Home on the range

Avoid panic: Make bannock

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The winter camper keen on survival is keen on gear: sleeping bag, long johns, wool socks, pocketknife, flashlight, fleece, parka, warm gloves, big boots. Also bannock, which is bread mix. Add water, stir with a stick, and the camper is prepared to produce any type of bread — pancake to pate en croute.

Bannock can be pressed into pizza, pita, biscuit, bun, fritter, fruitcake, potpie or boule. Wrapped around a twig and propped over the flames, the sticky dough chars into curly quick bread. Bannock can probably pitch a tent, light a fire and scare off wolves.

Recipes for bannock salt the camping memoir, along with instructions for frying up deer heart with onion. Presumably those resourceful enough to fry up deer heart with onion don't actually consult the recipe.

If you've never heard of the rustic staple, it likely is because a) you don't camp, or b) you're vague on Canada. Bannock is strictly a north-of-the-border phenom. Bannock traces its roots to scone-toting Scottish explorers, who inspired fry-bread-crisping locals, yielding the low, gritty cake with the can-do attitude.

It's also easy, crisping up over the fire — or, for the armchair camper, the stovetop — making quick work of both scone and winter survival.

Bannock

Prep: 10 minutes
Cook: 20 minutes
Serves: 8

Ingredients:
1 cup flour
1 cup rolled oats
3 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
¾ teaspoon fine salt
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut up
¾ cup buttermilk (or substitute 10 tablespoons milk mixed with 2 tablespoons plain yogurt)
Mild oil (such as canola) and unsalted butter, for crisping
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

Mix:
Measure flour, oats, sugar, baking powder and salt into the food processor. Buzz until oats are reduced to fine powder, about 1 minute. Add butter and pulse several times until mixture looks crumbly.

Drizzle:
Heap flour mixture in a bowl. Drizzle on buttermilk, mixing with a fork just until the dough clumps.

Crisp:
Set a 10-inch cast-iron skillet over medium heat. Add 1-2 teaspoons oil and 1-2 teaspoons butter, plus a pinch of salt. When butter has melted, add bannock dough, patting evenly into place. Neaten up the edges with a rubber spatula. Let cook, shaking pan now and then, until bottom is golden brown, top is no longer sticky and center has cooked through (test with a toothpick), about 18 minutes. Adjust heat to keep bannock from scorching.

Flip:
Brush the top of the bannock with some of the melted butter. Place a flat lid or plate over the bannock. Wearing oven mitts, flip skillet and plate, landing bannock crisp-side-up on plate. Return skillet to heat. Brush skillet with additional melted butter. Slide bannock back into skillet, crisp side up, and let second side cook to a golden brown, about 3 minutes.

Cut:
Slide bannock onto a cutting board. Let cool a few minutes. Slice into 8 wedges. Enjoy sweet (say, with jam) or savory (say, with stew).

Leah Eskin is a Tribune special contributor e-mail her at leahreskin@aol.com
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