A Buttery Delight! by Norman Harper

Posted by True Highlands in Scottish Recipes | 2 comments

For those of you who don’t know the culinary traditions of North-east Scotland, the buttery, also known as a rowie, is an individually sized flat bread made of flour, yeast, salt and a huge amount of whipped lard. It is eaten usually at breakfast. Some consumers, with little regard for their hearts, spread this already highly calorific treat with liberal smears of butter, often topped with jam or cheese.


In order to research the perfect “buttery recipe”, I returned to one of my two favourite bakeries in Aberdeen and asked their chief baker to give me his recipe again. Not only did he write me out the recipe, he let me try my hand at making them in the bakery one Sunday morning. I can say with no modesty at all that the result was delicious; probably because he was standing over me and correcting my every mistake.

After several repeat efforts in our kitchen at home to perfect my technique, here, I think, is the fool proof way to make a genuine buttery.

Don’t plan on turning these out quickly. Making butteries properly takes ages. By the time you have gone through all the preparing and proving and dough resting and rolling and baking, it will have taken half a day.

350g strong white bread flour
Half a teaspoon of salt
Half a teaspoon of caster sugar
15g yeast
150-200ml of tepid water (depends on your brand of flour)
170g of lard or beef dripping

Ingredient notes
• Ordinary flour will not work. It must be strong white bread flour otherwise all you’ll produce is flat circles of hot rubber dough.

• Two 7g sachets of fast-acting dried yeast will do, but fresh live yeast is better. In my experience, any baker who still bakes on the premises will happily sell you a small amount of live yeast.

• The perfect temperature for the water is body temperature. That is, if you stick your finger in the water it should feel neither cool nor warm. If the water is any colder, the yeast will activate too slowly or will not activate at all. If it is any warmer it will either activate too quickly or die in the heat.

• If you really must, you can lower the lard content by substituting a proportion of butter (60g lard to 110g butter), but don’t be tempted to use only butter and forget the lard completely: all you’ll get is a salty yellow cake with a texture like polystyrene. A butter/lard mix is not any healthier, by the way, so you might as well stick with 100% lard. I am assured that no professional baker uses butter in his butteries. The pro’s fat content is 100% lard.


1. Take the largest bowl you’ve got and sieve the flour and salt into it. Try to do it from a height to incorporate as much air as possible into the flour.

2. Take a smaller bowl and combine the sugar and yeast, then add 150ml of the tepid water and stir. Leave for 20 minutes.

3. Mix the sugar-yeast liquid into the flour and stir with a wooden spoon. Then trickle in the remaining 50ml bit by bit until the mix has just combined. Some flours need none of this extra 50ml. Some need it all. This is where the project is likeliest to go wrong.

4. Cover the bowl with clingfilm and put it in a warm spot until the dough has doubled in size. This should take between 40 and 50 minutes.

5. Use this rising time to prepare your lard or, if you really must, your butter/lard mix.

6. Whip the lard (or butter-lard) until it is light and fluffy. About 10 minutes should do it. Finish when it has the texture of very thick cream. It’s easier to do this with a mixer or food-processor, but the results don’t seem to be so good. Wooden spoon, hefty arm and effort are best. Don’t be tempted to soften the lard in a saucepan or a microwave oven. The best way to lighten the job is to take the lard out of the fridge three or four hours before you intend to whip it so that it can soften at room temperature. Overnight would be even better.

7. Divide the whipped lard into three equal portions.

8. Once your dough has doubled in size, turn it out on to a well-floured board. The dough should be very sticky.

9. Use a well-floured rolling pin to roll the dough into a long strip. The result should be 10cm (4in) wide and 2cm (0.75in) thick.

10. Take one of your three portions of whipped lard and use a palette knife to spread it evenly across the entire surface of the dough.

11. Pick up one end of the rolled-and-larded dough strip and fold it over so that only one-third of the entire dough strip’s lardy surface is left showing. Pick up the other end and fold it over to the new curvy end of the dough so that you are left with a square of dough and no lard showing.

12. Leave the dough for 15 minutes. This allows the gluten to rest and build.

13. Repeat steps 9-12 twice more using your remaining two portions of whipped lard.

14. Roll out the dough to a thickness of 2cm (0.75in) then cut it into 5cm (2in) squares. You should get 12 individual squares.

15. Put them on a greased and floured baking tray roughly two inches apart because they will spread. The squares will become the classic buttery random-blob shape.

16. Cover with clingfilm or a damp cloth and leave them in a warmish place to rest and prove for about 40 minutes.

17. Set the oven to 200C / 180C fan / 400F / Gas 6.

18. Slide the baking tray into the middle level of the oven and bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until slightly golden. They can overcook very quickly, so keep an eye on them.

19. Put them on a wire rack to cool. They will smell delicious, but don’t be tempted to eat them hot. Leave them for 15 minutes until they are just warm.

20. They freeze beautifully.

Recipe very kindly shared by Norman Harper Stronach.co.uk where you’ll find lots of other lovely recipes!

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Comments (2)
  1. Virginia Frasher says:

    I would love to try this recipe!

  2. ed wardle says:

    Where can you buy butteries with lard? most bakeries like Macleans Highland Bakery dont use any lard but instead use Palm Oil!(which is solely responsible for the ongoing extinction of Orangutans)

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