Broonie

Broonie is a traditional oatmeal gingerbread from the Orkney Islands in Scotland. This particular recipe comes from the folklorist F. Marian McNeill, who collected traditional recipes for her 1929 book The Scots Kitchen. Although she collected recipes from all over Scotland (I made another of her gingerbread recipes in this post), she was born and raised in Orkney, so broonie may have been familiar to her from her childhood.

F. Marian McNeill. Photo from The Glasgow Times

F. Marian McNeill led quite a busy life; she was deeply involved both in social work and in the literary and cultural revival movement in Scotland. She was active in politics, serving as the organizer for the Scottish Federation of Women’s Suffrage Societies from 1912-1913, then later becoming a vice president of the Scottish National Party in the 1930s. She also worked as a researcher and principal assistant on the Scottish National Dictionary. She was especially passionate about preserving Scottish folklore and culture. Besides The Scots Kitchen, she also wrote The Silver Bough, a four-volume study of Scottish folklore, and The Scots Cellar, a book about beverages and drinking customs in Scotland. In 1962, she was made an MBE (Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire) for her services to Scottish culture.

The Scots Kitchen is a truly fascinating book, and one I would highly recommend to anyone interested in Scottish food. I will almost certainly be making more recipes from this book in the future – although I will probably make my way through the baking section first, and leave the haggis for last!

Broonie:

  • 6 oz oatmeal
  • 6 oz flour
  • 1/3 – 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 2 oz butter
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 3/4 tsp baking soda
  • 2 tbsp molasses
  • 1 egg
  • 3/4 – 1 cup buttermilk
  1. Mix the oatmeal and flour together in a bowl. Rub in the butter.
  2. Add the sugar, ginger, and baking soda. McNeill doesn’t specify an amount for the sugar; I found that anywhere from 1/3 cup to 1/2 cup worked well, depending on how sweet you want it to be.
  3. Heat the molasses just until it is slightly runny, and add along with a beaten egg and 3/4 cup buttermilk. The mixture should feel like a very thick batter, and be able to “drop from a spoon” as the recipe says. If it is too thick, add a little more buttermilk.
  4. Mix thoroughly, then place in a buttered 8″ x 4″ loaf pan and bake at 350 degrees for 50 minutes to an hour. The edges should be browning and a toothpick inserted in the middle should come out clean. If the edges are starting to brown too much before the middle is done, cover the pan with aluminum foil to protect it while it finishes cooking. Let the finished loaf cool before slicing into it.

Tasting notes:

I love this bread.

This is a perfect, hearty, oat-y bread with a lovely ginger flavor. It’s delicious and moist when fresh, but still excellent toasted and buttered the next day. It’s very filling, so even just one slice makes for a hearty breakfast.

I made this a few different times, experimenting with the amount of sugar and the type of oats. I personally liked the texture of old-fashioned oats whirled a few times in a food processor, but it also worked with quick-cooking oats and with whole old-fashioned oats. Adapt it however you like it! I’m pretty sure that any way you try it, this recipe will still be delicious.

References:

McCulloch, M.P. (2007). McNeill, Florence Marian. In E. Ewan, S. Innes, S. Reynolds, & R. Pipes (Eds.), The biographical dictionary of Scottish women: From the earliest times to 2004. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.

McNeill, F. M. (2004). The Scots kitchen. Edinburgh: Mercat Press. (Original work published 1929).

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