No one said flapjacks were sophisticated – but when you want something quick and comforting, they always hit the spot.
If you’ve ever found yourself making fish fingers and baked beans for dinner at the end of a long week, you’ll know there can be something intensely calming about returning to the simple meals you ate in primary school. Your go-to dish for a quick and easy nostalgia hit might be different: it could be chicken nuggets and chips, chocolate cornflake cakes or rice and peas. The only condition is that it must be extremely easy to make – and defiantly, deliciously unsophisticated.
Flapjacks fall into this category. They’re not fancy, but they can be deliciously comforting when done right: soft, chewy, syrupy-but-not-sickly oaty squares of the kind you’d buy at a school bake sale. Crucially, there’s something functional about a flapjack. It’s not an elegant dessert, so much as a sturdy snack you can wrap in tinfoil and stick in your coat pocket to accompany you on a blustery walk, or turn to at 3pm when you’re in desperate need of something sweet with your cup of tea.
Below, you’ll find three easy flapjack recipes perfectly suited to those times when you want something sweet and simple. Start with the traditional basic flapjack recipe, which at its most straightforward features little more than rolled oats, butter, golden syrup, soft brown sugar and a pinch of sea salt. Then move onto the two vegan recipes, both of which combine flapjacks with other classic English bakes: namely, bakewell tarts and carrot cake. Your inner 6-year-old will thank you.
Makes 8-10 bars
- 220g rolled oats or spelt flakes
- 100g butter
- 100g golden syrup, maple syrup or honey
- 50g soft brown sugar
- pinch of sea salt
- butter, for greasing
- flour, for dusting
- chocolate chips (optional)
Preheat your oven to 160°C and prepare a 20cm square cake tin.
Put the oats in a blender and blitz for 3 seconds (skip this step if you are using fine rolled oats). Melt the butter in a saucepan over low heat (make sure it does not bubble). Add the golden syrup, sugar and salt and stir until the sugar has dissolved. Remove from the heat and add the oats or spelt flakes, plus any other optional ingredients, and stir well.
Firmly press the mixture into the tin so the top is even. Bake in the middle of the oven for 20–30 minutes.
For a chocolate topping, add the chocolate chips as soon as the flapjacks come out of the oven. Once they have melted, use a spatula to spread the chocolate.
Leave the flapjacks to cool in the tin for 15 minutes. Using the baking paper, carefully lift the flapjack out of the tin and cut it into bars or squares.
Add a handful of chocolate chips, chopped pecans, cranberries, dried blueberries, dried apricots or currants, or replace the oats or spelt flakes with your favourite muesli.
From Oats in the North, Wheat from the South: The History Of British Baking by Regula Ysewijn (£21.99, Murdoch Books), out now
Bakewell tart flapjack
Makes 8 squares
- 4 tbsp sunflower oil
- 4 rounded tbsp golden syrup
- 1/2 tsp good-quality almond extract
- 200g rolled oats
- 2 rounded tbsp flaked almonds, plus extra for topping
- 1 tbsp glacé cherries, roughly chopped
- 2 tbsp cherry jam
Preheat the oven to 200°C/gas mark 6 and line a small baking tray (30x20cm) with baking parchment.
In a large bowl, stir together the oil, syrup and almond extract until combined.
Stir in the oats, almonds and glacé cherries and mix until coated in the syrup mixture.
Press half of the mixture into the baking tray, smoothing it with a spatula. Spoon over the cherry jam and distribute evenly. Press the remaining half of the oat mix over the jam and smooth with a spatula.
Bake in the oven for 15 minutes, then carefully remove the tray from the oven. Press on the extra flaked almonds using the back of a spoon, then return to the oven for 5 minutes until the almonds appear lightly toasted.
Remove from the oven and allow to cool before slicing into squares.
Don’t worry if the flapjacks don’t appear ‘set’ when first removed from the oven, they will become firmer and chewier as they cool down.
They will keep for up to 4 days when stored in a sealed container.
From Easy Vegan Bible by Katy Beskow (£22, Quadrille), out now
Carrot cake flapjacks
Makes about 8 squares
- 4 tbsp sunflower oil
- 4 rounded tbsp golden syrup
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1⁄2 tsp ground nutmeg
- 150g rolled oats
- 1 tbsp raisins
- 1 tbsp chopped walnuts
- 1 carrot, roughly grated
Preheat the oven to 200°C/gas mark 6.
Line a 30 x 20cm baking tray that’s 3cm deep with baking paper.
In a large mixing bowl, mix together the sunflower oil, golden syrup, cinnamon and nutmeg until combined.
Tip in the oats, raisins and walnuts, and stir vigorously to coat in the syrup mixture, then stir through the carrot.
Press the mixture into the prepared baking tray, using the back of a spoon to smooth the top. Bake for 12 minutes, then allow to cool in the tin before slicing into even squares. The flapjacks will become firmer and chewy when cool.
From 15 Minute Vegan: Comfort Food by Katy Beskow (£15, Quadrille), out now
Photography: © Luke Albert; Regula Ysewijn; © Dan Jones