The Brits are responsible for copious inventions that have transformed modern life, including the reflecting telescope, television, stainless steel, hip replacements, military tanks, and the telephone.
Add granola bars to that list.
Long before Nature Valley and the Quaker oats man were selling their packaged snacks to the world, British home cooks were making the world’s first granola bars to pack into lunches and accompany afternoon tea.
They call them flapjacks.
In their simplest form, they comprise oats, butter, and golden syrup. It’s the kind of minimalism that granola bar manufacturers are longing to achieve with their new artisan- organic- natural -bars (for $2 per bar). But alas, even in the UK, the original version of the flapjack has been maligned by mass manufacturers who pump ready-to-eat versions full of additives, refined white flour and cheap choco bits.
My version is a back to basics version, with a US twist: a combination of honey and brown sugar in place of the golden syrup.
Let’s face it, most of us do not have a British import store at our disposal; moreover, the point of flapjacks is simple, wholesome eating with a handful of everyday ingredients.
Simply substituting honey for golden syrup, without the addition of sugar, does not work (unless honey-butter granola is your desired outcome). Combining sugar and honey into a syrup, however, works like a charm.
I also add some vanilla and salt to the mix. They may not be traditional , but who cares: the two add-ins elevate flapjacks from good to great with a mere squirt and sprinkle.
Finally, a word for those of us with British heritage: the next time someone maligns British cooking, feel free to insert (degree of force is an individual choice) a flapjack into the offender’s mouth (Note: a buttered scone will also suffice).
Here’s to British cooking, granola bars, and pack-able, portable eats!
- 2-1/4 cups rolled oats (quick or old-fashioned), divided
- ½ cup packed light brown sugar
- ½ cup honey, brown rice syrup or golden syrup
- ½ cup (1 stick)unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- Preheat oven to 350F. Line a 9-inch square baking pan with foil or parchment, leaving an overhang to remove the bars; lightly spray or grease the foil/paper.
- Pulse ¾ cup of the oats in a food processor until finely chopped but not powdery/flour.
- In a medium , heavy saucepan, combine the sugar and honey. Cook and stir over medium heat until mixture comes to a boil and and sugar is melted. Add the butter; cook and stir for 1 to 2 minutes longer until mixture is bubbling and begins to thicken slightly.
- Remove pan from heat and immediately stir in the salt, vanilla, ground oats and remaining oats until blended. Spoon and spread into prepared pan, tamping down firmly with back of spoon or spatula to compact the bars.
- Bake in the preheated oven for 20 to 24 minutes for more chewy flapjacks, 25 to 30 minutes for crispier flapjacks. Set on a wire rack and cool completely in pan set (the bars will firm up as they cool).
- Use paper/foil overhang to remove bars to a cutting surface. Cut into 16 bars, squares or triangles, whatever suits your fancy!
Vegan Variation: Use virgin coconut oil or a ½ cup stick of vegan margarine in place of the butter (do not use a margarine spread; it contains too much water in comparison to butter and the bars will not set up).