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Selkirk Bannock

At Selkirk you can buy the famous bannock in all the local bakers' shops. It is a rich, yeasted bun, shaped like a round cob loaf, both large and small, and generously filled with sultanas. When Queen Victoria was visiting Sir Walter Scott's grand-daughter at Abbotsford she is said to have refused all else to eat with her tea save a slice of the Bannock.

This is probably the best-known Scottish example of an enriched type of bread which has been preserved in its original form. Lardy Cakes are the English equivalent. In the days before raising agents, a piece of the raw bread dough was taken from the weekly batch being made and used as a foundation for a cake. Sugar, honey, spices and dried fruits were added and, of course, endless local variations developed.

Pre 18th century, these enriched breads were not available for everyday use, since fine flour and the additional ingredients were both scarce and expensive. Instead they were festive breads for such occasions as Christmas, Easter, weddings, funerals and christenings. Even as late as 1745 bakers were prohibited by law from making anything but plain bread dough except for these occasions.

Black Bun, traditionally eaten at Hogmanay, is probably the only other Scottish variation of this. It seldom appears in recipes today in its original form which had a bread dough pastry enclosing the very rich fruit and spice mixture. This in turn had a piece of dough mixed into it.

2 Ib plain strong flour (1 kg)                 
1 Ib sultanas or raisins or a mixture of the two (500 g)
8 oz sugar (250 g)
4 oz lard (125 g)           
4 oz butter (125 g)         
1 oz yeast (25 g)    
Three quarters pt milk (400 ml)        
Milk and sugar for glazing
Pinch of salt

Preheat the oven to 425°F/220°C or gas mark 7. Sift the flour into a warmed bowl, add a pinch of salt and leave in a warm place. Cream the yeast with 1 tsp of sugar.
Melt the butter and lard in a pan then add the milk and allow to cool until it is just at blood heat. Make a well in the centre of the flour and add the milk mixture and the yeast. Mix to a fairly soft dough then knead on a floured board for at least five minutes. Put back into a floured bowl and cover with a damp cloth. Leave in a warm place till it has doubled in size. Turn the dough out onto a floured board and work in the sugar and dried fruit.
Shape into four small or two large rounds. Place on a greased baking sheet and leave in a warm place till they have risen, in about 20-30 minutes. Put into a hot oven for the first 15 minutes. Reduce the heat to 375°F/190°C or gas mark 5 and bake till golden-brown, about 25-30 minutes. Large ones will take rather longer. To glaze the tops put a little warmed milk in a cup and dissolve 1 tbsp sugar in it. Remove the bannocks about 15 minutes before they are ready and brush liberally with the glaze.
These bannocks will keep well in an airtight tin for several weeks.

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