the easiest flapjacks

In a world full of Instagramable baking, the humble flapjack can get a bit left behind. It has also been the subject of a lot of fiddling, ingredients wise, these last few years. There are so many sugar-free, gluten-free offerings around – some good, some grim. The older I get, the more I realise that with cake, it really is just better to make it properly and, if need be, have a smaller piece less often.

My mum was a big flapjack maker and still is. Since becoming a mum myself I can appreciate why she reached for the flapjacks when she needed to rustle up something sweet fast. The recipe is easy, it is pretty difficult to mess up and the measuring needn’t be that precise, unlike with other cakes. Flapjacks can be frozen and travel really well, making them perfect for picnics or packed lunches. In fact my mum’s flapjacks traveled to Everest when my dad and his friends hiked there – no packaged energy bars for them!

This recipe is based on hers, although she changes hers every time she makes it and is always cagey about writing it down. Use that as permission to freestyle a bit when you make it – as long as you have 400g or so of dry ingredients (rolled oats, puffed rice, nuts, seeds) and something sticky (syrup, honey, maple syrup) you can’t really go wrong. Add in chocolate chunks or chopped dried fruit (apricots, dates, figs, raisins) if you like.

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Ingredients (makes 16 flapjacks)

350g (4 cups) rolled oats – aka jumbo oats, not the fine powdery ones

50g (half a cup) nuts or seeds – I used sunflower seeds this time but pumpkin seeds, chopped nuts or pine nuts work. Or leave them out and just use 400g oats

160g (6 oz) salted butter – you could use coconut oil

4 heaped dessert spoons honey or golden syrup (golden syrup is hard to find in the US so use honey)

100g (half a cup) sugar – brown, golden or white works

A good pinch of sea salt

6 dates, finely chopped – you can use any dried fruit or chocolate chips

Optional – 30g (1 oz) dark chocolate to melt and drizzle

To make:

  1. Preheat the oven to 190°C (170°C fan) 375°F (340°F convection). Line a high sided tin, around 20x20cm (8×8 inches), with parchment. I scrunch the parchment into a ball first before flattening it and pushing it into the tin.
  2. Weigh the sugar, butter and syrup or honey into a large saucepan. If you hold your spoon under a boiling tap for a minute it will make it easier to scoop the honey or syrup. Pop the pan on a medium heat the slowly melt together while you weigh your dry ingredients.
  3. When the butter and sugar has melted, stir the dry ingredients (nuts or seeds, oats, salt and dried fruit) into the pan. Stir well until the oats are coated with the sticky liquid. The mixture will be like a thick porridge. If there is a lot of liquid left, add a few more oats.
  4. Pour the mixture into the lined tin and really push down so that it is compact and all the way into the corners.
  5. Bake for 20 minutes until golden brown at the edges. It will have the slightest quiver in the middle. It will firm up as it cools and the butter sets. Leave to cool in the tin until it is totally set and cool.
  6. Lift the paper out of the tin. Drizzle with melted chocolate if you’d like.
  7. Cut into 16 pieces. Store in an airtight container or freeze in a bag.