Food & dining

The confident cook

Recipe: Oat crackers go back to the Middle Ages in Scotland

Scottish oatcakes with dried cranberries
Sally Pasley Vargas for The Boston Globe
Scottish oatcakes with dried cranberries

As early as the 14th century, Scottish soldiers carried sacks of oats and griddles to cook a cake of oats mixed with water over an open fire. These eventually evolved into more palatable crisp breads called oatcakes. Their buttery crunch pairs equally well with salty cheeses and wine, or with a spoonful of jam to nibble with tea.

There are many commercial bakeries making oatcakes, but they’re better if you make them yourself. Here, they’re lightly sweetened with brown sugar and dried cranberries. The food-processor dough is easy and when you go to shape it into cakes, use this old-fashioned trick: Form the dough first into logs, cut the logs into even-size pieces, and shape into balls. Sprinkle lightly with flour and press the balls flat with a heavy, flat-bottomed glass or measuring cup. No rolling or cutting necessary.

Oats were once the only grain that could withstand the northern Scottish climate (elsewhere they were fed to horses), but necessity inspired invention. You’ll thank the Scots for their resourcefulness. SALLY PASLEY VARGAS

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Scottish oatcakes with dried cranberries

Makes 2 dozen crackers

cups old-fashioned rolled oats
½cup all-purpose flour
½cup whole-wheat flour
2tablespoons brown sugar
1teaspoon baking powder
¼teaspoon salt
10tablespoons (1¼ sticks) cold,
unsalted butter, cut into thin slices
5tablespoons whole milk, plus more as needed
½cup dried cranberries
Flour (for sprinkling)

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1. Set the oven at 350 degrees. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

2. In a food processor, pulse the oats, all-purpose and whole-wheat flour, brown sugar, baking powder, salt, and butter until well mixed. Add the milk and pulse until the mixture begins to clump together. Add the cranberries and pulse 2 or 3 times to mix them into the dough.

3. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured counter. Knead briefly, and form it into 2 even logs. Cut each log into 12 even pieces. Roll the pieces into balls and place them on the baking sheets, 12 per sheet. With the palm of your hand, flatten the balls. Sprinkle them lightly with flour.

4. Place about ½ cup flour on a small plate. Using a flat-bottomed glass or measuring cup, press hard on the oatcakes to flatten them until they are about 3 inches wide, dipping the glass in the flour as needed to keep it from sticking to the oatcakes.

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5. Bake the oatcakes for 20 to 25 minutes, or until golden brown on the bottom. Transfer to a rack to cool. Store in an airtight tin for up to 1 week.

Sally Pasley Vargas can be reached at sally.p.vargas@gmail.com