Sunday, October 25, 2015

Simply: flapjack!

Simplicity.  In a way the synonym of perfection – an equilibrium of just enough of what you need, yet without even a smidgen of excess.  Elegant, refined and complete; and yet not burdensome, tiring or overwhelming.  Simplicity is seemingly so easy, logical and self-explanatory.  Yet often extremely difficult to achieve – not to mention master.  

The paradox is as follows.  On the one hand, it is very difficult to achieve something that is simple, yet refined and sophisticated.  Something that says it all and that makes sense once you say it, watch it, sing it, paint it, show it, eat it etc.  You run the risk of overdoing it, because you have so much to say and you want to do things "properly" - so you lose sight of keeping it simple.  On the other hand, once you get there - it seems so obvious.  Why haven't I thought of this before?  It all makes sense and yet is so simple!  How could I not have seen it from the start?

I am still learning the art of simplification.  Somehow it does not fit with my character; I can most certainly appreciate it, but it does not come naturally to me.  When painting, cooking, writing etc. I always want a maximum of emotions, colors, flavors, adjectives, sensations.  I instinctively want to submerge the recipients in a pallet of experiences and dazzle them, I want to cover all possible routes, I don’t want to be forced into making choices.  

I am not saying my instinctive baroque-ness is bad: it has its good sides for sure, and I don’t intend to fight it.  But sometimes it pays to make choices and go for simple solutions. It is soothing and makes you feel light.  By nature, I am a mixture of an artistic, romantic soul and a reasonable, logical thinker who likes order and maths - so I often crave simplicity and embrace it to the best of my abilities.

Simple recipes are great.  Not only are they easy and quick, allowing you to save time and energy.  They also tend to produce really good food, where a particular flavor, texture or quality is very pronounced - because it is not "disturbed" by other flavors, textures or qualities.  There is no distraction; it's clean, pure and simple.  

Often this concerns recipes for "classics".  New York-style cheesecake - plain and simple, no added toppings, fillings or sauces.  Basic brownies - all-time favorite, no fuss.  Doesn't that sound better than triple-caramel cheesecake with a brownie base, meringue top, vanilla cookie filling, and raspberry-cream sauce? (just writing about it makes me feel nauseated).

Flapjack recipes are a perfect example of simplicity.  A small number of ingredients, very easy prep, no need for special equipment, skills or a lot of time, no fuss.  Yet the end result is fantastic.  A chewy and moist bar, with this earthy oats-flavor, spicy sweetness of golden syrup, buttery lusciousness and incredible richness of dried fruit and nuts.  Very nutritious - but don't get fooled: this is not a fitness bar!  Flapjacks may be packed with vitamins and nutrients, but for sure are equally packed with calories!

The simplicity of the recipe does not mean you're bound by constrains and have to stick to certain flavors.  The possibilities are endless when it comes to choosing what you add: almonds, pistachios, walnuts, hazelnuts, sesame, coconut, raisins, currents, figs, plums, apricots, orange peel, cranberries, chocolate (dark, milk or white - chopped inside or melted and drizzled on top).  Pick whichever ingredients you like and add to the basic recipe, for a customized flapjack.  Of course you can choose all of the above, but we'd be seriously drifting away from the concept of simplicity praised by me in this post - so please don't...


INGREDIENTS (8 flapjacks):
  • 300 g oats
  • 110 g cane sugar
  • 120 g butter
  • 75 ml golden syrupu 
  • 90 g (chopped) dried fruit or nuts of choice (I used cranberries and almonds 50:50)
  • 100 g of dark chocolate, melted au bain-marie (optional)
  • Melt he butter, sugar and golden syrup over low heat.  Don't let this come to a boil.
  • Mix the oats and dried fruit/nuts in a bowl.  Add the butter mixture and stir thoroughly (if you wish with your hands).
  • Line a baking tin with parchment paper (I used a round tin, 24cm in diameter; you could also use a square one 20cm x 20cm).
  • Put the oats mixture in the tin and press firmly with a spoon, evening it out and making sure it's packed tightly.
  • Bake in a pre-heated oven at 180ºC for about 25 minutes.
  • Remove from oven and slice when still hot.  Let cool; decorate with melted chocolate if using.
Recipe adapted from Dorotus' blog: Moje Wypieki.

Bon appetit!

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