Thursday, September 8, 2011

British Flapjacks aka Chewy Granola Bars

I belong to a great group called a Time Trade Circle (Timebank). I think it originally started in Chicago, but there are groups all over the country now. It's sort like a bartering circle - a great local group where you can earn hours doing things for people and then you can spend the time you've earned to have people do things for you. But the genius thing is that you don't have to trade hours with the same person. So, for example, I can bake the bars in this post for person A and earn some hours and then spend the hours having person B paint my livingroom.

So far I've made baked goods, given a few manicures and helped someone organize their clutter to earn hours. I've spent my hours having someone do some heavy gardening for me, getting acupuncture, meeting with a nutritionist and even getting some stairs built off my back deck! There are people offering everything from general skills (drive car-less people to the grocery store, internet research) to really specific skills (bellydancing lessons(!), foreign language lessons). It's fantastic to get to meet new people, feel like you're helping your neighbors and then also to get services at no financial expense.

So, anyway, on to my chewy granola bars! This recipe were specifically requested from someone in the timebank but since I'd never made anything like it before I wanted to give them a test run. The recipe (from Bon Appétit) calls them British Flapjacks but to me a flapjack is a pancake, so I've just been calling these oat bars or chewy granola bars, which is what they remind me of. You could also easily add nuts, sunflower seeds, etc. to make them more like a trail bar and would just need to up the butter and golden syrup a little so they are moist enough (otherwise they come really dry and hard).

I'm glad a made a test run recipe because otherwise I never would have discovered that I absolutely LOVE British flapjacks! I've made them several times already over the last six weeks or so and eat them for breakfast, as a snack and even for dessert. They also keep for almost a full week so I bring some to work and leave in my desk for breakfast everyday. Easy!

I've made a couple of changes from the Bon Appétit recipe, so I'll list my ingredients and directions below. The recipe calls for using quick oats (not rolled/old fashioned) but quick oats don't have as much nutritional benefit so now I use a combination of both quick oats and old fashioned oats, I also add some oat bran for some additional fiber. I do like the finished texture of the quick oats better than the old fashioned oats, but I'm trying to be healthier so am opting for the higher fiber option of the mix. The other change I made is that I added cranberries and then switched from cranberries to raisins because the cranberries are sweetened themselves so it can be a little too much (raisins are also cheaper!). I get all four of those items in the bulk department at Whole Foods.

The only hard part, in terms of ingredients, is finding the golden syrup called for in the recipe. Golden syrup is a British syrup made from sugar, so it's not the same as corn syrup (which I believe to be horrible for your body and I try really hard to avoid). I used Lyle's Golden Syrup when I made Sticky Toffee Pudding back in February - so I knew it was sold around here - but for some reason had a harder time finding it than before. I finally found it at the second "regular" grocery store I tried (after not finding it at Whole Foods or Trader Joe's) and bought 6 jars of it...that's how serious I am about loving these oat bars!

A couple of other changes I might make in the future are to bake in a tart ring and then cut into "pie" slices and to add nuts and bake as a crumbled mix on a sheet pan and use as granola (serve as cereal with milk or with yogurt).

You can find the Bon Appétit recipe for British Flapjacks here; my changes are...

Chewy Granola Bars
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
1/2 cup packed (light or dark) brown sugar
1/4 cup Lyle's Golden Syrup
Pinch of salt
1 1/3 cups quick-cooking oats (not instant)
2/3 cup old-fashioned oats
1/3 cup oat bran
1/2 cup raisins or dried cranberries

Preheat oven to 350.

Put a piece of parchment into a square 8x8" pan (fold so it's 8" in one direction but hangs off edges in other direction - see my photo below). The original recipe calls for buttering the pan, but - if you use parchment - I found that it was unnecessary to butter even the non-parchment sides of the pan. You may need to loosen the non-parchment sides with a knife, but the parchment allows you to lift the whole thing right out and onto the cooling rack.

In a saucepan, heat the butter, brown sugar and golden syrup over medium heat until the butter melts. Continue cooking, stirring often, until the sugar melts (look for any granules on the back of a spoon). When sugar is dissolved, remove from heat and add the pinch of salt, stir. Add oats, oat bran and raisins and stir until all the oats are fully coated (a large, heat-resistant spatula helps here).

Scrape the mixture out of the saucepan into your prepared pan and then press firmly into the pan (you want to press hard enough so it stays in bar form once it's cooked). I found that tearing off a strip of parchment, placing that on the mixture and then using my hand was the best way to press it into the pan (especially the corners). Just be careful because it's hot! The mixture is pretty sticky at this point so using the back of a spoon doesn't work very well.

Bake at 350 for 25 minutes - don't overbake or it will start to dry out.

Cool in the pan for 5-10 minutes and then slice into 16 pieces (slice across and down and then slice each of those 4 squares from corner to corner so you end up with 16 small triangles). Let cool another 5-10 minute and then lift out of the pan using the parchment ends and let cool on a rack. Do not wait for it to completely cool before you cut it as it will be too hard when it cools.


mise en place

melt the butter, brown sugar and golden syrup

add the oats and cranberries, raisins or other additions

spread in the pan


press into the pan and bake

smells so good

tastes even better!

Bye for now...


  1. wow, these look better than the bars you can buy at the store!

    we have a portland timebank and i've thought about joining. thanks for reminding me to look in to it!

  2. Thanks, ECL! They are so easy too - definitely recommend trying them.

    Good luck with your local timebank - you'll love it!