Scottish Food: Selkirk Bannock

You’ll probably know by now that I’m Scottish, and that often comes through in a lot of the food I make. Well, it’s certainly been an interesting few months concerning the future of the nation (but of course, as a resident of London, I was an observer rather than a voter) and I get the feeling that this “interesting” period is only going to continue.

So how to deal with this disconnection? Make something Scottish of course! I decided that I really should turn my hand to making a traditional bake called the Selkirk Bannock, a rich bread made with dried fruit – and sometimes spices – which originates from the Royal Burgh of Selkirk in the Scottish Borders. Truth be told, I made about four of these over the last couple of weeks. Symptomatic of a touch of homesickness perhaps?


Now, the name name “bannock” usually means something a bit more like a flatbread, often cooked on a griddle. Well, this really could not be more different. The Selkirk Bannock was originally a festive bake, but is now available all year. It is an enriched bread, made with milk and butter, but no eggs (at least in my version) and not a crazy amount of sugar. Most of the sweetness comes from the sultanas, so it can be eaten either as a savoury bread with cheese, or toasted and topped with butter, or jam if you want something very sweet. It’s certainly an easy and tasty bake to enjoy on these nippy autumnal days as the final days of summer pass quickly.


I tried making a couple of versions before settling on my recipe below. From what I could see, most recipes did not use a lot of yeast and a limited amount of liquid, but this meant that my first attempt did not have much of a rise. While this seemed to chime with bannocks that I remember eating in the past, it was not quite what I was looking for. Flat flavour and a flat look! Fortunately, this was easy to fix – in my next attempt, I added more milk to make the dough softer, and I doubled the amount of yeast – I figured that it would be quite acceptable to have a light and tasty Selkirk Bannock that veers towards being a Celtic take on a panettone.

One thing to point out about the flavours in here – it’s traditional to stick just to dried fruit like sultanas, but more modern versions also include candied peel and/or spices (or even the ubiquitous cranberries!). I’ve stuck with a fairly traditional recipe, but I did add a dash of garam masala for a little extra flavour. Perhaps not quite what the purists would like to see, but I’m happy to face the wrath of some gnarly Scots master bakers – I’m rather happy with my bannock, with its light texture, a lovely golden soft crust, and lots and lots of fruit. I think it worked a treat – it was a big hit at brunch, sliced, toasted and spread with salted butter.

 To make a Selkirk Bannock:

• 60g butter, plus extra for greasing
• 150ml milk, scalded
• 250g strong white flour
• ¼ teaspoon salt
• 1 teaspoon instant yeast
• 2 teaspoons caster sugar
• 1/2 teaspoon mixed spice (optional)
• 200g sultanas
• 30g light brown sugar
• milk, to brush

1. Melt the butter and add to the milk. Leave until lukewarm.

2a. If using a bread machine: Put the flour, salt, yeast, caster sugar and mixed spice (if using) plus the milk mixture into the bowl and run a dough cycle. Simples!

2b. If making by hand: Put the flour, salt, yeast, caster sugar and mixed spice (if using) plus the milk mixture into the bowl. Stir with a spoon, then knead with your hands until you have a smooth, stretchy, silky dough (at least 5 minutes). Leave the dough a warm place for an hour until the dough has doubled in size. Knock back and knead again for 2-3 minutes.

3. Knead the sultanas and brown sugar into the dough, then shape into a round and put into a buttered and lined cake tin. Leave to prove until roughly doubled in size (ideally spritz lightly with water, put the whole thing in a plastic bag, then leave somewhere warm).

4. In the meantime, preheat the oven to 160°C (320°F). Brush the bannock with milk and bake for 40-50 minutes until the bannock looks risen and well-browned. You might need to turn it round at some point to get an even colour, but if it like it is getting too dark, cover loosely with tin foil. When done, the loaf should sound hollow when tapped lightly.

5. Let the bannock cool for 10 minutes in the tin, then transfer to a wire tray to cool completely.

Worth making? Delicious – easy to make, and a good all round bread for breakfast or a little snack.


Filed under Recipe, Scottish Food, Sweet Things

16 responses to “Scottish Food: Selkirk Bannock

  1. Cynthia

    Looks lovely, I must try this soon. I love any kind of raisin/currant bread and could even see me making this into “krentenbollen” for easy transportation. (Hopefully no Scottish wrath when a Dutch person messes with the recipe)

    • Thanks Cynthia. My experience of Dutch baking is that there are often similar bakes there as we have in Britain – I guess a similar climate, access to similar ingredients…?

  2. It looks yummie, maybe I can bake a little piece of home for my Scottish husband.

  3. Please, come and join my cooking contest with recepies from all over the world! Ciao Ostriche

  4. Beautiful indeed. I’ve never had the pleasure of a Bannock, but I really should make!

  5. This looks delicious and I have never come across it before! Definitely at the top of my list to bake this weekend

  6. This looks wonderful. Bannock reminds me (god knows why) of crannog, which is something we visited in Scotland a while back. Fascinating!

  7. “How to deal with this disconnection? Make something Scottish of course!” Love it. And thanks for the recipe!

  8. birminghamtom

    What a fantastic surprise, I lived in St Boswells for 9 years as a youngster and I used to have selkirk bannock most weekends with butter as a snack. A fantastic treat it was too, my family when passing always stop by for a bannock – I now live in Birmingham, my original home and current home too. Great find though.

    Tom – a blog about food, my small garden and the people that live in the the house. x

    • Hi Tom – glad to be able to bring back some old memories! Of course, you get lots of versions of selkirk bannock, but I think that this one is a pretty decent effort. Hope the taste is as you remember.

  9. BEAUTIFUL! And you made this while I was in Scotland! So many delicious baked goods in Scotland, I don’t know if we’ll ever manage to get them all on our sites!

    • Thanks Christina. I agree with you – there are lots of little “hidden gems” in Scotland. I’ve got particular memories of a chocolate mint traybake from a shop in Montrose, an integral part of my childhood and visiting my granny.

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