I decided it was time to start experimenting how to make oatcakes according to the Lancashire style that I remember from my childhood.
Lindy (my wife) had a great and obvious idea: she suggested that I look in ‘The Joy of Cooking’ which has been our primary cooking resource book for the last 30 years. There is no listing for Lancashire Oatcakes, but there was a listing for Oatmeal Griddle Cakes. More importantly, this recipe was in a whole section on ‘Griddle Cakes and Fritter Variations’. Under this category there are pancakes, crêpes, waffles, flapjacks, etc. The basic recipe is for a batter made of flour and a liquid (water, milk, eggs), possibly with salt, sugar, baking powder, yeast, etc. cooked in a hot pan or even a hot rock in just a few minutes; this approach to cooking the batter contrasts to the family of boiled-batter foods like noodles and baked-batter like bread and cakes.
Once I made that obvious connection it was time to start experimenting. I’ve made crepe-style pancakes for many years using wheat flour, eggs and milk in a hot non-stick pan with minimal grease. The two recipes I’d found before (the BBC Staffordshire and the Staffordshire recipes) were clearly variants on the standard European flat crêpe style pancake, where oats are used in place a portion of the wheat flour.
Reading about oatcakes it was clear that they were food for the working man in industrial Lancashire. Oats grow locally because of their resistance to the prevailing cold and winds of the area. My guess is that wheat flour would be more expensive, so perhaps the cheapest form would have been oats (flakes or milled flour) and water cooked on a griddle, maybe sweetened with sugar or molasses and with yeast to make them rise (but only a little). There is also the possibility that the flakes may have been boiled first in water to break then down, essentially making porridge; in that case oatcakes could simply have been fried porridge. That sounds horrible! But, it would certainly explain the grey colour I remember…
However, to start, I decided to try a simple crêpe variation as follows:
• ¾ cup wheat flour
• 1 ¼ cup minute oats (partly milled)
• 1 tsp. brown sugar
• 1 tsp. baking powder
• Milk mixed in to give a typical crêpe runny consistency
• Let sit 1 hour covered at room temperature
• At this point I had to add more water as the oats had hydrated and the mix was too thick
• Fried in a hot pan non-stick pan for a few minutes on each side
Here’s the result:
First Oatcake Experiment
My family said they were quite good with jam or syrup; I agreed. But, they were much close to ‘normal’ crepes than oatcakes, so I need to try a simpler, ‘oatier’ mix next time.