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Oatcakes


Billg
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I first read about Oatcakes as traditional Irish food, now often being made to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day. Since Oats grow well in colder climates, Oatcakes were made in Ireland and Scotland and were a staple food of the people. Most of the recipes that I found were Oats, Wheat Flour, Butter and Water.

I wanted to make a packable cake (biscuit, cracker or wafer) that is nutritious, stable at room temperature, firm enough not to crumble to easily and with a flavor that can be eaten alone or with other foods, either sweet or savory. These may dry to the point where they are too hard to eat. In that case, it should be possible to dip them in Coffee, Hot Chocolate, a cold drink or hot soup to soften them. They will probably not be usable for cleaning the pot or bowl like bread or a soft biscuit can.

I wanted my first trial to be without fats or refined sugar, so I modified one of the recipes that I had found into this:

First Batch:

Ingredients

1/2 cup Steel Cut Oats, pulsed in grinder for added Fines

1 cup Oat Flour, Quick Oats Pulsed In Grinder to flour

1/2 cup Briess Brewers Malted Barley pulsed in grinder to flour

1/4 tsp Salt

1/4 tsp Baking Soda

3/4 cup Water (hot)

Instructions

Preheat oven to 325°F.

Place all but 2 tablespoons of the Dry Ingredients in a bowl and stir until combined. With a fork, mix in water, just until moistened. Pat dough into a ball, and then flatten slightly.

Sprinkle reserved 2 tablespoons oats on a board. Roll dough out 1/4 inch thick. With a 2 to 3 inch round cutter, cut dough into rounds with water glass or cookie cutter. Re-roll and cut scraps. Place oatcakes about 1/4 inch apart on a greased baking sheet.

Bake until Scottish Oatcakes are golden, approximately 25 minutes. Let cool on a rack.
 

This batch made 14 Oatcakes, 490g yield after 25 minutes in oven. There is still quite a bit of water in these Oatcakes.

Notes:


The oven was not warm enough to brown and the Oatcakes were not in the oven long enough to remove water. It’s possible that the cakes could be left to dry and then cooked. Taste was kind of pasty, but not too bad. Mildly sweet, but not cookie like. Need to try higher temperature and longer cooking time to brown Oatcakes and dry them. Even so, they will probably need further drying, maybe dehydration before they are ready to pack. Slightly nutty aroma. Still soft and not terribly durable, see how they are after drying. May need to dip in liquid before chewing. My goal here was to eliminate fat in order to maximize the shelf life. Fats can be added to the Oatcakes while eating them, preferably butter.

Variations to try:

            Add Nut Flour to mix, say ¼ cup of mixed Almond and Walnut meal.

            Use Ghee in place of butter, about ¼ cup.

            Add fruit powder, Blueberry, Banana or Strawberry would be OK.

Substitute Whole Wheat Pastry flour for some Oat flour. Need to see if wheat flour makes a better binder.

Variation 1.

Ingredients:

            ½ cup Steel Cut Oats Pulsed in Coffee Grinder to increase the amount of fines

            ½ cup Oat Flour, Quick Oats Pulsed in grinder to flour.

            ½ cup Whole Wheat Pastry Flour (Bob’s Red Mill)

            ½ cup Briess Brewer’s Malted Barley, whole grains pulsed to flour.

            ¼ cup Walnut & Almond Meal (50:50 from nuts.com)

¼ cup Ghee, melted (Why Ghee? Because I had some and because it should be more shelf stable than butter)

¼ tsp Salt

1/8 tsp Baking Powder

½ cup Water (Hot)

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 375°F.

Place all but 2 tablespoons of the Oats in a bowl with flour, Nut Meal, salt and baking powder; stir until combined. Add butter and stir until evenly distributed. With a fork, mix in water, just until moistened. Pat dough into a ball, and then flatten slightly.

Sprinkle reserved 2 tablespoons oats on a board. Roll dough out 1/4 inch thick. With a 2 to 3 inch round cutter, cut dough into rounds. Re-roll and cut scraps. Place oatcakes about 1/4 inch apart on a greased baking sheet. Dough may need additional water to reduce crumbling.

4.      Bake until Oatcakes are golden, approximately 25 minutes. Let cool on a rack.

This batch yielded about 16 water tumbler sized Oatcakes, 370g after 30 minutes at 375 F. The higher temperature produced a nice golden brown color and reduced water content, although that may be partly from using less water in the recipe. There is no floury look to the surface. The cakes are harder than the first batch and seem less sweet. Out of the oven, they are not too hard to eat, but may crumble when bitten. They are not cookies, the texture is firm and they do soften in the mouth. I do not believe that they would hold together if dipped in liquid. If several are eaten at once, they will dry out the mouth. The water glass has a rounded rim and doesn’t produce a clean edge on the cakes. A cookie cutter would probably be better. I couldn’t taste the nut meal. This recipe could tolerate more nuts, probably ½ cup.

Off to the dehydrator with what is left of both batches.

Notes:

Why Barley Malt? Because it contains natural sugars from malting, primarily Maltose. Barley also contains vitamins, minerals fiber and protein. The starches in the grains are converted to sugars in the malting process. This particular malt should contain about 80% soluble malt extract, the rest being mainly fiber. The resulting Oatcakes have some sweetness, but not overpoweringly so.

Why Brewer’s Malted Barley? Because it’s easier for me to find than Baker’s Barley Malt. There are stores around here with home brewing supplies, but none of the grocery stores carry Barley Malt for baking. Additionally, I can get the specs from Briess’ brewing site.

Why whole grains or Quick Oats? Because it’s pretty easy to make flour out of these with a high speed cheapo Coffee Grinder. There will be some larger particles in the flour because I don’t sieve the flour after I grind it, but that just adds texture to the Oatcakes. In reality, the most difficult part of using a Coffee Grinder is that it is hard not to turn everything into powder. The Steel Cut Oats only need one or two pulses to get them right. The Steel Cut Oats are mainly half grains and only need a little additional grinding when combined with Oat Flour. It should be possible to use the Steel Cut Oats without grinding by reducing the amount and increasing the amount of Oat Flour. This would reduce the range of sizes of particles and might affect the texture. The main thing is to get something that tasted good, is shelf stable and binds together well enough that it won’t turn into crumbs.

Why nut flour? Again, mainly because I have some, but also because I don’t digest whole nuts very well. The information suggests that ¼ cup of nut flour would be around 360 calories. It’s best to go by weight, but more convenient to use a Coffee scoop to measure.

Serving size? My guess is that 3 to 4 Oatcakes per serving would be about right. Served with other food, I would think two Oatcakes at a minimum. Calories look to be around 300 per cup of dry ingredients. With ¼ cup of butterfat (400 calories) and ¼ cup of nut meal (360 calories) added, the total calories look to be around 1360 per batch.

Oatcakes seem to be a good addition to my menu, but they are not particularly calorie dense, especially when the fats and nuts are left out. They are an OK snack and can be eaten with meals. They are not excessively sweet nor salty, so they don't seem to provoke binge eating. I'll see how they hold up to being packed around.

I pulled the Oatcakes out of the dehydrator today and weighed them. The average Oatcake is 22 Grams. The ones with Ghee and nuts would be around 85 Calories each and the Caloric Density would be around 109 Calories per Ounce. A person would need to eat around 35 of these each day for a 3000 Calorie per day diet. That's not something that I would look forward to doing. For a snack or with another dish, they may not be too bad. I think that I'll try another batch with more nuts.

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Aaron Zagrodnick

Great info Bill, wasn't very familiar with oatcakes before reading this - seems like a good base for experimenting with adding calories and flavor to taste. Looks like there are some commercial varieties available as well from a quick look on Amazon. Did you ever see if they ended up holding up alright? I've had to pack hard sided containers on a few occasions for more fragile homemade foods but sometimes something fresh(er) can make all the difference. 

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