March 21, 2012

Oat Cakes & Steampunk

Full disclosure: Kindal Debenham, author of The True Adventures of Hector Kingsley, is in my writing group.  We're friends.  I read this book before it was out.  But I genuinely love this book.  Steampunk magic, a detective story, and an improper American woman with a carbine over her shoulders?  Yes.  Yes please.

The True Adventures of Hector Kinglsey does not have a lot of description of food.  Hector Kingsley is anything but flush, and between chasing clues, pretending he doesn't care about a certain improper American, and keeping up on rent, food is usually the first thing to go.  So I pondered Victorian cuisine.  No crumpets or trifles or treacles for Hector.  I'd made oatcakes before, though.  Oatcakes, I learned, have a long history and variable form, but today I experimented by making some from oat flour.  I think they turned out pretty well -- enjoy!

Poor Detective's Oatcakes

1 1/2 cup oat flour (plus extra for dusting)
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
Pinch of salt
2 tablespoons chilled butter, cubed
1/4 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup water

Preheat the oven to 375.  Mix together the oat flour, baking soda, and salt.  Confession: I made my oat flour by putting oat groats through a grinder on the bread setting.  But I believe oat flours are available commercially.  You could also just toss some rolled oats into a food processor and sift the results.

Cut in the cubed butter.  The mixture should have some lumps.  Little bits of butter are good for flakiness!  I just use my fingers, and crumble everything until it looks like the picture.

Add the water and rolled oats.  You may need a little more, or a little less, water.  Start with 1/4 cup, then see how the dough's doing.  I highly recommend doing this with your hands.  The dough won't get over mixed, you won't destroy those nice bits of butter, and it really does come together fast.

Place the dough on a lightly floured surface.  Roll out about 1/8inch thick, then cut out circles with a biscuit cutter or a cup.  The 1/8 inch thick may sound intimidating, but this isn't a tight, gluten dough.  If I hadn't cared about smoothness, I could have patted it out with my hands.

Place on a greased cookie sheet, shoulders just touching, and bake for 10 minutes.  Okay, we're huge Good Eats fans over here.  When Alton Brown makes biscuits, at least, he puts them shoulder to shoulder for a better rise.  I figured...why not with oat cakes?  You can see I tried two different heights of oak cakes here, and I actually liked the thicker ones, better.  The thin ones didn't really get that flakiness I was looking for.

Set on a cooling rack.  Top & enjoy.  Cheese would be classic here, but jam, a piece of meat...whatever is laying around the house would work great, too!

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