Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Putting my own spin on traditional Manx Bonnag

I have been hosting a two month long culinary tour of the British Islands & Ireland over on Recipezaar.com and this week's stop is the Isle of Man. Not the most well known of the islands, recipes for Manx cuisine are pretty hard to track down. One of the more famous and traditional dishes Manx food is known for is the Bonnag, a sweet bread that although it may resemble an Irish Soda bread, really tastes nothing like it. It has a smooth, crisp crust with a light, soft interior. This is a true slicing bread, and it tastes great toasted and served with some whipped butter and jam.

I researched quite a few different recipes floating around the internet on various Isle of Man websites, and decided to come up with my own version, which I tested using American measuring cups (which measure by volume not weight). I had noticed a bit of disparity from recipe to recipe in the amount of flour to use, which I suspect had a lot to do with people confusing the amount of ounces to use when converting from Metric to Imperial.

Some recipes call for just a plain bread, without fruit or spice, but I had some dried cranberries I needed to use up, so I opted for a berry studded version. It turned out really nice, tender and delicious. Sweet without being too cakey sweet. Perfect with a cup of tea.

Manx Style Berry Bonnag (somewhat based on a version found here)
(makes 1 loaf)

2 tsp lemon juice
1 cup milk (I used skim milk, any is fine), scant, plus a bit extra for brushing the top later
3 cups all purpose flour (plain flour), plus extra for kneading
1 cup sugar
1 tsp baking soda
1 pinch salt
2 Tbsp unsalted butter
1 cup dried cranberries (or any dried berry)
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 F (175 C)

Pour lemon juice into a measuring cup, then fill to the 1 cup line with milk. Do not stir! Allow to rest for 10-15 minutes. It should thicken a bit. Meanwhile, mix together the dry ingredients (except the dried berries), then rub in the butter until it has been fully incorporated. Stir in the berries. Make a well, then pour in the vanilla and the milk mixture, stirring just enough to combine everything, leaving no dry patches. If you overmix, the dough will get pretty tough, so try to be gentle.

Take a look at your dough.. it should be still quite soft and a bit wet, but it should not still be a gloppy batter. If it is, then add a bit more flour until you do have a mass you can actually scrape out of the bowl into a ball. Drop the dough ball onto a lightly floured surface, then sprinkle a bit more flour over the top of the dough. Dust your hands with some flour while you are at it. Knead very, very gently - just a few times - over handling the dough will make it terribly chewy and dense. Put the dough into a greased 8" round cake tin and slash the top with a knife, making an X. Brush the top with a tiny bit of milk.

Bake for about 45-55 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean and the loaf is golden brown and sounds hollow on the bottom if you tap it. Allow to cool for 30 minutes on a wire rack before slicing.


  1. That looks really good Heather! I, for one, have enjoyed this activity on Zaar and I really appreciate all the work you've put into organizing it!

  2. Oooh, look at that, bet it was delicious - I love cranberries!

  3. I wish I would have known about this culinary tour;going to check it right now. This looks so good! See you on Zaar

  4. Gorgeous! Especially with those cranberries. ;-)

  5. Thank you so much everyone :) It is a lot of fun and I get to try out new recipes in the process, always a plus.