Curiouser and Curiouser...

It should come as no surprise by now that my curiosity regarding new foods and ingredients is relatively boundless. If I could have infinite storage space in my kitchen, I would inevitable fill every corner of that infinite space with odds and ends of bottles, boxes, cans, and bags of ingredients that I purchased because I wanted to see what they would be like, but never used again past the initial recipe that sparked my curiosity. After all, not every experiment is a success, and even recipes that are successful, like the posole I made when we first moved into our new apartment, leave leftover specialty ingredients like dried chiles that have no immediately obvious alternate application.

Still, I remain undeterred. When I saw a recipe for a British dessert relatively unknown here in the U.S. called "flapjacks" (no, they have nothing to do with pancakes besides being flat), I was intrigued despite the fact that it called for Lyle's Golden Syrup. Golden syrup is a form of inverted sugar, similar to honey in appearance and its mild flavor profile, but more related to molasses in terms of how it is produced. It is a popular sweetener in the U.K., but to find it here you usually have to track it down at an import store, unless you live near an exceptionally well-stocked mega-mart.

I set out to find some so that I could give these alternative flapjacks a try, and my search eventually led me to Fox and Obel, purveyors of all things gourmet and obscure, and a dangerous place for my pocketbook if ever there was one. Of course, they carried it and I brought home a bottle (along with several other pricey items I didn't really need), but it lingered on the shelves of my pantry for a while before I finally had the time and inclination to try the recipe.

Last weekend, I was bitten by the baking bug, and had skimmed my Pinterest board in search of something new to scratch off my to-do list. Unfortunately for me, there seem to be a lot of layer cake ideas there, which was more than I wanted to tackle without a specific occasion in mind, and every single other recipe that caught my eye required some ingredient that I didn't have in the house. It was a Saturday and Justin had taken the car to work in the burbs at his part-time job, so I was stuck in the house with nothing to bake. I was especially bummed that we were low on oats after our experiment with pumpkin oatmeal last month, because the flapjack recipe was suddenly, and strongly calling to me.

Though it was getting late in the month, I still hadn't baked a cookie recipe yet for February and I wanted to stay somewhat on course in terms of fulfilling my New Year's resolution. Flapjacks are kind of like a bar cookie, though I think they have more in common with Rice Krispie treats, which I wouldn't exactly classify as a cookie. Still, it was close enough for me.

So tonight, while we were out doing our weekly grocery shopping, I tossed a canister of Quaker Oats in my cart, and I was in business. Thankfully, like Rice Krispie treats, flapjacks are so quick and simple to make that I was able to tackle them on the same night that we went grocery shopping, and still make it to bed on time. You have to love a dessert that can be made in less than an hour!

Convenience means nothing, however, if the result is lackluster. Thankfully, these humble bars more than delivered in the flavor department. In fact, they were astonishingly good! The brown sugar and golden syrup conspired to add complex, caramel notes to the flapjacks, while the oats gained a rich, toasty flavor from their time in the oven. Justin and I easily could have eaten the whole pan, but we limited ourselves to one a piece. 

Now my conundrum is this: do I include the flapjack in my cookie lineup later this year? They are certainly delicious and unusual enough to merit inclusion. But are they really a cookie? At least I have ten months to think about it, and in the meantime, I strongly suspect that flapjacks will be making another appearance or two in my kitchen to help me figure it out.

British Flapjacks
adapted from Bon Appétit

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces
1/2 cup (packed) golden brown sugar
1/4 cup golden syrup*
2 1/3 cups quick-cooking oats (not instant or old-fashioned)
Pinch of salt

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Butter 8x8x2-inch metal baking pan. Combine first 3 ingredients in heavy medium saucepan. Stir constantly over medium-low heat until butter melts, sugar dissolves, and mixture is smooth. Remove from heat. Add oats and salt; stir until coated. Transfer mixture to prepared pan and spread out in even layer.

Bake until top is golden (edges will be darker), about 25 minutes. Cool in pan on rack 5 minutes. Cut into 4 squares; cut each into 4 triangles (mixture will still be soft). Cool completely in pan before serving.

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