When I was a child, we used to visit my maternal grandmother (Nell) every fortnight and at some point during the weekend, she would make what she called a “Thin Cake”. This was actually not a cake at all but a type of griddle bread which she would patiently cook on top of the stove in an old frying pan, carefully checking it until it achieved a golden brown exterior.
Somehow she always knew exactly how long it took to make a perfectly fluffy loaf and I never saw a burnt or overcooked loaf in all my years of visiting her. Which could have meant that she had perfected the method over the years or that she fed the dud loaves to the multitude of cats that she had in her garden (unlikely). Either way, she made it look easy. We ate slices of the “Thin Cake” while still warm, with real butter slathered on top and to this day, it is one of my favourite food memories from my childhood. I could never make this as well as my grandmother did so I have come up with my own variation with wholemeal spelt flour, nigella seeds and streaky bacon. This is a fast and easy bread to make and great option if you don’t want the hassle of kneading, rising and knocking back that comes with yeasted loaves of bread.
Note: As I do not have the exact measurements that my grandmother used for her bread, I turned to the matriarch of Irish cooking, Darina Allen, and her recipe for griddle bread in ‘Forgotten Skills of Cooking’ which you can also find here.
225g wholemeal spelt flour or plain white flour
1/4 tsp salt
4 slices streaky bacon, chopped and fried until crispy
1 tsp nigella seeds
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
175ml buttermilk (use regular milk with a splash of lemon juice or vinegar if you can’t get buttermilk)
1. Preheat a non-stick frying pan on a low heat.
2. Place the dry ingredients (including the bacon) in a large bowl and make a well in the centre.
3. Pour in most of the buttermilk and mix, adding more if necessary.
4. When it all comes together, turn it out onto a floured surface and knead for a minute, until it looks slightly smoother.
5. Place the dough into the preheated pan and flatten out to about 1 inch thick, being careful not to burn your hands in the process.
6. Cook on a low to medium heat for about 15 minutes on one side until firm and golden brown and flip over and cook on the second side for a further 15 minutes until cooked through.
Serve warm with lots of real butter.