Make Mine A Doubler by Peter Gilchrist

It has been 6 hours since we heard the news. Somber taxi drivers and checkout assistants ask if we know anything more. “Just what they said on the radio…” we reply. On Saturday morning, the West coast of Scotland awoke to the news that the Mortons Rolls factory had closed with immediate effect. Queues form outside cafes and corner shops, for the last of the tangy hard shelled morning rolls.

 

If you’re not from here, it may strike you you as odd. Frankly, we were surprised by our own reactions. People took to social media to talk about their Morton’s memories. Conversations about the perfect fillings broke out as bus stops. East-coasters chimed in asking what the big deal was and they were swiftly refuted for simply not understanding. What is the big deal?

 

In 1923, Florence Marian McNeill, Scotland’s foremost food writer, wrote in her Book of Scottish Breakfasts “… no Scottish breakfast table is complete without its floury baps - a delicious sort of roll - from the bakers” with a classic recipe of flour, salt, lard, yeast, sugar and milk.

 

Before they became a staple of Scottish breakfast, scones, oatcakes and bannocks were the norm.These were popular for the simple fact that they can be cooked on a griddle or covered pot over a fire, the most popular method of cookery in Scotland well into the 20th century. It is in Scottish bakeries, where morning rolls’ story begins. Records show that Edinburgh bakeries began to mass produce “ready baps” at the end of the 16th century.The term “ready” relates to the eating habit of the morning roll; they were prepared for travelling business men and commuting labourers to pick up and eat on the go. I would suggest that while London had the pie and Paris had the croissant, morning rolls are the original street food of Scotland.

 

As Scotland faced the seismic growth of the Victorian era, bakers answered a new call; feeding the nation. As bread production became increasingly industrialised and litigated, the humble morning roll came out on top; it was cheap for the customer and a high-turnover product for the baker. Bakeries began to develop their morning roll recipes, from the length of their fermentation to the depth of bake. Slowly, varieties begin to populate the Scottish menu and battle lines are drawn on what makes the ‘right’ kind of morning roll; Soft, crispy, hard-shelled, well-fired, or rowie, to name a few.

 

Like many people in the west of Scotland, I am flooded with nostalgia when I eat my ‘right’ kind of morning roll. Growing up in the 90s in a council flat in Paisley, Saturday morning was all about breakfast. My dad would head out early to queue for a dozen crispy rolls from the baker and pop next door to the butcher for bacon and square sausage. These “doubler” hard shelled rolls would be eaten with tomato sauce, butter and tea.

 

I believe, one of the reasons why morning rolls are important to the west of Scotland, is because everyone’s morning roll is different. Square sausage, potato scone, links, haggis, black pudding, bacon, eggs, fried onions, brown or red sauce; there are endless combinations. There’s a good chance that if your grandparents ate a floury bap with bacon and black pudding, that order has been passed down to your parents and then to you. If your parents had brown sauce or hard yoked fried egg, then you’ll probably reach for that first as well. It is in the variety, that we find a sort of identity as a family; our morning roll order becomes part of our tradition. Why then, are we caught off guard when we mourn the downfall of one of our gastronomic heroes?

 

Our bakers are no less accomplished than the French. Our butchers make food no less delicious than those in Spain. Our morning rolls are no less culturally important than any other cuisine’s breakfast or “ready” street food. It’s not simply that it has been the food of poor people. As we know; some of the best food in the world, has come from the creativity that poverty demands. It goes deeper than that; for as long as I have been alive, working-class Scottish food has been the butt of the joke. Somehow, we have allowed Scottish cuisine to be reduced to caricatures of boiled haggis on a pewter plate and a deep fried mars bar. Food that the average Scot rarely comes into contact with.

 

When communities live in extreme poverty, it can be impossible to see food as anything other than sustenance, let alone something to be celebrated. We tolerate an unnatural discourse about our food, perhaps more than any other country. When was the last time you saw Scottish food being discussed in the media without a tartan tablecloth or a BMI chart? It takes something big to make us wake up to the excellence of our food. Like a dancing tea cake at the Commonwealth Games, goths drinking Irn-Bru in a camper van, or the closure of a factory that made a generationally beloved bread roll.

 

I hope the discourse around morning rolls doesn’t fade away. Whether Mortons is to be saved or we have had the last of the tangy hard shell rolls, we have identified, as a people, that we care for this food and that it has value to us. If we need a declarative statement to get behind, please allow me to stand out on the ledge; I believe our morning rolls are the best in the world and I believe you should try one next time you are in Scotland. Better yet, try making a dozen at home.Thefillings are baker’s choice, but do follow my lead and make it a doubler.

 

Glasgow Morning Rolls

Makes 12 hard shelled rolls

These rolls really benefit from a long proof in the fridge overnight, to get the classic “Glasgow tang.” See step 5 for details

 

Ingredients

 

500ml Lukewarm water

2 Teaspoons white granulated sugar 7g Dried Active Yeast

800g Strong white bread flour 1 Teaspoon salt

50g Lard, cubed Semolina for dusting

 

Instructions 

  1. Add sugar to lukewarm water and dissolve yeast.
  2. Add strong white bread flour to a large bowl (if you are using a mixer to knead, use the mixer’s bowl) along with the teaspoon of salt, stirring to
  3. Take your cubed lard and rub it into the flour mixture until there are no large lumps.
  4. Add the yeast mixture into the flour and mix until the dough comes together. If you are using a mixer, fit a dough hook and knead on a medium for 10 If you are doing this by hand, turn onto a surface.You should not need to add any extra flour to the surface. Knead until the dough comes together into a ball.
  5. Once kneaded, transfer into an oiled bowl and allow to proof. If you are making these ahead, place in the fridge for up to 12 The next morning, allow to come to room temperature before following the next step. If you are making the day of, leave in a warm spot for an hour or until double in size.
  6. Once proofed, punch down the dough and turn onto a surface. As before, you should not require any
  7. Divide the mixture into 12 rolls by forming into a log, and pushing the dough down with your hand. Fold the sides into itself and roll the dough into a With an “open claw” roll dough to seal the bottom.
  8. Line a baking sheet with parchment and cover with a layer of semolina.
  9. Add some semolina to your surface and take each roll and flatten slightly with a rolling pin, before adding to the baking tray.
  10. Proof the rolls for 1 hour, Preheating your oven at 230 degrees C
  11. Place your rolls on the top shelf of the oven for 15 minutes, until crispy and dark For a well-fired roll, allow to bake for another 5 minutes.