all sounds delicious! Very inspiring – thank-you!
I just made this recipe with my daughter to celebrate Imbolc as we study it for school. We were out of rosemary so we found sage under the snow in our garden as well as using some of last year’s lavender. I felt so connected to Brigid and the meaning of Imbolc! Thank you for this divine recipe.
What a lovely story! Thank you!
Best served warm or ok to serve after its cooled (or the following morning)?
Any old time is good for bannock! Yes, lovely warm but a great snack too!
What is the best way to store them?
I keep them in an old-fashioned cookie tin!
I pinned this recipe quite some time ago and decided that TODAY was the day I would make a test batch for the upcoming Imbolc gathering with friends. I had everything ready…and then realized I was out of oat flour. Not wanting to lose the opportunity, I decided to substitute Bob’s Red Mill baking mix (gluten free). And because cardamon has been my latest favorite spice, I added that along with the rosemary and orange zest. I’m very pleased with the result! Warm from the oven with a cuppa hot coffee and watching the snow fall (again) is my kind of magickal morning.
Wonderful! Sounds amazing. I love the taste of oat flour though so be sure to give this a try sometime too!
i made this last night with minor alterations: rye flour instead of oat, and my caudle was equal parts heavy cream and bourbon-barrel aged maple syrup whisked together.
absolute perfection! thank you
My mouth is watering! Sounds delish!
I wish you had vegan substitutes listed.
On the agenda….but listing vegan substitutes means remaking the dish (often a few times) to get it right. This is time-consuming and also expensive but I’m trying to add a few more vegan dishes in general. Good news is that I’ve made this dish with coconut oil (same amount as butter) and coconut milk, skipped the egg caudle – and it still turned out delicious!
I made this last night as a vegan and it was great! I used plain unsweetened cashew milk instead of cream and Earth Balance instead of butter. I think any unsweetened milk alternative would work. My dough came out really wet (maybe I should have packed down the oat flour when I measured?) but it came out great! The only thing that did was allow me to skip the caudle all together and sprinkled the sugar directly on top. 🙂
I’d love your recipe if you’re willing to share it! Sound delicious!
Thank you so much for this lovely article and recipe. I made it this morning for a belated Imbolc. Even though i had to substitute casava for oat flour and lemon for orange zest, it came out beautifully! This was so good it will have to be made throughout the year but especially for cross quarter holy days. Thrilled at how easy and delicious it was. Thank you again!!
So interesting! I just bought some cassava flour last week so will try it in the recipe! Thanks for letting me know! Thank you!
I made this today, on Imbolic. It was very much like an oatcake recipe I use. This time I added a bit of toasted ground hazelnuts, caramelized shallot and chopped sultans. I don’t think my house can wait to only make this once a year. Thank you for your page. It is delightful.
Thank you so much! It sounds absolutely scrumptious, my mouth is watering!
Loved this recipe! Thank you ❤❤❤
Wonderful! Glad you enjoyed it. xo
My dough turned out way too wet to roll or handle, so I added more oats. Pressed into cast iron skillet and used the butter wrapper to press it down. I didn’t have rosemary or orange, but used juniper sugar left over from another recipe and lemon zest. No milk in the house during the coronavirus pandemic, so I used full fat coconut milk for the cream. It’s pretty good!
Glad it worked out!
I just made this recipe this morning… it is wonderful! I did 2 rounds of the egg yolk/sugar as you suggested and I think the sweetness was lovely. I think I will make this for my father-in-law for his birthday next week. I made one large one and I think I will try the smaller ones next time as they will probably package better. I imagine you could make this with different herbs/flavoring for different seasons too. This recipe is a keeper! Happy Imbolc!
That two rounds of caudle just makes it so good! Yes you could flavour this recipe so many ways, very versatile!
Hello Danielle! Would it be possible to use all purpose flour rather than oat flour?
I think so but can’t say for sure as I haven’t tried it – but, yes I think it would be fine!