Monday, 29 October 2012

Store cupboard alchemy...

...for a Monday night.

 On Monday evenings I host a ladies bible study/prayer meeting/discussion group in my home. At my church we call these Connect Groups. They are a valuable way to build relationships and develop connectivity in a pretty large church. About 8 ladies come to my group, and I have to say that knowing these women has enriched my life far more than any amount of money ever could.

 I like to offer a little something to go with a cup of tea or coffee as people arrive. Nothing very elaborate is required, and most weeks a packet of biscuits is the height of my culinary offering! However, since its half term, which means I'm not at work, and since its almost payday and my purse is feeing very light, I decided to bake something using ingredients I have to hand instead.

 I have a recipe, written on a rather stained and dog eared scrap of paper, which I've been making for years. It makes a sort of a flapjack-y style bar, with a layer of jam in the middle. It is a really, really reliable recipe, well liked by everyone who tries it, it is easy to adapt depending on what you have in the cupboard, and the high oat content means you can almost convince yourself that it is healthy ;-)

 The original name for the recipe s Apricot Oat Bars, but as you will see, this isn't always an appropriate name. I wish I could remember where I found this recipe, to give credit where credit is due, but I'm afraid I cannot.

155g margarine
250g soft brown sugar
220g plain flour
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
155g oats
250g apricot jam.

First, cream your marg and sugar together in a bowl until light and creamy. I use a hand held electric whisk for this. A wooden spoon would do the job eventually, but would take longer. Honestly, I most often use cheap soft margarine for this. Real butter would be delicious, but that's not often an option in my budget. As far as sugar goes, I've used all sorts. Sometimes the soft brown called for in the recipe, sometimes Demerara, sometimes caster, sometimes plain old granulated. Sometimes a mixture of all sorts of odds an ends, depending on what was in the cupboard. They will alter the taste and colour of the bake, but they all work! One of the beauties of this recipe is that it is very forgiving of substitutions.

Then, beat in the bicarbonate and the flour. I have forgotten the bicarbonate a couple of times. You still get a decent end result, but it is heavier and denser. Plain white flour is almost always what I have to hand, so is what I use. I made it with half white, half whole meal once, and that was lovely too.

Then stir in the oats. Last time I made this, I realised I was about 60g of oats short, so I threw in a couple more tablespoons of flour and hoped for the best. The texture was different, of course, but it was still lovely.

 Press half the mixture into a greased and lined tin, approx 18x28cm. Don't worry about the precise size of your tin, this isn't the sort of bake that needs an exact size. I don't bother to line my tin, I just grease it well with some veg Poland a pastry brush. It always comes out fine.

 Spread with jam. I don't think I've ever weighed out the jam. A few dollops to cover with a generous layer will do. I'm not really that keen on apricot jam, so I have not used it often. Any jam at all will do. I'm lucky enough to have been given some jars of homemade bramble jam, so that's what I used today. I have used other things though, such as a jar of mincemeat, left over from Christmas, a jar of cranberry sauce (also a Christmas leftover, of course), some stewed apple - it really depends what I have to hand.

 Bake at about 160c (in my fan oven, at least) for approx 30 minutes, until its nice and golden. Leave to cool in the tin, cutting into portions after about ten minutes. It's quite a sturdy bake, and holds together well. It keeps in a tin for a good few days - certainly, we've always finished it before it ever needed throwing away!


  1. Think I'll give this a try for coffee morning this week.
    Just read through your blog and really enjoyed it :)

  2. And I followed Dreamer's lead, and echo her sentiments!