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Catholic Recipe: Struan Micheil


  • 7 cups high-gluten bread flour
  • 1/2 cup uncooked polenta*
  • 1/2 cup rolled oats
  • 1/3 cup wheat bran
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 4 tsp. salt -- preferably sea salt
  • 2 Tbsp. instant yeast -- plus 1 tsp. instant yeast or 3 Tbsp. active dry yeast
  • 1/2 cup cooked brown rice
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk
  • 1-1/2 cups warm water
  • 1 egg
  • 3 Tbsp. poppy seeds -- for loaf tops
  • Details

  • Yield: 3 loaves
  • Prep Time: 4 hours
  • Difficulty: • • •
  • Cost: $$$$
  • For Ages: 11+
  • Origin: Scotland

Also Called: St. Michael Bannock; St. Michael Cake; Struan Michael; St. Michael Bread; Struan Michel; St. Michael's Bannock; St. Michael's Cake; St. Michael's Bread

In Scotland, Michaelmas was a harvest festival and in the Hebrides they baked a traditional harvest bread or cake (or bannock) made of oats, barley and rye (the fruits of the harvest) in honor of St. Michael. As it is baked, the cake is covered with a batter of cream, eggs and butter, in three layers. This version is not so quite "authentic" but it's a great substitute. It seems no one can find an original recipe of the bannock, as they are no longer baked in Scotland.

The Feast of St. Michael on September 29 has become a combined feast for the archangels Michael, Raphael and Gabriel. This feast is also called Michaelmas.


* (coarsely ground cornmeal, or regular grind if you can't find coarse)

In a bowl mix 2 c. of flour and all the other dry ingredients, through yeast. Add the cooked brown rice, honey, buttermilk, and water. Beat for 2-3 minutes to mix well. With a wooden spoon, gradually add the rest of the bread flour (or as much as it takes).

Because Struan has so many whole grains, it takes longer to knead than most breads, usually 12 to 15 minutes by hand. The dough will change before your eyes, lightening in color, becoming gradually more elastic and evenly grained. The finished dough should be tacky but not sticky, lightly golden, stretchy and elastic rather than porridgelike. When you push the heels of your hands into the dough, it should give way but not necessarily tear. If it flakes or crumbles, add a little more water.

Wash out the mixing bowl and dry it thoroughly. Put in the dough and cover with a damp towel or plastic wrap or place the bowl inside a plastic bag. Allow the dough to rise in a warm place for about 1 hour, until it has roughly doubled in size.

This recipe makes about 5 pounds of dough (81 ounces, to be exact); to make 3 loaves of 1-1/2 lb. each, cut the dough into 3 pieces -- each will weigh 27 oz. Roll up each piece into a loaf by pressing on the center with the heels of the hands and rolling the dough back over on itself until a seam is formed. Tuck all the pieces of dough or end flaps into the seam, keeping only one seam in the dough. Pinch off the seam, sealing it as best you can, and put the loaf, seam-side down, in a greased 9x4-1/2x3" loaf pan. Brush an egg wash solution (1 egg beaten into 4 c. water) on the top of each loaf and sprinkle the poppy seeds on top.

Cover and allow the dough to rise till it crests over the top of the pan. Bake in a 350° F oven (300° F in a convection oven) for approximately 45 minutes. The loaf should dome nicely and be a dark gold. The sides and bottom should be a uniform medium gold and there should be an audible, hollow thwack when you tap the bottom of the loaf.

If the bread comes out of the pan dark on top but too light or soft on the sides or bottom, take the loaf out of the pan, return it to the oven, and finish baking until it is thwackable. Bear in mind that the bread will cook much faster once it is removed from the pan, so keep a close eye on it.

Allow the bread to cool thoroughly for at least 40 minutes before slicing it.

Recipe Source: Brother Juniper's Bread Book: Slow Rise as Method and Metaphor by Brother Peter Reinhart, Perseus Printing, 1993
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