Two weeks ago my boyfriend was going skiing with a big group of mates.
Me - “Please don’t break your leg. Please come back in one piece!” (we’re both still rehabbing old injuries and Tom is a wreck when he can’t workout.)
They go every year and according to Tom eat very little fibre. Their day starts with fresh croissants and baguettes from the local mountain bakeries (YUM!) and continues on down and up mountains fuelled by melting cheeses, seared meats and cold beers with very little of that all important gut fodder for a happy tummy and a healthy morning bowel movement.
One day he rocks home with a small bag of tribe bars and bounce balls (to my horror!). “What are they for?” I exclaim! “To have on the mountains when I get hungry,” he says. “You burn a lot of calories skiing you know.”
Aghast at the thought of him taking a bounce ball out of his ski jacket over a homemade flapjack I promise to make him some incredibly high fibre flapjacks the day before he leaves.
Said flapjacks are probably the most disgusting thing I have ever baked! That evening when Tom comes home from work I immediately announce “You are not going to want to take these with you! They’re ridiculously high in fibre but they taste horrendous!” (my face really saying it all!)
He took them with him anyway bless him. Each morning he topped his rock of fibre with a banana and had a croissant on the side.
I didn’t eat a single one. As much as I am into functional, high fibre eating I am also into taste. Taste creates healthy habits. Not a lack of it.
And so I went back to the drawing board.
At The Happy Tummy Bakery I never used sugar as we only ever made bread and scone products. A touch of honey or maple syrup were used here and there to enhance flavours in very small amounts.
However, when I am making a baked cheesecake, a Sicilian hazelnut teff biscuit or a pear and chocolate tart I will invariably use raw cane sugar over all the syrups available to us today. (It's all free sugar. Just some of it is pricier than others!)
I have found the war on sugar to be a snobby and tiresome one leading to more fads than I can personally handle witnessing for the rest of my life!
The sugars found in syrups like maple, golden and agave and in nectars such as coconut nectar blossom though occurring naturally, still count as free sugars.
Sugar found in milk, fruit and vegetables does not count as a free sugar.
Most of us have hopefully known since we were a very young toddler that consuming anything more than a small amount of sugar per day is bad for us and that though sugar syrups and nectars have different ratios of sucrose to fructose to glucose and in some cases do indeed contain antioxidants, minerals and vitamins they are largely still sugars as opposed to healthy ingredients and should be treated as a sugar not an ingredient that makes having a date ball every day ok.
What sugar and syrups are both good for is enhancing the taste of your morning porridge oats or your slice of wholemeal sourdough toast in the morning. Enhancing a high fibre cereal with a little bit of sugar so that you eat it each and every day is a far better habit than not eating the cereal at all. In fact it’s rare to find granolas and porridges on menus without some sort of sugar on top.
I meet a lot of people now who grew up snacking on fruits, popcorn or on seldom occasions were allowed two hob nobs or two digestive biscuits. Those whole foods or high fibre biscuits and snacks are now being swapped out for maple and date bars or balls each and every day. This new phenomenon has made me so sad over the years.
On the whole, we are also using far more syrup in our bowls of cereal in the morning than we would a sprinkling of white table sugar under the allusion that the syrup is extravagantly better!
In terms of the health benefits touted for syrups, you would need to be eating them in vast quantities to absorb the antioxidants, minerals and vitamins present in a few of them, most notably molasses, manuka honey and 100% Canadian Maple Syrup.
Last time I made flapjacks I steered away from the classic butter golden syrup combo. I was not going to make that mistake twice! The coconut oil brought no flavour to my last batch and the tiny bit of maple syrup I added was pointless! This time I wanted to taste each and every ingredient. Just like you can when your Gran makes a classic flapjack made with Scottish oats, butter, golden syrup and sugar.
I wouldn’t eat these every day at all! I’d probably eat one or two max a week. I normally have a flapjack on the days I don’t have time to stop for lunch as oats fill me right up for hours!
Sticky Flapjacks Recipe
Ingredients (I use all organic where possible)
- 300g jumbo oats
- 160g teff grain
- 100g ground almonds
- 2 handfuls roasted hazelnuts
- 50g chia seeds
- 50g pumpkin seed, sunflower seed and buckwheat groat mix (I keep this mix in a jar to dry toast in a pan to top my porridge with.)
- 160g dried fruit (I use prunes, dates, sultanas, dried blueberries and goji berries but you can use your preferred dried fruits.)
- 200g unsalted butter
- 200g maple syrup or golden syrup
- 125g crunchy peanut butter
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- Mix the oats, teff, almonds, dried fruit and seeds in a bowl together. Turn the oven on to 160 degrees fan.
- Grease a deep rectangular dish with butter and put a large piece of greaseproof paper on top.
- In a saucepan melt the butters, syrup and vanilla extract together on a medium to high heat.
- Pour the hot mixture over the dry mixture and stir quickly until fully blended.
- Transfer the mixture into your tray and flatten down the top.
- Bake for 30 minutes until golden. It won’t be very firm to touch.
- Once you’ve taken the tray out of the oven let it to cool almost completely before pulling the parchment paper out and up. The flapjacks firm up through cooling. Don’t worry about how soft they are when they first come out. Once the flapjacks are cool enough and hard enough cut them into shapes and sizes of your liking.
These are excellent with a milky cup of breakfast tea! Sticky and flavoursome just as they should be. :)