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Oatcakes - Lancashire


Yeast-raised hotplate-cooked flat-breads made with oat flour, formed in an oval shape. A type of oat cake. Now relatively rare and eaten soft and hot, unlike the earlier Riddle Bread.

Alan Holroyd making oatcakes early morning by gaslight, from the Family Archive
Image: oatcakebaker.co.uk

The following is taken from the website of the Holroyd family hotplate bakehouse located at 6 Barkerhouse Road, Nelson, Lancashire, UK which made oatcakes, crumpets, pikelets and muffins between 1909 and 1984.

"The family business was started by Thomas Holroyd in 1909 who was joined by his son Alan at the end of World War II. After Tom retired in 1966 Alan worked there, assisted by his wife Nora and occasionally by his children Tony and Susan. The bakehouse closed when Alan retired in 1984.
The information included in this site is largely from the family albums and scrapbooks and I am afraid that the the attribution of many of the photographs and cuttings have been lost. If you can cast any light on picture sources or know of any newspaper articles or personal recollections about any of the Pennine Oatcake Bakers I would like to hear from you. Tony@oatcakebaker.co.uk"

Riddle - The mix, or batter, is poured onto a layer of oatmeal on the riddling board. It is then riddled which makes it into a circular pool floating on the oatmeal. It is then transferred to the machine, which changes it to an oval shape. The term riddling may derive from the act of sieving which is a similar action (but it might not).

The Machine - The oatcake throwing machine was patented in the 19th century and comprises a truck on rails and a linen belt driven from the truck axle. Working alone Alan would produce one oatcake every 40 secs.
With a second person "turning", the rate would increase to one every 25 secs.

Throwing the Oatcake - The oatcake is thrown from the machine onto a hotplate. This was originally coal fired but was converted to gas in the 1960's. The steel hotplate was treated with a "face" of shelac which makes makes it easier to "turn". The oatcake is stretched to its full size in this process.

Turning the Oatcake - The oatcake is scraped off the face with a flexible knife about 40cm long by 5cm wide picked up by hand and transferred to the second hotplate.

Finishing the Oatcake - Finishing the Oatcake After turning the cooking process is finished off on the cooler second hotplate seen here in the foreground. In the back ground the face is being prepared for another oatcake, already on the machine, to be thrown.

Cooling on the "Cratch" - Cooling on the Cratch After the oatcakes have finished cooking on the hotplate they are removed to the cratch where they are left to cool.
Cratch is an old english word meaning a rack for food.

Packed in the Basket - When cool the oatcakes were then packed, in piles of a dozen, in boxes or baskets ready for delivery.
The baskets were made at a workshop for blind people in Burnley and was a preferred storage as it allowed the contents to breathe.

For other types of oat bread and biscuit, see Oat Cakes

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