Hello again Koala fans!
It’s finally good to be baking again, although this was something of a last minute job.
Every so often, I travel to some wild and exotic part of the UK to meet up with some of my friends. However, as we didn’t have anywhere wild, exotic or interesting available to us, we had to make do with Newcastle. It’s not my first visit to that neck of the woods, although it is the first time I’ve been there with the Koalas.
We had persuaded a local pub to loan us a room for the day, on the condition that we bought our food and drink from there. Although I couldn’t bake anything for the Saturday, there wasn’t anything preventing me from bringing something for the following day however. The last time I went to one of these meet-ups, I baked a raspberry and white chocolate cake for all of us. It went down well but I worried constantly about the cake collapsing on the way up. I was also going to be sorely pressed for time: I literally had one evening to make something before I had to leave for London at the crack of dawn the next day.
There were two contenders: cherry flapjacks and blondies. A blondie is essentially a brownie without the cocoa and a little additional white chocolate. In the end the flapjacks won but I will definitely be making some blondies in the not too distant future.
This week’s recipe came from a new addition to my baking library, a book so amazing and unique that I’ve completely forgotten the title. The recipe itself is a fairly typical flapjack recipe:
2 tbsp of golden syrup
50g of dark brown sugar
180g rolled oats
As much fruit / chocolate / etc as you care to add
One thing I’ve always worried about in my cooking is folks with nut allergies. Several years of first aid courses (plus working in a hospital) has made it very clear that allergic reactions are not something to be treated dismissively. As such, there’s always that nagging worry at the back of mind; “If my friend eats this delicious home-baked flapjack will they a) be absolutely fine b) be unwell and need a trip to hospital or c) undergo explosive decompression?”
Fortunately, my friends and colleagues are, for the most part, sensible people and the only minor concern with the flapjacks came from the cherries I used. The recipe called for glacee cherries and mixed fruit. I’ve always felt a little uncomfortable about mixing things like raisins into stuff like biscuits and flapjacks – it just feels like I’m making a bowl of muesli, letting it solidify and passing it off as baking. However, I didn’t want to have just the glacee cherries on their own. As you may have gathered from previous recipes, I’m quite keen on cherries. They give a wonderfully sweet and firm texture to things like fruit cakes and whatnot but alone, they’re cloyingly sweet and lack the flavour of a natural cherry. To counteract this, I used some dried morello cherries together with the glacee ones. Dried fruit has the opposite issue – wonderful flavours but not very sweet. The chewy texture of them can also be unpleasant, so if you’re making fruit flapjacks, dice your dried fruit up as this distributes the flavour more evenly throughout the cereal.
This is certainly one of the easiest recipes I’ve done. The first stage is melting the butter and adding the sugar and golden syrup. It doesn’t need to be boiling – just hot enough so that it melts together.
Once the binding mixture had come together, it was a matter of weighing out the oats and stirring it all together.
As you may have noticed, I made a mistake with the sugar, thus proving that there is no recipe so simple that I can’t screw it up somehow. My mistake was that instead of using the dark brown sugar as the recipe instructed, I mistakenly bought some golden caster sugar instead. When I poured the finished mixture into the tray I was extremely worried about the fact that it wasn’t binding together well. After 25 minutes on Gas Mark 4 and some cooling time, it seemed much firmer. I’d gotten the measure of fruit about right as well and the flapjacks turned out pretty well for an hour’s worth of frantic baking.
I wasn’t the only baker at the meet-up. A friend of mine who goes by the online name of Snowfire also enjoys messing around in kitchens.. He also makes brownies that are absolutely stunning; moist, light and straightforward. They are always popular at the meet ups.
They are made to a secret family recipe and so far he has resisted all my attempts to weasel it out of him.
On the Sunday, tired but happy, I made my way back home. I unpacked my stuff, threw my laundry in the basket and….hang on a sec…
The Koala was missing. The Koala was missing.
I did what any sensible person would do: run round and around my bedroom turning everything upside down while muttering obscenities. No sign. I slumped in my chair, feeling awful. Had he been Koalanapped on the train? Had he decided to live at Kings Cross station like an Australian Paddington bear? Was Snowfire even now being stalked by a brownie-fixated marsupial?!
It suddenly dawned on me that even though I wasn’t saying a word, the foul language was still continuing. Continuing in fact, from the direction of the dirty laundry basket….