The best flapjacks I ever had were the ones my history teacher used to bake. We always had tea and cake in our double lessons on a Wednesday morning, passing round the tins of home-baked goodies in between gulps of hot English Breakfast tea and discussions of trade union history, trying not to spill anything down our blazers or get buttery fingerprints on the pages of the textbooks. It was one of the best lessons of the week, especially in the depths of winter, when the sustenance and comfort it provided was some insulation against the icy classrooms, and we could look out onto the frozen playing fields at the lower school rugby games and feel grateful that we were, at least, indoors. The flapjacks were always a favourite on days like that.
Her secret, I eventually discovered, was copious amounts of butter and baking them in smaller, deeper pans to create really thick flapjacks, rather than wider but shallower pans which made thinner ones.
Over the intervening years I’ve attempted to create recipes which retain that classic golden, buttery flavour and perfect crunch to chew ratio, as well as experimenting with healthier alternatives. I really love my no-bake version, which uses oats, dates, and almond butter – I think it’s as close as you can get to something ‘healthy’ whilst still retaining some authenticity. But they don’t have that golden crackle of baked flapjacks, so I’ve also tried using olive oil, coconut oil, cashew butter, honey, dates, bananas…and the hard truth is that if you want really authentic flapjacks, you simply have to use butter. You can make nice-tasting oaty bars with the healthier items, but they aren’t flapjacks, and recipes claiming otherwise will leave you disappointed if you’re craving the real thing. However, I have switched the sugar for coconut palm sugar, and the golden syrup for pure unrefined maple syrup, which cleans it up slightly. If you can’t use butter, a dairy free spread would work, but be aware that the butter is important to the unique taste so this will be significantly altered. If you’re a grade A health freak who prefers the banana oat bar thing, this isn’t the recipe for you – if you’re not averse to a bit of organic, grass-fed fat, though, continue on; you won’t be disappointed.
If you don’t want to make an entire batch, or you simply want it NOW (been there), the second recipe for a single-serving, 1-minute microwave flapjack is for you. Be warned, though, once you know how easy it is, there’s no going back…
Regular Recipe – makes 12
- 250g porridge oats
- 125g butter
- 125g coconut palm sugar (NB although coconut sugar can usually be switched for regular sugar, in this case using regular or brown sugar will not work because the butter quantity would have to change. For this recipe, you really do need coconut palm sugar.)
- 2-3 tbsps pure maple syrup, to taste
- Preheat the oven to 160 degrees C (140 fan). Line a 9 inch square tin with greaseproof paper.
- In a large pan over a medium heat, melt the butter and sugar together until all the sugar is dissolved. Stir in the maple syrup.
- Remove from the heat and stir in the oats, until everything is coated. Press the mixture evenly into the tin.
- Bake for 20-25 minutes, until golden at the edges but still slightly soft in the middle.
- Leave to cool for an hour or so, then cut it into 12 squares, or 16 if you want smaller pieces. However, do not remove them from the tin at this point. Leave to cool completely before attempting to prise them out (put the tin in the fridge if you want to speed up the process).
Single Serve 1-Minute Microwave Flapjack
- 30g oats
- 15g butter
- 15g coconut palm sugar
- 1-2 tsps maple syrup
- Add the butter to a small ramekin, and microwave on high for 15 seconds or so until melted.
- Stir in the sugar until it dissolves, then add the maple syrup.
- Stir in the oats until everything is coated, then press them down firmly in the ramekin with the back of the spoon so that it’s packed in tightly.
- Microwave on high for around 60 seconds — my microwave is 1000 watts, so if yours is less it may need more cooking. It will bubble ferociously during this minute but this is good – you are condensing 20 minutes of cooking into a single minute.
- Again, do not cut into immediately! Unless you want to eat a piping hot buttery oaty mess – whilst this tastes amazing, it won’t be a flapjack if you don’t leave it to cool and harden.