No taste takes me back to childhood summers on the Canadian prairies like bannock. Bannock, for those not in the know, is a bread so simple, it can be made while camping. It doesn’t require much more than flour and water and can look like a big round loaf, like scones, or like pancakes. It can even be wrapped around sticks and toasted in the flames.
Although for me the classic bannock is scone-like and made in a skillet outdoors, another, slightly more decadent treat is fry bread. That’s the name for bannock that’s made big and flat and deep-fried. I used to always get it at the Aboriginal tent at Edmonton’s Heritage Festival, sometimes plain and sometimes in the form of Indian tacos. I hadn’t tried to make bannock since I went gluten-free, but bannock is so easy, it turned out fantastic even when switching flours and shallow-pan frying rather than deep frying.
In Canada, bannock is most associated with First Nations (Aboriginal) people but although they perfected the art, it’s not exclusive to them. In fact, I believe it’s Scottish in origin. Australians make something very similar but call it damper. First Nations in the US eat it too (since as far as they’re concerned, the border is a colonial invention anyway). Now you too can enjoy bannock, whether at home or while camping. I used a stove but I’m sure you could make this in a cast-iron skillet on a campfire.
Gluten-free bannock (fry bread)
Makes about four pieces of fry bread (I made five but one was a bit smaller)
- 2 cups gluten-free all-purpose flour (I used Dove’s Farm Plain White Flour)
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 2 teaspoons xanthan gum
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup water, plus a bit extra if necessary (I added 1 tablespoon)
- vegetable shortening for frying
- Mix all dry ingredients together well. I like to use a pastry blender if I’m feeling too lazy to sift. A pastry blender is great at smushing any lumps and mixing everything well together.
- Add 1 cup of cold water and mix until you have a slightly sticky dough. If it’s too firm, add a little extra water. I added 1 tablespoon. A pastry blender is great for this step too.
- Make a ball out of the dough. Allow to rest at room temperate for 30 minutes, covered lightly with a clean tea towel.
- Scoop out a hunk of dough – the size will depend on how big you want your fry bread to be, but mine mostly turned out a little smaller than a salad plate and I’d say my dough hunks were about the size of a small orange.
- Lightly flour your working surface with the gluten-free flour. I actually just used a flat plate because I decided not to roll out my dough with a rolling pin. Maybe it’s the association with camping but I tend to think bannock shouldn’t be too perfect-looking. I just used my hands to flatten it out into a thinnish disc, probably about 5 mm where thinnest and up to 1 cm where thickest.
- Put a generous pat of vegetable shortening (I use Trex as it’s not full of chemicals) into a frying pan and preheat to medium-high. Put the bannock in the pan and fry until it’s puffy in places and golden brown on the fried side. Flip over and fry the other side.
- While your first piece of bannock is frying, you can form the next. Be sure to add some more vegetable fat to the pan before frying your next piece. Repeat.
- Enjoy your fried bannock/fry bread as is, eat with the sweet or savoury topping of your choice, or make into Indian tacos.