In Britain the flapjack is a sweet and soft (although some would argue that they’re supposed to be crunchy), baked bar made from oats, butter, sugar and honey. In America, the nearest equivalent would be referred to as a ‘granola bar’, whilst a flapjack is a relatively thick pancake made from a basic batter that includes a raising agent (baking powder).
The British flapjack can be something very basic, humble, simple. And it’s often best when it is. Flapjacks are extremely straight-forward to make at home, and are one of those things that absolutely always taste better that way (it’s about both texture and flavour). But people do like to mess with them too, and although I’ve never been convinced by chocolate or yoghurt coatings, I’m definitely a fan of flinging fruit, nuts and seeds into the mix.
I am also a little baffled by their reputation for being healthy. Of course, with oats as a significant ingredient it’s possible to see where this is coming from, but it does tend to ignore the amount of butter, sugar and honey that’s in even the most basic home-made variety (and which of course makes them taste so wonderful). Perhaps wholesome would be a more apt description, still allowing you to feel good about eating them. You just probably shouldn’t have too many!
Flapjacks are – to me – one of the ultimate comfort foods: sweet, sticky, filling. Comforting. I have two favourite ways to eat them. One is curled-up with a good book and a mug of something hot. The other is on a long wintery walk, when I’m wrapped-up warmly against the cold weather, and in need of something sustaining. Perfect!
Recipe: Fruit and Nut Flapjacks
4 ½ oz unsalted butter
3 ½ oz brown sugar*
4 ½ oz crunchy peanut butter (no-sugar-added)
Zest of 1 lemon (preferably organic and unwaxed)
200g porridge oats
150g mixed seeds (I used pumpkin and sunflower seeds)
* There really is a lot of room to play around with flapjacks, so feel free to make them your own! I used 100g of fresh honey dates which are incredibly sweet and very gooey. If you’re using less sweet fruit then you might prefer to increase the amount of sugar to 4 ½ oz, and also add a bit more honey (which will make it more sticky as well).
Pre-heat the oven to 325°F / 170°C / Gas Mark 3.
Line a 20cm (8 inch) square baking tin.
Put the butter, sugar, peanut butter, honey and lemon zest in a deep pan over a very low heat. Leave until melted, stirring from time to time.
Stir the oats, dates and ¾ of the seeds into the melted mixture until thoroughly combined. Spread the mixture evenly in the baking tin, smoothing the top as you go. Scatter the remaining seeds over the surface. Place in the pre-heated oven and bake for about 30 minutes, until golden in the centre and slightly brown at the edges.
Leave to cool completely in the tin, then turn out and cut into squares with a sharp knife.
The flapjacks will keep for up to a week in an airtight container.
[Adapted from a recipe in Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s River Cottage: Everyday]