Introduction: North Staffordshire Oatcakes

Picture of North Staffordshire Oatcakes

If you come from Stoke-on-Trent you won't need to be told what Oatcakes are. Indeed, their fame has spread as far afield as Blythe Bridge. But this delicious local staple deserves an even wider audience. It used to be common for them to be sold from the front window of many a terraced house, and the last person to do this retired only recently. Today most oatcakes are made in a factory but there are still independent shops making and selling them and it is easy and fun to make your own.

North Staffordshire Oatcakes are not cakes. An oatcake is a cross between a pancake, because it is cooked flat on a griddle or a frying pan, a crumpet, because the batter is allowed to ferment, and porridge, because it contains oats.

Step 1: Ingredients

Picture of Ingredients

There are many recipes for oatcakes. Some people use plain flour and
water. This produces a light batter and a thin oatcake. The unkind would say a bland oatcake. Others use wholemeal flour and some milk. Some people buy oatmeal. Some use porridge oats blitzed in a blender.

Personally I use strong bread flour, half white and half wholemeal. I blitz ordinary porridge oats and I find that it gives the oatcake a stronger, nuttier flavour than ready-ground oatmeal. This is a Real Man's Oatcake. The specific ingredients you use will deliver a different oatcake, just as they would when baking bread. But a balance of equal parts flour and oatmeal works well.

For yeast, I use frozen fresh yeast. One ball contains about 12g or so (that's nearly ½ oz) yeast, rubbed with flour. You can see my Ible on how that works here. But if you prefer you can foam up some fresh yeast with the sugar first, or use dried yeast. Do it the same way as you make your bread.

So this is my recipe, it will yield about a dozen oatcakes:

  • 250g (8oz) flour, strong white & strong wholemeal 50/50
  • 250g (8oz) porridge oats, blitzed
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • About a litre ( a US quart) of warm liquid, milk and water, 50/50. The exact amount will depend on your dry ingredients.
  • 12g or so of fresh Yeast. That's a scant half-ounce. Get with the rest of the planet.

In a large mixing bowl mix the flours, oatmeal, sugar (unless you have used it to start the yeast off) and salt. Add most of the liquid a little at a time but keep a little back. Stir in the crumbled yeast ball or frothed yeast and beat to make a smooth batter.

Cover the bowl and leave the batter in a warm place to ferment. Sometimes I leave it an hour or two, sometimes overnight if I want fresh oatcakes for breakfast.

Step 2: Cooking

Picture of Cooking

When fermented, check the consistency of the batter. It should be nice and frothy but it will probably be thicker now than when you mixed it, because the dry ingredients will have absorbed some of the liquid. Just add as much more liquid as you need and beat out any lumps. For this batch I did add all of the milk I had held back and it was just right. Don't beat too much though, you want to retain the bubbles. You should end up with a smooth, thick, but still pourable batter.

Use the heaviest pan you have. A cast-iron griddle is perfect, but a frying pan will do. Mine is wrist-achingly heavy, but cooks very nicely. The only problem is that the sides are quite steep, so getting a slice underneath cleanly for flipping can be a challenge.

Put the pan over a medium heat and add as little oil as you can get away with. The pan needs to be lubricated but we are not really trying to fry these, just cook them. Don't get it too hot or the bottom will be overdone before the top is set.

Pour in some batter and rock the pan to get a nice round oatcake. My pan is 20cm or 8” in diameter and a small ladle is about right. If you have to spread it with a knife then your batter is too thick, add some more liquid.

As soon as the top is set, flip the oatcake to do the other side. It should take a minute or two. In these photos, the first is not yet ready, the second is just right. The difference between the two was about 20 seconds, so keep your eye on it.

Cool the oatcake on a wire rack and stack.

Step 3: Serving and Freezing

Picture of Serving and Freezing

When we were kids, Sunday breakfast was always bacon, egg and oatcake. It's still a favourite. But they are delicious plain buttered, or grilled with cheese like cheese-on-toast. Bacon and cheese is good, or rolled round a good sausage like a hot dog.

If you want to be a bit adventurous, try using them as a wrap with a chicken salad filling. Or use them instead of pasta in a lasagna.

Some people eat them sweet, with jam, but that's not for me. I like them hot and savoury.

Oatcakes freeze very well. I stack them with a piece of greaseproof paper between every other one, then freeze the stack. I can then pull off two any time I want.

To reheat, they can be put in the oven or microwave, between two plates to keep them moist, or warmed under the grill.

Treat yourself, make a batch of oatcakes today and celebrate regional foods.

PS I said that this makes about a dozen. That doesn't take into account the one or two you are bound use as "quality control" whilst you are cooking them...

Comments

buildandsewandstuff (author)2015-04-25

Are your Porrige Oats what we would call steel-cut or pinhead oats in the U.S.? Not rolled flakes, but actual grains cut in pieces? I don't have access to fresh yeast - only dried. How much of dried yeast should I use? I love learning about local foods from other countries. I've made oat bannocks with rolled oats (no wheat flour) and I loved them - wonderful flavor and great with a strong cheddar cheese. Thanks for the education!

Classic English oats are rolled oats. I'm going to try this recipe with U.S. "steel cut oats" that have been brought to a boil and then turned off and then left overnight and then made into the recipe above. I love Oatcakes and since I moved to the states, I have been getting my supply from family members when they come to America to stay. looking forward to getting this recipe perfected.

I'm afraid I don't know. We don't have pinhead or steel-cut, we just have porridge oats and either medium- or fine-ground oatmeal. If you whizz them in a blender I don't think it would matter, really. Oats are oats. Well, a professional oatist might disagree, but this is good working-class food, not posh nosh.

As to the yeast, I think 12g fresh is equivalent to a 7g packet, or 1/4 oz.

How much would you use for a loaf? Do the same for a batch of oatcakes.

I hope that helps.
S

Thanks so much for a prompt reply! I'll start the batter today and cook them in the morning. Yummy!

How did they turn out?

:)

Fred E Newman made it! (author)2016-08-16

A Stokie living in tiny town USA: Great instructions, thank you. My only quibble would be the use of a cast iron skillet. My smooth edged frying pan does an equally good job (I have both) but, facilitates tossing, needs less lubrication, & doesn't break your wrist. Agreed on not messing with the mixture once foamy. HOLES! ;)

buildandsewandstuff (author)2015-05-03

I did make them, with rolled oats put thru the blender. They are tasty - very oat-y and healthy tasting! I like them better with sweet toppings, but bacon, cheese and egg was good too. Thanks for the assistance.

remington700links (author)2015-04-24

I think I saw it on the one show last year about the oatcake place shutting down in Stoke.
Never herd about oatcake till I saw this TV show.
It sad local foods are are dying out,well done for saving the out cake.
Could you make the oatcake out pure porridge oats,I have family with a gluten allergy.

The oatcake itself isn't dying out, it's as popular as ever, I think, it was just the last place to sell them through the front window.

I don't see why you could not make one with just oats. It would certainly have plenty of flavour. I'm not sure if it would hold together so well. You might need some of that stuff they put in gluten-free bread. Is it Xanthum Gum? You probably know more about that than I do.

If you try it, please let me know.

blueangelical (author)2015-04-23

Bacon & cheese on Staffordshire Oatcakes washed down with a nice cuppa tea. Perfect ;-) thanks for sharing the recipe.

parsleyhead (author)2015-04-22

These sound really good - thank you! gona make them :)

linkaylomen (author)2015-04-21

Thank you so much! they don't sell these in Birmingham near to where I now live :( I've wanted oatcakes for ages and when people say they have found them... well they're not the Staffordshire oatcakes.

I shall be making a batch shortly!

stevemaskery (author)linkaylomen2015-04-21

I'm delighted to have inspired you. Really. It's responses like those I've had that makes it worth doing.

Please let me know how you get on and don't forget that if you don't post a picture, it never happened.

:)

Enjoy!

thefetteler (author)2015-04-20

Exellent.

The humble oatcake - why don't more folk eat 'em?

I've been a lifelong fan, they are superb; not just for breakfast but at any time of the day. Cheese and mushroom is a particular favourite in our house, and for a desert oatie, the butter and treacle (golden syrup to anyone not from the northern half of England) cannot be beaten: in my opinion the oatcake should be grilled until its edges are well crispy.

Delicious :-)

Steve.

stevemaskery (author)thefetteler2015-04-21

Crispy? Oh, no, no, no, Sir! They should be soft and moist.

But each to his own, eh?

I like the mushroom idea, I'll try that. Thanks.

thefetteler (author)stevemaskery2015-04-21

Time for a little clarification, after all, for such a simple foodstuff, the oatcake is a thing of beauty and surprising complexity :-)

Crispy round the edges is how I would take a treacle and butter oatcake - that's how they came off the ferocious grill my mum had when we were young and I've liked 'em like that ever since.
However... for all other fillings soft and juicy is the way!!
I feel I shouldalso mention here for those who have never tried it that an oatcake makes a superb base for a full English fried breakfast to rest on.
Drool drool!


NekoKrys (author)2015-04-20

Nice ! I do a lot of crepes, and I live oats : I know what I'm doing next Sunday :)
For the lubrication of the pan : I usually pour some oil at the beginning, then wipe it off with a paper towel. Between each crepes I wipe again (paper keeps the oil in). This gives a good lubrication without frying, and is very useful in helping the sides of the crepe detach from the walls of the pan

Regards !

stevemaskery (author)NekoKrys2015-04-21

Yes, good tip, thanks.

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