One of the things I obsessively collect in my cooking life — aside, apparently, from container lids with no bases and jars of mustard seeds because every time a recipe requires it I presume I’m out because of that one time in 2010 I was — is recipes with very short ingredient lists. It’s not revolutionary to learn that, say, a salad can be made with just lettuce, oil, and vinegar or to find tomato bread, or basil pesto on these lists, but Marcella Hazan’s 3-ingredient tomato sauce is indeed something pretty revelatory, especially when you’re short on time to go to the store or merely patience to cook. So is this Minimalist Barbecue Sauce, Bacon Corn Hash, this summer squash pizza topping that could convert anyone to zucchini, and if does not, this Quick Zucchini Sauté will, the omelet that’s basically Spain’s national dish (and mine), and let us never forget all of the magical things that happen when you let fresh raspberries, brown sugar, and sour cream blister under a broiler, or roast a sweet potato until it almost candies itself inside. It’s not fully populated (I keep finding things I’ve missed and taking liberties when the 6th ingredient is butter or olive oil) but I finally got to pulling together a few of my favorites in this collection this summer. Life is busy; it’s here to help.
Despite all of this, I am a deeply contradictory person. While I assure you that these recipes don’t require any more ingredients than listed to fulfill their delicious destinies, if you were to try to tell me about a recipe with a set number of ingredients, I’d immediately bristle at the limitation. “What was the 6th one? Maybe I have it! I really don’t mind taking it out!”
Regardless, today’s recipe is a long-overdue entry into the high reward for low ingredient count category. Stateside, confusingly, flapjacks mean pancakes but in UK, flapjacks are something completely different, a tray-baked, soft-centered, chewy, crunchy-edged caramel-scented bar made only with oats, golden syrup, brown sugar, and butter*. If they are not already, we need these in our lives. They’re considered the quintessential teatime treat; alas, I don’t have a whole lot of teatime in my life but I do have hangry schoolkids that require nut-free snacks and that these are also gluten-free and ridiculously quick to make (you’ll memorize the recipe after the first time you make them) means that they’ve been on repeat here since the school year began.
“But Deb, flapjacks have only 4 ingredients. What’s the 5th? I might have it!”
Fair enough. I added chocolate. Does it *need* chocolate? For once, I’m totally torn; they’re outstanding either way.
* Although if Queen Mary Berry said marg-reen was okay in 1974, who am I to argue?
One year ago: Tomato Bread + A Bit About [Last Year’s] Trip to Spain
Two years ago: Plum Squares with Marzipan Crumble and Piri Piri Chicken
Three years ago: Corn Chowder Salad and Caponata
Four years ago: Corn Cheddar and Scallion Strata and Chocolate and Toasted Hazelnut Milk
Five years ago: Buttescotch Pudding Popsicles, Pink Lemonade Popsicles and Zucchini Parmesan Crisps
Six years ago: Vanilla Custards with Roasted Blueberries and Baked Orzo with Eggplant and Mozzarella
Seven years ago: Peach Butter and Roasted Eggplant with Tomatoes and Mint
Eight years ago: How to Use a Kitchen Scale, Peach Shortbread and Grape Focaccia with Rosemary
Nine years ago: Espresso Chiffon Cake with Fudge Frosting, Grilled Eggplant and Olive Pizza and Peach Cupcakes with Brown Sugar Frosting
Ten years ago: Kefta and Zucchini Kebabs, Dimply Plum Cake and Crisp Rosemary Flatbread
Eleven years ago: Hoisin Barbecue Sauce and Layered Lemon Cake
And for the other side of the world:
Six Months Ago: Luxe Butterscotch Pudding
1.5 Years Ago: Butterscotch Pie
2.5 Years Ago: White Russian, Everyday Meatballs and Roasted Yams and Chickpeas with Yogurt
3.5 Years Ago: Spaghetti Pangrattato with Fried Eggs and The ‘I Want Chocolate Cake’ Cake
4.5 Years Ago: Morning Bread Pudding with Salted Caramel and Kale and Quinoa Salad with Ricotta Salata
I found that quick-cooking oats (1-minute, not instant) work best here, holding the bars together better than old-fashioned rolled oats did. If you only have them, pulse them a couple times in a food processor to chop them down a little. Instant oats made the bars too tightly packed for my tastes. If you’re serving these to anyone with gluten sensitivities, make sure the oats are labeled gluten-free.
The base recipe here is, I think, lovely — simple, rich, sweet but somehow not excessively so for a treat, and definitely syrupy, a term that makes absolute sense once you bite in. They smell like caramel as they bake. Still, you could tweak the flavors more ways than I could list on two internets. Here are a few to get you started: replacing 1/4 of the oats with an equal weight of dried coconut, adding finely grated lemon zest, ground or candied ginger, ground cinnamon, dried fruit such as dates or figs, or even adding chocolate chunks. The only thing to consider is that the single biggest complaint I read in reviews of other flapjack recipes (but didn’t experience in a way I found problematic) is that the bars are crumbly (which, of course, with so little holding them together) and imagine that adding more chunky ingredients would further this.
- 1/2 cup (115 grams) salted or unsalted butter
- 1/2 cup (95 grams) light brown sugar
- 1/4 cup (85 grams) golden syrup or honey or maple syrup (see Note)
- 2 1/3 cups (about 220 grams) quick-cooking (1-minute) oats (see Note)
- Flaky sea salt
- 2/3 cup (115 grams) semi- or bittersweet chocolate chips (optional)
If you’d like to add chocolate, let them rest in their pan on a cooling rack for 3 to 4 minutes before sprinkling the chips all over, then waiting 5 minutes before spreading them in a single layer.
You can cool the flapjacks at room temperature but it goes faster (especially setting the chocolate) in the fridge. However, flapjacks taste best at room temperature, where they’re still stretchy and tender, so you want to keep them in an airtight container at room temperature. They keep for a week.
Every flapjack recipe on the internet tells you to cut them while they’re still warm or it’s too difficult later but I found them messy to cut while warm and really easy to cut cleanly once cool with a sharp, serrated knife, so I’m going to suggest you cut them once they’re fully cool. Use the parchment paper to slide them out of their pan onto a cutting board and cut them into 16 squares or into 4 large ones, then cut quarter diagonally to form 4 triangles.