Wednesday, 10 August 2016

The oatcake challenge - finding the best

Nairn's Organic Oatcakes 
I often bake a batch of oatcakes to do two or three lunches, but found myself short of time a couple of weeks ago so thought I would 'treat myself' by buying a pre-made box instead. I chose Nairn's because they have an excellent reputation and picked up a box of their Organic Oatcakes partly because I prefer to buy organic when I can and partly because they were on special offer!

Nairn's Organic Oatcakes were packed in portions of six oatcakes which was plenty for a lunch and they had quite a satisfying crunch when bitten into. However, they were very thin and where the packaging boasted 'no artificial flavours' this turned out to mean very little of any flavour at all! Obviously I don't want the cracker to overwhelm the topping, but these were disappointingly bland. I don't think I would buy them again.

Simple Scottish Oatcakes 
My usual oatcake recipe is this simple concoction which makes about 20 biscuits, depending on the size of your pastry cutter (or convenient alternative!). They are so easy to make and, with a bit of practice at the rolling out, a batch can go from thought to table in about half an hour which is great when I realise there's nothing in the cupboard. The hints of salt and of sugar mean these oatcakes go well with savoury cheeses or with sweet jams, and they have enough flavour in their own right to be eaten just with butter or on their own - especially straight out of the oven. I use basic porridge oats so the oatcakes have a rougher texture than the Nairn's ones, but rolling them out thinly means they have a good crunch. And they're cheaper!

So, I think homemade oatcakes are better than the 'best' shop bought ones, but I recently discovered that my go-to oatcake recipe wasn't actually the best I could do.

Drum roll?

Vegan oatcakes 
I've been playing with reducing the proportion of meat and dairy products in our diet over the past few years, not with a view to becoming vegans, but because I believe less dairy is healthier. It turns out that substituting a non-dairy alternative to butter in an oatcake makes for a better biscuit. I used this Frugal Feeding recipe as a starting point and didn't change absolutely every ingredient!

In lieu of processing the oats - I don't have a food processor - I used 160g oats and 40g strong wholemeal flour. I found I only needed half a tsp each of salt and pepper, but I did need to up the hot water to 5-6 tbsp, probably because of the flour. My BuyBritish kick means we're using rapeseed oil instead of olive oil (50ml for this recipe) and Borderfields is perfect! I loved that these oatcakes have just as good a flavour as the butter-made ones, but seemed to have a crispier crunch. Does that make sense? They also, I think, cook slightly quicker so there's a tiny fuel economy too. The only problem is that they are rather too moreish so the three-lunch batch I baked yesterday is now only going to be enough for two lunches. Oh well!

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