I was introduced to British flapjacks years ago when staying with one of my friend/muse/patrons in London.
He said they were pretty easy to make, and the ones he made were definitely delicious.
There are lots of good German bakeries in our neighborhood (six in a one-block radius), a very good French bakery downstairs, but no American or British style bakeries for miles. So I thought I would make some flapjacks.
In my perfect world, desserts consist of butter, sugar, chocolate and cream binding nuts, whole grains, seeds and fruit. This is what happens when a libertine grows up surrounded by hippies.
I took the most popular, ultra-easy flapjack recipe from BBC Good Food and adapted it, guided by feedback from other bakers in the comments as always. This was the first recipe I made using a scale, weighing ingredients instead of measuring them.
Now, the best American baking book authors have for decades inveighed against measuring and urged American cooks to switch to the European method of weighing ingredients.
But I think very little has shifted. (Not surprised; after all, I was in grade school at the time of the Metric Conversion Act, and saw it fail). I’ve worked in a lot of commercial kitchens, yet none of them had made the switch. The pastry chefs who contribute recipes to fancy books and magazines with weights instead of measures are working in the very top-level patisseries and restaurants.
There are meaningful advantages to weighing for bakers.
For one, you can get an exact quantity of flour without the whole “sift and then measure?” “Scoop and level?” drama. And you can weigh amounts of lumpy irregular things like chopped nuts more accurately. I would encourage anyone who has a digital kitchen scale to try weighing ingredients. Until then… below, my recipe for flapjacks for the US baker.
1 cup Oats (can be gf)
1 stick of butter, the best you can find- I use Kerrygold Irish butter, and the higher butterfat of European style butter makes a huge difference. I use salted, but you can go either way.
1/2 cup dark brown sugar, the best you can get- I use Billington’s Unrefined Dark Muscovado.
3 Tablespoons of Lyle’s Golden Syrup, or dark corn syrup.
Optional protein boost:
1/4 cup hazelnut or almond meal and one egg.
1 Tablespoon vanilla and/or cinnamon, 1/4 t orange oil, good pinch sea salt
Up to 2 full cups of your choice of mix-in goodies: I used about 1/4 cup each of chopped dark chocolate (since chocolate chips aren’t available here), white chocolate, hazelnuts, golden raisins, dried superfruit mix with cranberries, blueberries etc., sliced almonds, candied orange peel, and this delicious “Basic seed mix”* you can buy at the grocery store here.
1 microwave-safe bowl or 2-cup Pyrex measuring cup
1 medium mixing bowl
1 large cake pan (12×16 or 11×15) or two 8×8 pans or a large rimmed* baking sheet
Parchment paper, 1 sheet per pan
Measuring cups and spoons
Butter your pan(s), then line with parchment and butter the parchment. Set aside.
Set oven for 350.
Put the sugar, butter and syrup in your microwavable container and nuke for a couple minutes, keeping an eye on it. You want the butter to not be fully melted when you pull it out. Stir thoroughly, until mixture is well mixed. If you’re adding vanilla, sea salt, orange oil and/or salt, stir them in now. Set aside.
Put the oats in your bowl. Pour the sugar/butter mix over and stir in thoroughly, making sure the oats are completely wet.
If you’re using the nut meal and egg, crack the egg into your gooey unwashed microwavable container, add the nut meal, stir well, and scrape into to the oat mix.
Then go nuts adding your mix-in treats! The mixture will be chunky and gloppy. Press it into your lined pan or pans, using your hand or the back of a wet spoon to compress the mixture and get it nicely level. Use the back side of the knife to lightly score the leveled mixture into bars of your desired size- you don’t have to drag the knife all the way to the bottom of the pan, just make indents.
Bake for at least fifteen minutes.
The amount of time is HIGHLY variable, but here is the secret: when you smell it, check it. I learned this from a chef years ago and it has governed my baking, nut toasting and pizza baking ever since. There is a turning point in oven baking where ingredients volatilize, and that means your baked item is almost done.
Flapjacks are done when they’re not burned; how much you want them cooked beyond enough to solidify is really up to you. I bake mine about 20-25 minutes. However you may want to check them if you’re going for that long, as the raisins may puff up and burn.
Cool in pan for fifteen minutes, then lift out with the parchment and cool in fridge for another fifteen minutes, or long enough to set up the melty chocolate. Then cut fully into bars. These bars are very firm, in fact hard, when fully chilled, so you’ll want to serve them at room temperature. I have no idea how long they keep, because people eat them right up, but I would imagine at least three days air-tight at room temp.
*Basic seed mix is sesame, flax, sunflower and pumpkin seeds; it’s my favorite thing ever. You can use whatever mix-ins you want, but I really like the addition of seeds. The basic seed mix and the chewiness of the oats ensures that it takes a while to eat one of these things, giving your body time for the fat and fiber to hit. Even though they’re basically fibrous candy delivery vehicles, it’s hard for me to eat too much of them.
That’s good, because eating too much flapjacks is a lot like eating too much baklava- it will make you pretty sick. I made amazing baklava once, in the early ’90s. I couldn’t eat baklava again til the 2010s, and i’m nowhere near making it again yet. If you’ve ever had sugar burn on your tongue, a kind of horrific experience I think mostly bakers testing recipes have, you know what I mean.
*Rimmed. That’s what they’re called. Christ, you guys.