Oat buns

Freshly harvested organic barley field at Highwood Crossing Farm photo - Karen Anderson
Freshly harvested organic barley field at Highwood Crossing Farm
photo – Karen Anderson

I’m so happy to share a recipe for Highwood Crossing Farm‘s Oat Buns. Tony Marshall’s family homesteaded Highwood Crossing 120 years ago. Now, Tony and his wife Penny have made the name synonymous with quality since starting their eponymous organic food company.

This post will talk about the Highwood Crossing’s organic grain farm, the products they produce and what’s involved in that process. Keep reading for the Oat Bun recipe and a bonus recipe for Penny Marshall’s delectable Steel Cut Oat Shortbread Cookies too.

Snails are gentle on the land like the folks at Highwood Crossing Farm photo - Karen Anderson
Snails are gentle on the land like the folks at Highwood Crossing Farm
photo – Karen Anderson

Highwood Crossing

Highwood Crossing hugs a curve in the Highwood River near Aldersyde, Alberta. It’s as though the land and the river are two lovers spooning. The name comes from the fact the stage coach was able to cross the river near the farm’s location. Most of the time, life is that peaceful and serene there.

But in June of 2013, that was not the case. That was the year of The Great Alberta Flood of 2013 and Tony and Penny Marshall of Highwood Crossing saw their processing plant in High River swallowed up by the river.

To add insult to injury the basement of their beautiful home on the family homestead was also devastated. As always, they looked around and thought, “Things could be worse.”


Before long Tony was making a joke that with all that flour and water in High River it was a good thing they did not also make yeast. “High River would have had another mess on their hands the likes of a Ghostbusters movie.”

Nature can be so ironic. The Marshall’s had only relocated their business from the farm in Aldersyde to High River a few years before the flood. It was something they had thought long and hard about.

In the end, they designed a state-of-the-art facility and began enjoying their short commute “to town” each day. Mother Nature had other plans for them in 2013. Back to the farm they went.

The Marshall’s felt extremely fortunate that they still had their former facility to go to when so many other High River businesses went out of business. Period. Full stop.

Production on farm is one-fifth of the High River capacity but the Marshalls were grateful to keep their business going and just worked longer hours to make up for the decreased production capability.

Found in the garden at Highwood Crossing - it takes a lot of heart to keep your business going post Alberta flood of 2013 photo - Karen Anderson
Found in the garden at Highwood Crossing – it takes a lot of heart to farm.
photo – Karen Anderson

A Farm Tour

In October of 2013, I took a bus load of city folk out to Highwood Crossing Farm to meet the Marshall’s as part of a pre-Thanksgiving shop-at-the-source farm tour. Those farm tours were called Foodie Tootles and I led three of them in 2013 as part of Calgary’s City Palate magazine’s 20 events to celebrate their 20th anniversary.

When I asked the Marshall’s to participate in January of that year, we had hoped to be in High River showing off the new facility. Since that was not possible, the Marshall’s opened their home and invited us all in. It’s a credit to their indomitable spirit that they did not just up and cancel.

Culinary oils

Tony showed us how they cold press canola and flax seeds to create culinary oils from organic seeds. He was inspired to bring this process to Alberta after a trip to Italy where he learned about how extra virgin olive oil is made. With Alberta’s amazing grain crops, Tony saw great possibilities.

He uses organic canola in a time when most of that crop has gone GMO. His crop is grown in a remote area of the province where it cannot be contaminated by genetically modified seeds.

When you look at the colour of a canola field in summer with its bright mustard yellow flowers and you look at the thick mustard yellow oil that the Marshalls produce you instantly know that this is the product as nature intended it to be. The taste has become widely sought after by chef’s across Canada. Vikram Vij of Vij’s in Vancouver and chef Chris Aernie of The Rossmount Inn in my hometown of St. Andrews, New Brunswick are huge fans of Highwood Crossing Canola Oil.

My tour group got a new appreciation for what it takes to grow grains in Alberta and we were able to shop for freshly milled organic flours, granola and those lovely flax and canola oils – cold off the press. A full list of Highwood Crossing products can be found here.

Tony Marshall explains how they cold press canola and flax to make organic cooking oils Photo - Karen Anderson
Tony Marshall explains how they cold press canola and flax to make organic cooking oils
Photo – Karen Anderson

In the kitchen with Penny

While Tony showed us around the processing facility, Penny took up her station at the baking island in her very modern but vintage-looking kitchen. She showed everyone her secret technique for forming the perfect dinner roll using her Highwood Crossing Oat Bun recipe. Penny is a home economist and has developed many recipes for the Highwood Crossing products.

The Marshalls are members of Slow Food Southern Alberta and they seemed to help us all slow down and enjoy their good, clean, fair food at the source where it was grown. You can’t get more local.

Slowing down

While at the farm we also got to walk around Penny’s kitchen garden, sit by the river and enjoy tea and coffee with her buttery Steel Cut Oats Shortbread Cookies. Everyone came away feeling relaxed and connected – with the Marshalls, with the land and river and most of all, these organic products so lovingly grown and processed by these dedicated Alberta farmers.

I care for that a great deal. We savoured food at the source. We savoured the essence of life. We were thankful for the sustenance it brought us. Thank you Tony and Penny for all you do and for your loving friendship and caring ways. Hugs, K.

HIghwood Crossing Organic  Cold-pressed Canola gives these buns such a pretty hue photo - Karen Anderson
HIghwood Crossing Organic Cold-pressed Canola makes these buns golden
photo – Karen Anderson

Highwood Crossing Oat Buns

With this easy dinner bun recipe you can either making up dough the night before or the day of baking.

2 cups warm water
½ cup sugar
2 Tablespoons granular yeast (I have used both traditional or fast rising)
¼ cup Highwood Crossing Cold Pressed Canola Oil
2 teaspoons salt
1 cup Highwood Crossing Quick Cooking Oats
2 cups Highwood Crossing Unbleached All Purpose Flour
1 egg

Blend the above ingredients with the paddle attachment in a mixer for about 2 minutes. Or mix in large bowl by hand.
Switch to the dough hook attachment and mix in 2 to 3 cups of all purpose flour, ¼ cup at a time, until dough is not sticky and is easy to handle.
Place dough in greased, large bowl and turn to grease the top. Cover and either place in the fridge overnight or set in a warm place to double.
To use in the morning, gently deflate and cut off 24 golf ball size pieces of dough.
Shape into rounds and set in two greased 9 x 13 pans to rise in warm place until doubled. Setting the pans in a clear plastic bag with an air space for rising is a toasty way to provide a draft free proofing space.
To use the same day, deflate the dough once it has doubled and cut off dough pieces and shape and let rise as above.
To bake, preheat oven to 400 and bake 10 – 13 minutes or until golden. Recipe makes 24 buns.

Variations: Penny’s Idea of Play Dough
Feel free to experiment with replacing some of the all purpose flour with whole wheat flour or adding flax, sesame or sunflower seeds. Or use some of the dough for cinnamon buns and some for dinner buns.

Each year I am honoured to present at The Calgary Stampede Calgary Coop Showcase Kitchen In 2011 I was honoured to have Penny Marshall join me  photo credit - Adam Chiasson
Me and Penny cooking at The Calgary Stampede Showcase Kitchen in 2011
photo credit – Adam Chiasson
Penny Marshall making her Oat Buns in her kitchen at Highwood Crossing photo - Karen Anderson
Penny Marshall making her Oat Buns in her kitchen at Highwood Crossing
photo – Karen Anderson

Highwood Crossing Steel cut Oat Shortbread Cookies

2 cups Highwood Crossing Steel Cut Oats
1½ cups Highwood Crossing Unbleached Flour
1¼ cups vanilla sugar*
1⅓ cups butter, cold and cubed
1 teaspoon salt

Highwood Crossing Shortbread photo - Karen Anderson
Highwood Crossing Steel Cut Oats Shortbread
photo – Karen Anderson
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 F.
  2. Grind the oats into flour using your food processor or a coffee grinder.
  3. Mix the flour, sugar, salt, oat flour and butter in a kitchen aid stand mixer with the paddle attachment until a soft dough is formed.
  4. Roll the dough out, on a lightly floured surface, to half-inch thickness and cut into desired shapes.
  5. Sprinkle the tops of the cookies with vanilla sugar.
  6. Bake 10-14 minutes or until golden

Vanilla Sugar
*Vanilla sugar is when a vanilla bean has been added to white granulated sugar or confectioners (powdered or icing) sugar. The bean is cut in half and buried in the sugar, covered, and left for a week or two to allow the vanilla to permeate through the sugar. It can be used in place of regular sugar and adds a wonderful vanilla flavour to desserts.

To make:
Place a cut vanilla bean into 1 to 2 cups (200-400 grams) of granulated white sugar or confectioners sugar and store in a covered container for a few weeks before using. One tablespoon of vanilla sugar has the flavouring power of 1/4 teaspoon of vanilla extract.

The Highwood River photo - Karen Anderson
The Highwood River
photo – Karen Anderson
Post Alberta Flood love note  as seen at HIghwood Crossing (being written with insulation foam makes it even more romantic) photo - Karen Anderson
Love notes written with insulation foam are even more romantic
photo – Karen Anderson


  1. Barbara Bamber | justasmidgen

    I will have to join you in one of your Tootles.. I would have loved going on this one. What an incredibly optimistic couple these two are, I can’t imagine how difficult it was going through the flood. I can’t wait to try some of those cookies as well!

    1. Karen Anderson

      Thank you for reading this blog post Barbara. It is greatly appreciated because I love for more people to know about Alberta’s farmers.
      The Tootles are special and I’ve always felt very privileged to stand on the land with the people who grow our food. To count them as friends has changed how I shop for all my food.
      I think you must be a kindred spirit.
      All the best and Happy Thanksgiving to you.

  2. Liz Tompkins

    Great post, Karen! Tony and Penny have been through a lot and I’m sure they were thrilled to share their home wit you and the Foodie Tootle’ers.
    Happy Thanksgiving.

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