Broonie – A Gingerbread with a Past

First of all I encourage you to resist. Yes, resist eating this gingerbread when it comes out of the oven. All Broonie recipes say to wrap the cooled gingerbread and store it in an airtight container for three days to let the flavor and texture mellow. Yes, they are right. More on this later.

So what’s Broonie you’re wondering? In my “I’m using all my cookbooks or else quest” I pulled out a thin volume purchased on our trip to Scotland. Claire MacDonald’s Scottish Cookery, 1998. It was easy to bring back in the suitcase, and I was just sure I’d be cooking Scottish on our return. Nope. But now I have with Broonie, a traditional Orkney gingerbread.

As seen in this cooking blog called Baking for Britain, the gingerbread’s name derives from the Norse word “bruni” meaning a thick bannock. Orkney was settled by the Norse and the island’s place names, culture and celebrations still look to the Norse for inspiration.

Thanks to the work of Florence Marion McNeill many historic Scottish recipes were saved with Broonie being one of them.   In 1929, Florence wrote The Scots Kitchen, another book I picked up on our trip. Here is her description of how she “gathered” this recipe when she was a child on Orkney,

“This was the first recipe I ever collected – at the age of five or six. One of my small companions at the island school I first attended gave me a slice of the ‘broonie’ which she sometimes brought as her midday ‘piece’. I begged to know what was ‘intill’t’ and the little lass replied, ‘A peerie grain o’ flo’or, a peerie grain o’ mayle (oatmeal), a peerie grain o’ butter, a peerie grain o’ shuggar, a peerie grain o’ trekkle, and so forth. Years later, I managed to work out the proportions.”

One more interesting note. Broonie is also the name of The King of Trowland in Orkney myths and legends. Trows are a type of troll. No one is sure if the name of the legendary trow and the gingerbread have a connection. I’m going with the hunch that they do. Perhaps people left out a bit of their baked Broonie to appease the broonies in the area? But hopefully they waited for three days until the bread was ready to be eaten!

Here’s the recipe:

  • 1 1/2 c. flour
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 2 tsp. ground ginger
  • 1 c. medium oatmeal (Yikes – I had no idea what medium oats were. There was a brief description in the cookbook. From this, I used slow cooking Quaker oats. In reading this blog about what type of oats to use in Parkin, a similar baked good, my head was spinning. Obviously the Scots are rabid about their oats!)
  • 2/3 c. dark brown sugar
  • 1/3 c. butter
  • 2 tbs black treacle (this is the British version of molasses so I used molasses)
  • 1 1/4 c. buttermilk or yogurt (I had yogurt)
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1/2 c. raisins (optional and I didn’t use)

Heat oven to 350 degrees

Grease a loaf tin and sprinkle lightly with flour

Sift the flour, baking soda, and ginger into a large bowl

Stir in the oatmeal and sugar, breaking up any lumps of brown sugar (I did this with my fingers)

Melt the butter and molasses in a pan (don’t boil)

Add the milk or yogurt and the beaten egg stirring together

Add the liquids to the dry ingredients and stir them until totally mixed

It's a very thick batter

Pour into the prepared tin and bake for 50-60 minutes

Leave it to cool in the tin for 15 minutes

Turn out onto a rack to cool completely

Once cooked wrap and store in an airtight container for three days to let the flavor and texture develop

Of course we didn’t wait. It was just ok the night we made it. Do NOT expect this to taste like our gingerbread. I had a piece yesterday and it was better. And of course today before writing this I had to have another taste. The flavor is better and I quite like it! But again don’t expect gingerbread. Instead expect a healthy, slightly sweetened bread, and enjoy this treat from the Orkney Island of Scotland!


2 Responses to “Broonie – A Gingerbread with a Past”

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  1. Jeannine says:

    Well I hope to try this soon. I just saw buttermilk in my freezer than needs a good use and I always have oatmeal. Sounds like this would be wonderful with apple butter for a late night snack!

  2. Melinda says:

    Fabulous sounding recipe!

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