Bannock is bread in its most basic form – flour, baking powder, oil or lard, water – baked in the oven to supplement your morning coffee or evening stew, wound around a stick to cook over an open fire, or torn off in a ball and patted thin, then fried in lard or oil in a hot skillet until golden and crisp on both sides. It’s essentially a scone, only easier, and with a slightly more rugged chew.
I learned to make fry bread with a hole in the middle, in what I think might be the Blackfoot tradition – I say this only because the few times I’ve seen it made this way was by women from nations in the Blackfoot Confederacy – and I love how quickly and evenly the bread cooks in this flattened doughnut shape, without worry about it remaining doughy inside. The hot pan gives a quick crusty exterior without making you turn on the oven. And I’ve been known to mix up a batch of dough and cook a few fry breads at a time, saving myself having to resist eating the entire batch, with blueberry-rhubarb-saskatoon jam spiked with maple syrup.
The recipe itself, while similar to most other bannock recipes out there, came from Wanuskewin Heritage Park in Saskatoon, where we wound the dough back and forth around the tines of long metal forks to bake over hot coals in the middle of the afternoon. (I halved it – the original made a lot, but feel free to double it if you want more than about a dozen fry breads.)
Tear. Pat. Poke. Fry.
Tear open and slather with jam, or dunk in soup or chili or stew. I made a quick jam with some frozen wild blueberries and saskatoons from the freezer, and a couple chopped stalks of rhubarb, and about half as much sugar as there was fruit in the pot (plus a generous glug of maple syrup), brought to a boil and simmered until it thickened and became jam-like. Because making jam shouldn’t be scary.