When I was back in Scotland this summer I rediscovered several things I had completely forgotten about. One of these things was, oh joy, Flapjacks.
Flapjacks are not, as in the US, pancakes, but rather a gooey cereal bar consisting mostly of butter and golden syrup and oats, cut into squares and served almost anywhere you can get a cup of coffee or tea. They might have stuff in them (dried fruit, nuts, chocolate, lemon, spices, anything you can imagine, really) or they might have stuff drizzled on top (icing, chocolate, sticky stuff of all descriptions), or they might come gratuitously naked (it is Europe, after all). In any form however – as long as the baker has included the right amount of gooeyness – they are universally delicious.
Since we’ve been back I’ve fallen into the trap of buying bags of factory-made, individually-portioned, never-go-stale snacks for the boys. This, in spite of the fact that I love to cook, I prefer to feed them real food 1, I don’t like to encourage the deforestation of the rainforest 2, I like to be frugal where I can 3, and I have major guilt about waste 4.
So, thanks to the magic of the Internet I was able to find a few recipes for UK-style flapjacks to set me on the right path. I made a trial batch. The boys’ eyes spun around in their heads several times and I had to hide the rest of the batch (in the freezer, in case you’re coming over), which I took to mean that they wouldn’t mind finding these tucked into their lunch boxes from time to time. So I made another batch today while waiting in for a dishwasher repair man who, it turns out, isn’t coming. Again. 5
And, because I know you’ll ask, here’s today’s version.
(It is very caramel-y, not overpoweringly sweet6.)
JULIE’S DATE FLAPJACKS
- 4 oz butter (I like salted)
- 1/2 cup soft brown sugar
- 3 tablespoons Golden Syrup (can be hard to find in the US, but makes all the difference to the taste)
- 1 3/4 cups Old-fashioned/Rolled oats
- 1/3 cup chopped dried dates (taster’s note: you could definitely use more if you really like dates)
1. Preheat oven to 300 F. Line a 7×9 or 8×10 pan with baking parchment and butter (you can go more eco-friendly by avoiding the parchment, but you’ll have to butter the pan generously and it might be a bit more difficult to get the flapjacks out). I used a ceramic pan and the edges did not burn.
2. Melt the butter, sugar and syrup in a pan or in a large bowl in the microwave, being careful not to burn.
3. Stir in the oats and the dates until coated with the buttery mixture. You can add spices at this point if you wish. I know how much you Americans love your cinnamon…
4. Slop the whole lot into the prepared dish, flatten it out, and bake for 30 minutes. Cooking time may have to be adjusted if you are a, using a smaller pan; b, using a metal pan – watch out for charred edges. You’ll know the flapjacks are ready when the oats look toasty, there is no evidence of bubbling liquid at the edges and your house starts to smell so good that the squirrels are tapping impatiently on the windows.
5. Pull out of the oven and allow to cool slowly. When it is still slightly warm and soft, pull the whole thing out onto a chopping board. Slice the big flapjack into 12 little square flapjacks and allow to cool the rest of the way.
You can store these in the freezer and they’ll last quite a long time. A frozen flapjack, pulled out and tucked into a lunchbox, should be perfect for eating at lunch or snack time. And honestly, if you have strong teeth, you can treat yourself to one with just a few minutes notice…
NOTES FOR THE ECO-FRIENDLY
I’m currently using cling film/plastic wrap to wrap them, but will soon be investing in some Wrap-n-Mat pouches to hold them (I already like their sandwich wrappers but only 50% of my children will eat sandwiches…)
NOTES FOR THE FRUGAL
Convenience food is so pervasive where I live that I think people lose confidence in their ability to make something delicious without setting aside great amounts of time or effort. I also think people lose sight of how much money you can save with a little effort. These flapjacks are an awesome illustration of both these issues. The prep work takes almost no time. They bake quickly and it’s hard to screw them up, unless you put too little mix in too big a pan and end up with paving stones, instead of flapjacks. But you have to try pretty hard to get them wrong.
In terms of cost, I worked it out for you. Even allowing for the exotic Golden Syrup (which was far and away the most expensive single item, but which will last through 21 batches of these babies), these flapjacks came out to $0.17 per serving (assuming you can eat only one at a time and call that a serving). My little pre-packaged snack packs cost $0.50 each.
If I served a snack like this to both of my children every day for a year, the pre-packaged snacks would cost me $365. The home-made snack would cost me $124.
Holey moley. Quite apart from the fact that I just blew hundreds of dollars on snacks for the boys alone (ha!), at least the home-made version saves me $241 7
So go forth: cook good food for your little ones … and treat yourself to something nice with the savings ;)
- I’m a huge fan of Michael Pollan, Delia Smith and Jamie Oliver. And just look at the list of ingredients in this 100-calorie pack of Keebler’s Right Bite Cookies: ENRICHED FLOUR (WHEAT FLOUR, NIACIN, REDUCED IRON, THIAMIN MONONITRATE VITAMIN B1, RIBOFLAVIN VITAMIN B2, FOLIC ACID), SUGAR, SOYBEAN AND PALM OIL WITH TBHQ FOR FRESHNESS, CORNSTARCH, BUTTER (CREAM, SALT), CONTAINS TWO PERCENT OR LESS OF WHEY, SALT, NATURAL BUTTER FLAVOR, SOY LECITHIN, BAKING SODA, DATEM, DISTILLED MONOGLYCERIDES. ↩
- Thank you, cute Lego exhibit at the Philly Zoo a couple of years ago, for ruining Oreos for me, forever – or until someone can convince Nabisco to stop using Palm Oil ↩
- More money for gadgets! ↩
- Six packets generate one cardboard box and six foil packets worth of waste. If I were any kind of mathematician (and if it weren’t trash day) I’d break down one of those boxes and some of those packages and give you measurements and area and volume. But you get the picture. ↩
- His loss. He’d have got a flapjack if he had turned up. I, however, can hand-wash dishes for the rest of my life with no such suffering ↩
- And yes, I did fall off the low-carb wagon, thanks for noticing ↩
- Or as I like to think of it, the first half of an iPhone 5… ↩