Alex Dalgetty & Sons is a fifth-generation artisan bakery based in Galashiels, in the heart of the Scottish Borders. The award-winning bakery – which opened in the 1890s – is run by Master Baker Craig Murray, the great, great-grandson of Alex Dalgetty.
“The story of the Selkirk Bannock is an interesting one,” says Murray, who took over the running of the bakery in 2003; “it pops up in the history books several times over the past few hundred years, most notably, when Queen Victoria visited Abbotsford House in 1867 and was given a slice, which she apparently loved!”
The Selkirk Bannock wasn’t commercially produced until the mid-1800s when Selkirk baker Robert Douglas decided to find a use for his spare bread dough. He added sultanas, butter and sugar, before allowing the dough to ferment. This led to the birth of the Selkirk Bannock as we now know it.
“My great, great-grandfather, Alex Dalgetty, worked for Robert Douglas in Selkirk before opening his own bakery in Galashiels around 1892,” explains Murray. “He brought the recipe with him, and we’ve been making our Selkirk Bannocks to the same recipe ever since – that’s why my family have always been proud to call ours the Famous Original Selkirk Bannock.”
Robert Douglas’s bakery has long since closed, leaving Alex Dalgetty & Sons as the only baker who can claim to make Selkirk Bannocks to an original recipe.
“There’s nothing particularly special about the recipe – and certainly no secret,” insists Murray. “The Selkirk Bannock is made with fairly simple ingredients; the real secret to making an authentic Selkirk Bannock is down to the long fermentation process which, depending on the time of year, can take up to 24 hours from start to finish.
“Keeping an eye on the temperature of the dough and the speed of fermentation is also key; too slow and the flavour doesn’t develop properly, too fast, and the dough quickly becomes spent, and the Bannocks won’t hold their shape.”
Watching the bakers in action as they swiftly scoop huge armfuls of Bannock dough from the mixing bowl to create a mountain of Bannock dough on the worktable, is impressive.
The Bannock mountain is then expertly weighed and divided into hundreds of individual portions before the dough is rested, shaped and glazed. The racks of Bannocks then head for a final fermentation before being baked in the bakery’s 130-year-old Scotch ovens.
Master Baker Craig is incredibly proud of the fact that Dalgetty’s Famous Original Selkirk Bannock is regarded as the definitive Selkirk Bannock. His philosophy has always been to stay true to the traditions of the bakery, using high-quality ingredients and traditional recipes to create world-famous products from the heart of the Scottish Borders.
Dalgetty’s Selkirk Bannocks are available in their own shops in Galashiels and Melrose, in addition to dozens of independent delis, food halls and farm shops throughout the country.
Thanks to Craig Murray, on behalf of Alex Dalgetty & Sons, for submitting this story.