A Northumberland Cottage Kitchen Recipe:
A rather plain and flat looking disc of bread, and yet to many people in the North East of England the Stotty Bread is an important and potent symbol of their identity and region. It’s basically made from ordinary white bread dough, but due to the one rise and a slow bake, it creates a chewy bread reminiscent of sour dough, which makes a fabulous vehicle for butter, jam, treacle and cheese. It’s the bread of my childhood, linked forever in my memory to my grandmother’s old stone cottage and warm, happy days sitting around a big old kitchen table with a flickering fire and the wind howling outside.
Stotties, as they are called in the plural, are born of thrift and frugality; at the end of a long day of baking, as most bread was made at home until fairly recently, any excess white bread dough that was left over was simply shaped and rolled into a large disc, and thrown on to the bottom of the oven, where it baked in an initial burst of heat before continuing to cook as the oven cooled. This baking method is what gives the Stotty Cake it’s crusty but soft exterior and yet a rather pleasant chewy crumb, and that unique “Stotty” taste too. A cake it is not, but a simple and homely regional loaf of bread.
My mother still talks about my grandmother’s Stotty Cakes……she remembers sitting at the kitchen table as a child and tearing chunks from the freshly baked loaf, then spreading butter on to the warm pieces of bread before adding crumbly Cheshire cheese. My grandmother’s recipe remained a secret for many years after her death, and then one day my mum found an old hand-written recipe in the back of a Be-Ro cookbook, where she had written down the basic principals of how to make a Stotty, and so the secret family recipe was released! She and I are regular bakers of this secret family recipe now, much to the delight of our families.
Once you have tasted one of these flat loaves of bread, you will wonder how you managed to live without them; they maybe be plain to look at with none of the fancy decorations, glazes and cuts that other bread loaves have, but as soon as you tear off a piece of bread, all warm and crusty, and then spread some butter on so it melts into golden pools of saltiness, you will understand the alchemy of this slow-baked bread, as how it is inextricably linked to happy childhood days and simple suppers at an old cottage table.
As well as cheese, and jam and treacle (golden syrup), a Stotty Bread is the perfect bread for sandwiches, and if you have ever visited the North East of England, or if you live there, you will know that the classic sandwich of choice made with Stotty Cake is ham and pease pudding. My grandmother was an excellent pease pudding maker, as is my mum, but I have to admit to resorting to the ready-made tinned version sometimes, when time is short, although it is still delicious when spread onto warm bread with a slice of home-cooked ham.
Our family recipe is always better if made with the remnants of some basic white bread dough, and cooked on the bottom of a hot oven that has been turned off to cool, but you can replicate the method for today with the recipe I am about to share below. Don’t forget to serve it on a wooden bread board in the middle of the table, with salted butter, cheese, pease pudding and ham too, if you like. Although this bread is perfect all year around, it always seems to taste better when eaten on a cold winter’s evening with the hiss of a log fire and the warm glow of oil lights flickering……or is that just in my memory, maybe!
NB: You may note in the photos that I used tinned Pease Pudding for my Stotty Sandwiches! Look out for the REAL thing on Lavender and Lovage soon, when I will share my mum’s recipe for authentic North East pease pudding and ham.
This article and recipe was previously shared on the Kenwood site, where I shared an old family recipe that used their Kenwood Titanium Chef mixer.
Also GREAT with French cheese too!