Growing up in Halifax, Nova Scotia, oatcakes were a coffee shop staple. A cross between a cookie and a biscuit, they were the size of pucks and nearly an inch thick, and sometimes dipped in chocolate. I remember often buying them and almost always being disappointed – they were usually far too sweet and far too dry, with a texture reminiscent of sawdust. But somehow I couldn’t stop giving in to the oatcake temptation.
I was reminded of oatcakes a couple of years ago when talking to a colleague who worked in Nova Scotia for a while. During that conversation I realized for the first time how regional the oatcake is. I had never thought about the fact that I didn’t really see them anywhere but in Nova Scotia.
On my trips home the past few years, I have had the odd craving for an oatcake for old time’s sake, but of course the ones in coffee shops in Halifax are never gluten-free. The other day I was looking through my cookbooks for ideas for holiday treats to make as gifts this year. I came across an oatcake recipe in the excellent Nigella Lawson book, How to Be a Domestic Goddess. That recipe was for more of a savoury version, but it got me thinking. Why not try making a gluten-free oatcake?
These oatcakes are a far cry from the dry, puck-like versions of my childhood. They are crispy on the outside, chewy on the inside, with a delicious oat flavour. Using large-flake oats creates a wonderful texture as well. I would probably add less sugar next time, since I think I would prefer them just faintly sweet. You could probably leave the sugar out all together and turn them into a delicious savoury cracker to serve with a cheese plate, for instance. I bet adding fresh herbs would be delicious too.
adapted from this recipe
I used buckwheat, millet and sweet rice flours in this recipe, but feel free to experiment with the GF flours you have on hand. I will probably use only 1/2 cup of brown sugar next time since I found these a bit too sweet for my taste.
Note – you will need a digital kitchen scale for this recipe. They are inexpensive and so worth it!
2 cups/190 g gluten-free oats (use large-flake, not instant)
60 g buckwheat flour
30 g millet flour
30 g sweet rice flour
2/3 cup packed/115 g brown sugar
1 tsp. salt
3/4 tsp. xanthan gum
3/4 cup/168 g butter, chilled and diced
1 egg, lightly beaten
2 Tbsp. water
In a medium-sized bowl, blend together the oats and flours. Add the brown sugar, salt and xanthan gum and stir again.
Toss in your diced butter and blend with a pastry blender or two butter knives until the mixture is crumbly. The butter tends to stick to the oats, and I found it best to actually get in there with my hands and crumble up the clumps with my fingers.
Add the egg and stir again. Sprinkle one tablespoon of water in and stir, then squeeze together with your hands. You want the dough to clump together into a ball and be quite sticky. If there are still some dry, floury patches, add the second tablespoon of water.
Divide the dough in two halves. Pat each half into a disc, wrap in saran wrap, and refrigerate for 30 minutes, or until firm.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Roll each half of dough out on a floured board to about 1/3 inch thick. Cut 2 to 3-inch rounds out with a cookie cutter or glass and place on two baking sheets lined with parchment paper or silpat.
Bake the oatcakes for about 15 minutes, flipping the trays once in your oven to ensure even baking. When done, they should be firm and golden brown on the bottom. Keep in mind they will firm up as they cool. The finished texture should be crispy on the outside and chewy on the inside.