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Flapjack fraternity

Flapjack fraternity
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First Published: Fri, Aug 19 2011. 01 10 AM IST

Child’s play: (from left) Flapjacks get their characteristic colour from the golden syrup; bake for 25 minutes and they get chewy; and 5 minutes longer makes them crisp. Pradeep Gaur/Mint
Child’s play: (from left) Flapjacks get their characteristic colour from the golden syrup; bake for 25 minutes and they get chewy; and 5 minutes longer makes them crisp. Pradeep Gaur/Mint
Updated: Fri, Aug 19 2011. 09 47 PM IST
Let’s be clear: Flapjacks are never going to be the Next Big Thing. Unlike, say, the macaroon, no one has ever gasped in childlike wonder at the sight of a perfect flapjack, no one has queued round the block for the latest flavour, and no pastry chef has yet made a million opening a flapjack concession in Harrods.
But still, in baking, everything has its place. Flapjack’s place is as a no-frills, sugary, buttery treat, something which can be rustled up in the time between friends calling to say they’re on their way and the knock at the door. Flapjacks are also, as I found last weekend, excellent for cake-loving but strict vegetarian households.
I’m often stumped when it comes to baking for people who don’t eat eggs as so many cakes, biscuits and pies rely heavily on them for texture. I invariably resort to giving flowers instead but for an Independence Day outing I wanted to make something for an Old Delhi vegetarian family that has recently shown me an enormous amount of hospitality (and fed me heaps of pakoras).
The flapjacks seemed to hit the spot so I’ve decided, for the next few columns, to devote myself to broadening my egg-free repertoire.
First up, flapjacks: the traditional British cake/biscuit with a wholesome, oaty image whose real appeal is the combination of butter, sugar and golden syrup.
Child’s play: (from left) Flapjacks get their characteristic colour from the golden syrup; bake for 25 minutes and they get chewy; and 5 minutes longer makes them crisp. Pradeep Gaur/Mint
Making flapjacks is child’s play—in fact, most British children learn to make them at school. The macaroon world might get itself into a tizzy over the ageing of egg whites, how to achieve the frilly “feet” and whether shrimp and rose-petal flavour can ever really be acceptable, but the only debate in the flapjack fraternity is whether to go crispy or chewy. My family prefers them chewy, which involves cooking at a lower temperature. For a crispier version, simply turn up the heat. I wonder if French pastry chef Pierre Hermé sometimes wishes life were that simple?
I think, on balance, the best flapjack is an unadulterated one, but in a moment of weakness, while contemplating the devastating end of the mango season, I decided to throw in a few pieces of dried mango. I’m not sure they needed it but it might be something to bear in mind if mango-withdrawal symptoms become too much to handle.
Flapjacks
Makes 16
Ingredients
150g salted butter
110g golden syrup (about 5-6 tbsp). I prefer Lyle’s, partly for the nostalgia of the old-fashioned green-gold tin that I grew up with and partly because it’s thicker and less sickly sweet than Solar 50g sugar—proper, unrefined demerara is my choice but at all costs avoid the “brown sugar” that is really just white sugar with brown colouring 225g porridge oats 100g dried mango (aam papad), chopped into 1cm pieces (optional, and you could also try raisins or dried apricot)
Method
Turn on the oven to 190 degrees Celsius if you want crispy flapjacks, 150 degrees Celsius if you prefer chewy.
Grease a 20x20cm baking tin and line with baking paper.
In a heavy pan, measure out the butter, syrup and sugar. Heat until the sugar has dissolved. Stir in the oats and mango (if using) until completely coated with the butter, syrup, sugar mixture.
Tip the mixture into the lined tin and spread out evenly, pressing down slightly. Bake for about 25 minutes for chewy flapjack, 30 for the crispy one. They should be golden brown on top. Leave the flapjacks to cool slightly, then cut into 16 squares before leaving to cool completely in the tin.
Pamela Timms is a Delhi-based journalist and food writer. She blogs at http://eatanddust.wordpress.com
Write to Pamela at pieceofcake@livemint.com
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First Published: Fri, Aug 19 2011. 01 10 AM IST