What it is: A multi-use lightly sweetened biscuit
Bonnie: I tripped over Effie’s Oatcakes at the Fancy Food Show (a trade show) one summer. I was drawn to them by their name, as my father’s wife’s name is Effie. Not a common name.
So because of the name, I sampled them. The name, and also because I learned they won a gold sofi award – “sofi,” which stands for specialty outstanding food innovation, is an award presented by the National Association for the Specialty Food Trade (NASFT) honoring the outstanding specialty foods and beverages of the year.
So I liked the product and so did NASFT. The oatcakes are made from ingredients that you’d use in your own kitchen. Because they are not too sweet, the cookies can double as crackers. Enjoy Effie’s Oatcakes as is, topped with cheese, jams or even a hazelnut-chocolate spread.
I chatted with the owners – Joan MacIsaac and Irene Costello — to learn more about their company. Seems the women are high school friends who’ve made a business from Effie’s — Joan’s mother’s — recipe. Effie MacLellan grew up on a farm in Nova Scotia and made these old-fashioned, slightly sweet biscuits that her daughter is now selling!
Bryan: Today is all about Effie’s Oatcakes. We love them at Bite of the Best, but Effie’s already has at least one (super) celebrity fan: Oprah! And if Oprah likes them, what else really needs to be said? Well, first and foremost, what the heck is an oatcake? Don’t know? Don’t worry, I didn’t either. But I quickly realized that I wanted to know more, as they are freaking delicious!
The inspiration for Effie’s Oatcakes apparently comes from one of the founder’s mothers, one Effie MacLellan. It is her recipe that has become so incredibly infectious and it is to her that we all owe our oatcake awe. Effie (the company’s namesake) grew up on a rural farm on Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia, and it was here that she learned to bake oatcakes.
The original process involved a wood-fired, cast iron oven following a tradition passed on from generation to generation. Oatcakes were a staple in Nova Scotian farmhouse pantries, as they kept incredibly well, but this is only part of the story.
The oatcake is a British tradition, and each part of the Empire did things a little differently. As such, you can find three distinct types of oatcakes out there: North Staffordshire and Derbyshire style, Scottish style and Canadian style (Effie’s).
The Staffordshire/Derbyshire style is more of a pancake. The mixture is made from oatmeal, flour and yeast and is then cooked on a griddle. The resulting product is much more crepe than it is cookie. Scottish oatcakes also are made on a griddle, but are then sliced into triangular shapes for eating. The texture varies, depending on how the oats are ground, making them slightly chewy or even quite hard.
It was these same Scottish immigrants who brought oatcakes to the “New World.” Though they were almost survival food at first, oatcakes in Canada were gradually transformed from a diet mainstay to a refined element of afternoon tea. Sweet and savory, absolutely perfect with jam or a sharp cheddar cheese. I’ve found a new snack in oatcakes for sure.
Eric: Scrumptious was the first word that came to mind when I was trying to describe Effie’s Oatcakes to a friend — I had just brewed some coffee and opened up the oatcakes package when the person sitting next to me exclaimed, “Is that shortbread?” I was taken aback, explaining the difference was going to be slightly difficult to describe as Effie’s Oatcakes aren’t really shortbread but are similar in appearance and taste. So my answer to her question was, “No. “Short and succinct.
I found that the easiest way to explain the difference in the product was to indulge in a taste test, so I opened the cabinet and took out a box of Walkers Shortbread Cookies (a cookie staple), and we proceeded to compare the products. What the consensus boiled down to was that Effie’s Oatcakes were comparable in taste to a traditional shortbread, but didn’t have the “buttery” feel with regard to texture and palette-lasting flavor; to put it verbatim “The oatcakes just taste healthier.”
And I wouldn’t regard them as a dietary staple, but Effie’s Oatcakes, with one two-cake serving at 180-calories and 9-grams of fat, are an indulgence when starting the day. A scrumptious indulgence!
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