How They Made It: British Flapjacks for Afternoon Tea
Welcome back to our occasional series, “How They Made It,” where we explore the food and drink of Outlander. This month we’re having British Flapjacks (oat bars made with golden syrup) for afternoon tea. Slainté!
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Across the pond, it means something else…
To an American ear, flapjacks are pancakes. These aren’t those. In the UK, flapjacks are oat bars made with golden syrup and are served as a snack. I imagined Roger sitting in his office at Oxford, having a flapjack with his afternoon tea while researching the history of the Frasers before calling Bree to tell her of the news of her parents. Or maybe Frank longed for them in Boston and had Claire bake up a batch (before she went to medical school, to be sure). Whatever the Outlander context, flapjacks are a true British treat.
You might be wondering why I decided to make something I’d never heard before. Okay, you might not be wondering that because I do that all the time in these “How They Made It” posts (just bear with me). I had a can of Lyle’s Golden Syrup in my cupboard that I bought at the New Hampshire Highland Games and Festival last year. I wanted to make Sticky Toffee Pudding, and this was a key ingredient that’s hard to find here in New England (in Old England, not so much). Well, that can had been sitting in my pantry for a while, so I went in search of recipes that used golden syrup, and that’s when I stumbled across British Flapjacks. Hmmm… these looked interesting…
So what exactly are they?
To my American palate, British flapjacks are kind of a cross between a granola bar and a Rice Krispy treat. And just like with granola bars, which and how much of each ingredient is used varies widely. For example, Lyle’s Golden Syrup’s Last-Word-In-Flapjacks are made with just porridge oats, butter, and golden syrup, while Erren’s Kitchen’s Classic British Flapjacks include brown sugar and vanilla in the mix. In the end I settled upon Smitten Kitchen’s recipe for flapjacks (yep, an American, but she’s a really trustworthy food blogger!).
Side note: If it’s granola you’re after, I have a delicious and versatile recipe for granola bark, also from Smitten Kitchen. This stuff is addicting though, so be warned.
More of an aside, really
Second side note: Did you notice the term porridge oats above? Just like when I found out in my bannocks battle, rolled oats in the UK vs. the US have different levels of coarseness. American old-fashioned oats are whole, while British oats are smaller and more akin to US quick-cooking oats. If you have old-fashioned oats in your cupboard, just pulse them in a food processor to cut them a little smaller. That will keep the flapjack texture just right.
Last side note (sheesh!): The term “flapjack” has been around since the 16th century, referring to a flat tart. I couldn’t find when they started containing golden syrup and transitioned to its current form, but Lyle’s didn’t start production until 1881. I didn’t want to assume that Jenny or Mrs. Fitz made this type of flapjack, so just to be safe I set them in the 20th century. If some kind soul knows the exact chronology, please enlighten us in the comments below. Thanks!
Time to get creative
Because I wanted to make sure they were done, I left my flapjacks in the oven a little too long. While they were deeply flavored, they weren’t as soft and sticky as I thought they’d be. Also, I decided that for this first time I’d keep them plain, but next time I think some dried cranberries, dried blueberries, and chocolate chunks will be in order (hello…a snack for Thanksgiving afternoon, perhaps?). Even though I used the golden syrup called for in the recipe, I’d love to try to make my next batch with pure maple syrup…that would put a decidedly New England spin on things!
In any case, British Flapjacks are certainly a treat I’ll be making again. You’ll probably find me munching on one while I re-watch the series as I wait for Droughtlander to be over. Gotta get in the spirit of things!
Do you have a favorite flapjack recipe? What do you like to mix in?
- food processor
- 8- × 8-inch baking pan
- small offset spatula
- serrated knife
- 2-1/3 cups rolled oats, quick-cooking or old-fashioned, see Recipe Notes (7¾ oz, 220g)
- ½ cup butter, salted or unsalted (4 oz, 113g)
- ½ cup brown sugar, light (3¾ oz, 105g)
- ¼ cup golden syrup, see Recipe Notes (3 oz, 85g)
- ¼ tsp sea salt, flaky
- Mix-ins as desired, optional, see Recipe Notes
- 2/3 cup chocolate chips, semi- or bittersweet, optional (4 oz, 113g)
- If you’re using American-style old-fashioned rolled oats, chop them in a food process to a medium coarseness (they’ll be closer to the texture you can find in the UK).
- Heat oven to 325°F (160°C). Line an 8- × 8-inch baking pan with parchment paper. Try to get all four sides covered so the bars don’t stick when you remove them…you’ll have to do a little bit of parchment-paper origami, but trust me, it’ll make things easier later.
- In a medium-sized pot, melt the butter with the brown sugar, golden syrup, and about 1/4 tsp of flaky sea salt (omit if using salted butter) over medium-high heat. Once bubbles form, simmer for one minute, then remove from heat.
- Stir in the oats and any desired mix-ins until the mixture is completely coated. Press into the pan in an even layer.
- Bake the bars for 20 to 25 minutes, until deeply golden at edges. The longer cooking time will yield a deeper flavored bar, but it won’t be quite as soft and sticky as with a shorter baking time.
- If you’d like to add a chocolate topping (and who wouldn’t?), let the bars rest in their pan on a cooling rack for 3 to 4 minutes before sprinkling the chips all over. Wait 5 minutes, then spread the melted chocolate in a even layer using a small offset spatula.
- Let the flapjacks cool completely, either at room temperature or in the refrigerator (especially if you added the chocolate chip layer).
- Use the parchment paper to slide them out of their pan onto a cutting board and cut them with a serrated knife into 16 squares or into 4 large ones, then cut those quarters diagonally to form 4 triangles.
- Store at room temperature in an airtight container at room temperature for up to a week (if they last that long!).
Discovering Outlander after Season 1 first aired, Tammy quickly went down the rabbit-hole on social media and podcasts and found a world of like-minded fans who not only tolerated her obsession, but encouraged the madness! She combined her Outlander-inspired interest for scotch whisky with her continuing passion for baking and storytelling in her blog, Scotch & Scones…Explorations in a glass and in the oven. Joining the staff of Outlander Cast as the resident baker has brought Tammy full circle, from a podcast fan to a contributing writer. You can follow her on Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest at @scotch_scones, and find her on Facebook at @scotchandsconesblog.