Scottish oakcakes and butter. Image: Su Leslie 2021
There are as many recipes for oatcakes as there are bakers it seems. The type and proportions of oats varies between them. Some specify wheat flour as well as oats. Some include a raising agent; others not. Some contain sugar (ugh). The proportions of dry and wet ingredients varies; as does the ratios of different kinds of oats. Most include butter or lard.
I’ve experimented with a variety of these recipes, and this is what works best for me.
100g rolled oats / quick oats (see here for quick guide to different ways of processing oats)
100g pinhead (or steel cut) oats
25g plain flour
Just boiled water – around 4-8 tablespoons, as needed
Preheat oven to 160°C
Mix oats, flour and salt in a large bowl. Add melted butter and stir to combine. Slowly add water, a tablespoonful at a time, until the mixture holds together but isn’t too sticky.
Turn the mixture onto a floured board or baking parchment and knead briefly to bring it all together. Roll out (use another sheet of baking paper on top) to a thickness of about 5mm.
Cut to preferred shape and size and place on parchment on a baking tray. Cook in the middle of the oven for around 20 minutes, or until crisp. Turn half way to ensure even baking.
It would seem that oat processing produces a variety of slightly different products with different names depending on where you are. The products you use, and their relative composition, will affect the texture of the dough and that is why you need to add water gradually, in small quantities. The aim is a firm but not to too sticky dough that will hold together while being rolled, cut and placed on the baking tray.
Traditional oatcake recipes I’ve found do not contain wheat flour. I’ve found that adding this small amount helps the dough to hold together better. This is likely due to the kind of oats I’ve used. I suspect that “quick” oats in place of wholegrain rolled oats would remove/diminish the need for flour.
I have made flour-less cakes, and they tasted just as good. The dough was a bit crumblier and the taste a little grittier, but they were still enjoyable. I also cut them slightly thicker (6-7mm) because of the crumbly texture.
My recipe uses slightly more butter than others I’ve found, but as with the flour, I find that this quantity of butter gives a nicer texture and a bit more crunch.
I use a 7mm diameter cookie cutter, and that produces about 12 oatcakes from the quantities above. It has occurred to me that instead of cutting rounds then having to rework the scraps, I could cut the whole, rolled piece of dough into “squares” and ease each piece apart a little. I’ll let you know how that works.
Obviously, cooking time will depend on the thickness (and moisture content) of the dough. I aim for “low and slow” to give a crisper result, but you may find that trial and error (especially as our ovens will undoubtedly be different) is the only way to get them right.