I’ve been reading a bunch of frontier history books lately, including Hampton Sides excellent Kit Carson overview, “Blood and Thunder.” I’m always interested in what kind of vittles frontiersmen and explorers subsisted on as they pushed across the West. Certainly wild game made up an important part of their diet, but hardtack and bannock were also among the rations. While hardtack, a simple cracker made from flour, salt, and water, was much reviled, bannock bread was a welcome meal, and an easy one to prepare as long as some type of leavener was available. (Traditional bannock was often made without a leavening agent, but adding baking powder, buttermilk, or a sourdough starter made for a lighter, better tasting product).
Much like it was for Carson and his compatriots, bannock is still a delicious addition to a camp cook’s recipe box, especially if you make the mix ahead of time and add the water just before cooking. Bannock can be fried in a skillet, baked in a Dutch oven, cooked directly in the hot coals, or, as the video shows, slowly turned over a hot fire using a simple stick technique.
Bannock Bread Recipe
– 2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
– 2 tsp. baking powder
– ½ tsp. salt
– ½ tsp. sugar
– 3 Tbsp. lard, bacon grease or canola oil
– 1 cup cold water
1. In a medium bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients. (This mix can be made in advance and kept in a zip-top bag or other airtight container until ready to use.)
2. Stir in the fat and slowly pour in the water, while stirring, until a firm dough forms. You may not need to use the whole cup of water.
3. Knead the dough for a minute or two, then set aside to let rise for at least 30 minutes.
4. Divide and flatten the dough into small round discs. Fry in a greased skillet set over a medium fire, turning once, until cooked through about 20 minutes.