Glencoe Mills Oatcakes

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Deep in the rolling hills near Glencoe Mills, Cape Breton, Elizabeth “Mrs. Angus” Beaton bakes utterly amazing oatcakes. They are so good that she packs them with great care and ships them to Calgary where her daughter, entrepreneur-extraordinaire, Janice, shares them with her lucky customers in her two upscale cheese shops, Janice Beaton Fine Cheeses.

These oatcakes are made with ingredients that may be a bit challenging to find. Gone are the days of the grist mills that populated the region. Made with two kinds of oats, one a grainy one that Elizabeth buys from Speerville Mills and a second coarser one that she buys on her infrequent trips to Halifax then freezes till she bakes another batch.

Scottish oats are steel cut shards of the oat grain, smaller, sharper and coarser than rolled oats. Speerville Mill oats are freshly processed so the fresh, nuttiness of the grain comes through beautifully when baked.

When she’s finished, she cuts them evenly with a corned beef tin – one of her husband’s favourite foods; bakes them and ships them. Laced with a Mom’s love, these are the finest biscuits I’ve ever had with cheese.

  • 2 cups (500 mL) Scottish oatmeal
  • 1 cup (250 mL) rolled oats
  • 2 cups (500 mL) unbleached flour
  • 1 tsp (5 mL)
  • 1/3 cup (75 mL) granulated sugar
  • 1 ¼ cups (300 mL) cold butter
  • 1 tsp (5 mL) baking soda
  • 1/3 cup (75 mL) boiling water

Stir together the oatmeal, oats, flour, salt and sugar. Cut in the butter and then, using your hands, rub it into the flour mixture till crumbly. Dissolve the baking soda in the boiling water; stir into the oat mixture, combining with a fork till all the liquid is incorporated. Gently gather up the dough and transfer to the lightly floured board. Roll till ¼” thick and cut into desired shapes. Transfer to parchment lined baking sheet and bake in a 425 – 450’f oven till golden, about 10 – 12 minutes. Let cool on the pans or slide parchment carefully onto counter.

Makes 3 to 4 dozen.

Recipe from Anita Stewart’s Canada: The Food, The Recipes, The Stories (HarperCollins Canada 2008/2014) 

Photography by Robert Wigington.

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