18 March 2010

slinging hash: british flapjacks

Until I saw this recipe — ignorant American! — I never knew flapjacks could refer to something other than pancakes. I have since learned that in the British sense, flapjacks are bar cookies. I prefer bar or roll cookies because they are not only easier to prepare, but are often made without leavening, which I find imparts a slight but noticeable chemical flavor.

And yet, as these contain brown sugar and golden syrup, I suspected I would find them too sweet. These objections were overruled because a friend raved about the recipe, from Molly Wizenberg, who I find has a near-unerring palate.

With the possible exception of golden syrup, making flapjacks requires only five ingredients, all pantry staples. Golden syrup, also known as light treacle, has a lovely, true, sweet flavor, and is not impossible to find in American markets. If you are British, or like me, prefer golden syrup to honey (which I'm not wild for; weird, I know), you've got everything you need.

I am glad I did not listen to myself, because these are delicious. Buttery and toothsome, they are like a decadent, sophisticated granola bar, and I would not at all be above serving them for breakfast in a pinch. An undercurrent of burnt sugar adds an appealing bitter edge, and in combination with the salt, keeps the sweetness in check.

What's even more remarkable, I have made them several times, and all my children still like them. With a house full of highly opinionated palates, a cookie that everyone agrees on is a rare thing indeed. Rarer still is that it takes almost no effort.

British Flapjacks  
adapted from Molly Wizenberg's recipe for Bon Appetit

The original recipe calls for quick cooking oats; I prefer old-fashioned, so rather than make a trip to the market, used them. The recipe also calls for a metal pan, and mine is glass. I suspect these changes account for the fact that my flapjacks come out very dense and chewy, as well as the difficulty I had removing them from the pan when cool. I've gotten around this by buttering the pan and lining it with buttered parchment paper, and utilizing my mandible. 

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces 
1/2 cup (packed) golden brown sugar (I sometimes use dark brown sugar, and like it equally well)
1/4 cup golden syrup
2 1/3 cups quick cooking or old-fashioned oats
Generous pinch of salt

Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter 8x8x2-inch metal baking pan. Line with buttered parchment paper.

Combine first 3 ingredients in heavy medium saucepan. Stir constantly over medium-low heat until butter melts, sugar dissolves, and mixture is smooth. Remove from heat. Add oats and salt; stir until coated. Transfer mixture to prepared pan, spread in an even layer, pressing lightly to compact a bit.
Bake until top is golden (edges will be darker), about 25 minutes. Cool in pan on rack 5 minutes. Cut into 4 squares; cut each into 4 triangles (mixture will still be soft). Cool completely in pan before serving.

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