Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Bannocks--Tasty Gluten-free Bread/Cracker and A Tribute to Marion Cunningham

A little apricot preserves...

 I never knew Marion Cunningham personally, but after my Mom, she pretty much taught me to cook and, perhaps more truly, to bake.  She died this last week (July 11, 2012--Read the LA Times obituary here) at the age of 90 after a lifetime of cooking, writing, and testing recipes for her cookbooks (Fanny Farmer, Fanny Farmer Baking Book, The Breakfast Book, etc.) and for her long-lived column in The San Francisco Chronicle.  She encouraged several generations of home cooks to... well, to just go on and cook.  Set the table and eat at home, please and thank you.

Her books and recipes were not cute, though they were entertaining.  They weren't novelesque, though they were terribly readable.  They were always sort of like Goldilocks' favorite bed--just right.  Accurate, concise, occasionally gently witty...above all correct, well-tested, and usable. If I couldn't remember the formula for cobbler topping, I grabbed The Fanny Farmer Baking Book.  For goodness sake, I STILL grab it.  If I was testing my own blueberry muffin recipe, I looked no further than Marion Cunningham for comparison. Not just because I knew the recipe would work, but because her entire life's belief in feeding oneself and one's loved ones well was warmed up, stirred in, and firmly baked into each and every page.

Food is a topic of conversation, she said. It can be an imprint that you pass onto someone else. It can be a shared experience. Sitting down and eating together is a binding quality for a family. Eating on the run doesn't cover all the bases it should.
She never was a star chef on "Chopped," (though she did have a cooking show, "Cunningham and Company," on the Food Network) and she didn't have lots of restaurants named after her, but all who knew her work respected and loved both her and the food-at-home she championed.  She worked with James Beard as his assistant for years, traveled with Alice Waters, and claimed Judith Jones as an editor.  Why she didn't make Gourmet Live's list of the 50 Women Game-Changers in Food was always beyond me.  So, Marion, my very own hero, in your tasty and fine memory, I today share your great Bannocks recipe for all far and wide.  I know there are delectable aromas whispering your name wafting toward heaven from all over the world today-- and always.  Thanks for the food and even more for encouraging the life that goes with it.  God speed.


 A bit about Bannocks:  A Scottish, gluten-free flat and buttery bread that can be used as a breakfast treat with butter and jam or honey, it's also a fine cracker for cheese, and a crunchy-buttery (not sweet) shortbread for anytime.  They perhaps are a bit like scones, though they are not tall and bread-like, but rather only about a crispy  1/4 -1/3" thick.  Lovely with soupI make these in the food processor in just a few minutes.  The recipe works fine at sea level and at altitude as is.
photo courtesy Gourmet

Bannocks by Marion Cunningham from The Breakfast Book
  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • 1 cup oat flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, chilled
  • 1/2 cup water
Preheat the oven to 400°F. Grease a baking sheet or line with parchment paper.
    In a mixing bowl, toss the oats, flour, and salt together with a fork. Cut the cold butter into small pieces, toss it into the flour mixture, and rub it in until coarse bits form. Stir in the water until all the flour is absorbed.  (Can be done in the food processor if desired.) 
    Gather the rough dough together and put it on a board lightly dusted with oat flour. Knead about 6 times. Divide the dough in half and pat each half into a circle about ¼- inch thick. Cut each circle into 4 wedges and arrange the wedges 1/2 inch apart on the baking sheet. Bake about 20 minutes or until lightly colored.

     “Cooking is one of the legacies we can leave to the future, and I would like to be remembered for my baking. We all know we’re not immortal, but after I’m gone, I would like my son and daughter to be able to say, ‘Our mother made real yeast bread for breakfast.’”
      ~Marion Cunningham

    Have fun cooking and taking care of yourself,


    1. What a lovely tribute! I plan to do one myself next week. I've never had bannocks, but I want to try them now!

    2. So yummy! I also made them for a gluten-free wine-tasting dinner I donated to church...served with fried goat cheese and topped with roasted red pepper. But my favorite is the apricot jam, of course:) Try 'em out.

    3. Marion is a culinary icon and I had read that she had passed. In my eyes she led an exciting life and her memory will always live on.

    4. She was so smart, so real, so right there on whatever not-great stove I ever cooked on. (I'm in my 24th house.) I didn't know it until I started reading around this last week...she faced down many difficult demons in her life. Quite a role model. Good to see you, Bellini!

    5. I have never heard of Bannocks, but definitely something I would try. Such a great write up of her. For those that did not know of her, you did an excellent job!

    6. @Miranda: If you don't own an all-purpose baking book, buy a copy (might need to be used) of THE FANNY FARMER BAKING BOOK. You'll be happy you did.
      Make the good for anytime. Quick, too.

    7. I've been a Marion Cunningham fan forever and have all her cookbooks. What a lovely tribute!

    8. Alyce,
      This is an excellent tribute to Marion Cunningham! Well done.

    9. @Martha @Mireya Thanks for reading! I've always been a huge Marion Cunningham fan. If I see copies of her out-of-print books at garage sales or in thrift shops, I always buy them for gifts.
      See you Friday!


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