Lick your lips in sugary joy ladies and gentleman, because this here blog post is my Ode to The Flapjack.
Now, they come in all shapes, sizes and flavours and – depending where you go and what your taste is – they can have a multitude of muesli-flavours, added fruit and chocolate goodness.
For the Americans amongst you: just to clarify that UK citizens call the granola/muesli/cereal bar a flapjack. But, as you will discover below, the “flapjack” has more to it than a name. Flapjacks, my fellow cake consumers, are a wondrous creation of unique, moist naughtiness dripping in both British history and golden syrup.
In fact, the flapjack was first called such in the 17th century, back when it used to be a pancake or tart cooked in a flat tin. Back when we still lived in mud huts, King James IV of Scotland reigned and Guy Fawkes failed to blow up the British parliament with some gunpowder.
Today, of course, the British flapjack has morphed – in its perfect form (as far as I’m concerned) – into a semi-solid, moist, butter-filled, chunky rectangular cake crammed with melt-in-your-mouth, golden syrup-laced whole oats with a dribble of maple too.
Some charlatans believe the flapjack should be crunchy or squeezed into a solid mass so hard your teeth can’t bite into it. Some cookie amateurs take the biscuit by believing the flapjack should be burnt! And some ill-educated, do-gooder bakers even go so far as to think the flapjack should be cooked using “healthy” pumpkin seeds, slabs of apricot, sunflower seeds, the rind of oranges and baked with olive oil.
Flapjacks taste good when they’re bad [for you].
But, hey, there’s real rolled oats in there, so flapjacks aren’t that bad. At least, that’s what I tell myself every time I bite into a new flapjack favourite. And, trust me, I’ve eaten a lot of different flapjacks all over the world. In fact, I would go so far as to call myself a flapjack connosieur.
You know, there appears to be some debate as to whether – in its basic form – the flapjack originated from the Middle East. But, as Shakespeare loved his flapjacks so much he mentioned them in his 1607 Jacobean play Pericles, Prince of Tyre, I prefer to think the beautiful scrumminess of the flapjack started out in the UK.
Because, if Shakespeare could write something like “Come, thou shant go home, and we’ll have flesh for holidays, fish for fasting-days, and moreo’er puddings and flap-jacks, and thou shalt be welcome” in Act II Scene I of Pericles, then my favourite cake must be British.
And if it is British – and if you know anything about British people – you’ll understand we prefer things to be kept simple and traditional. We may have the weight of history behind us, but that doesn’t mean we want you to complicate our heart-warmingly, lovely flapjacks with chocolate toppings, toffee chunks, yoghurt and raspberry innerds, sultana yuckiness or pomegranate ponciness.
Absolutely not! A flapjack needs a mixture of rolled oats (jumbo whole ones are best), butter, brown sugar, golden and/or maple syrup AND THAT’S IT. Nothing more. Don’t add flour. Don’t add cinnamon. Don’t even think about cooking them in a circular tin. Okay? Step. Away. From. The. Flapjacks.
Now all you have to do – once mixed together – is flatten the ingredients out into a baking tin and slam it in the oven at 150C / 300F for NO MORE than 25 minutes. If you cook it for the right amount of time it should go past stodgy and move into mouth-dribblingly soft territory of a fall-apart, warm and moist flapjack bursting with throat-coating maple syrup flavour.
Follow the recipe at the end of this article for perfect flapjacks.
Please do try the maple flapjacks in cafe chain Coffee#1. They are ah-mazing! Possibly the closest I’ve come to flapjack-perfection in a long time. Please do NOT eat the packets of cheap Tesco “flapjack” chunks. These are horrible slabs of butter disguised as cake.
And so, now, fellow flapjackers, after all that advice and mouth-watering oaty love, you must hence go forth and revel in the beautiful bakery-yumminess of a cake invented over 400 years ago. But one still lining the stomachs of us all (especially me!) today and giving us well-earned brown sugar highs.
I ♥ Flapjacks.