Lunastain Bread

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Lunastain Fry Bread

Frybread
Make a batch of fried bread for Lammas. Image by Brian Yarvin/Photographer's Choice/Getty Images

In parts of the British Isles, the Lammas festival, or Lughnasadh, was celebrated with the baking of a cake made from the first harvested grains. While today we don’t typically harvest our own wheat, oats, barley or corn – unless you’re hardy enough to be a farmer – we can still take advantage of this tradition and bake one of these seasonal goodies, which were called Lunastain cakes. It takes its name from the Scottish word from Lammastide, lunastain.

Keep in mind that although the word “cake” conjures up images of sweet baked goods, originally it was used to mean any baked item made from grains, so your Lunastain cake can be either sweet or savory, depending on your preference. In other words, it can be similar to a traditional sweet cake, or it can be more bread-like. The choice is up to you.

Typically, the Lunastain cake was made from oats, and was called a bannock. Much like the bannocks that were served around Beltane, it was baked and then fried or toasted, and sometimes topped with freshly churned cream butter. However, the recipes vary from one region to the next, because the ingredients and methods were based upon what was handy and available.       

The recipe below is one I’ve made for years, and just one of many variations you can try. I like this one because it skips the baking step altogether and just goes straight into a skillet for frying. This will give you four to six cakes, depending on how large you make them.

If you’re eating gluten-free like I do, you can use a combination of gluten-free baking flour and oats, and a bit of flaxseed meal to give your cakes a nice oatey taste without worries about unpleasant side effects. Obviously, if you don’t have to concern yourself with gluten, you can still use this recipe, and enjoy it!

Ingredients

  • 2 C. all purpose baking flour
  • 1/2 C. oats
  • 1/2 C. golden flaxseed meal
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. xanthan gum
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 C. butter, chilled and cubed
  • 1 1/2 C. cold water (you may need a little bit more or less, so add it gradually and use your best judgment)
  • oil for frying (I like to use coconut oil, but you can use whatever’s handy)

Directions

Combine all of your dry ingredients together and mix well. Add in the butter – it helps if you have a pastry blender, but it’s not required. Finally, mix in the water, blending until you have a thick, stuff dough. Roll it into a ball, and allow your dough to sit in the fridge for half an hour or so. Although you don’t necessarily have to do this, and can probably skip it if you’re in a hurry, it does help to keep the dough from separating when you’re frying it.

Heat your oil in a fry pan – if you’ve got cast iron, use it, because the result can be amazing. Divide your dough into equal portions – I typically get around six from this recipe, but you can make them smaller or larger – and roll them out in flour to flatten them. Don’t make them too thin, or they’ll end up crispier rather than soft. Mine are usually around half an inch thick.

Once your oil is hot, add a cake into the skillet – it’s best to just do them one at a time and add additional oil as you go. Fry it until it’s golden brown on the bottom, and then flip it over to do the other side. You may notice it gets a little puffy in places – that’s okay! After your cakes are cooked on both sides, remove them from the oil and place them on a paper towel to cool.

Serve these with your Lammas harvest feast. I like to top mine with fresh basil pesto, or just spread with a bit of sweet cream butter. You can also dunk them in Barley Mushroom Soup, or serve them up as a side for Colcannon – the possibilities are endless!