A virtuous but completely delicious treat from The Free From Bakehouse
In an ideal world—one in which all processes were artisanal—every flapjack would be gluten-free. Oats, natural and untampered with, hold no gluten. The issue comes with contamination in large commercial processing facilities, which handle other cereals like rye, barley and wheat. To make delicious gluten-free flapjacks is hardly a challenge for The Free From Bakehouse, whose approach to sourcing is beyond reproach. To make flapjacks without sugar and butter, however, takes more imagination. Traditional flapjacks may look virtuous, but what makes them better, what elevates them above the humble cereal bar, for example, is the addition of copious amounts of butter and sugar.
A good flapjack, a formidable flapjack fanatic once said, is at least 80 per cent butter and golden syrup. “The oats are merely a vehicle,” he assured me, with all the solemnity of an addict.
Intense, creamy sweetness
Which brings us to The Free From Bakehouse’s flapjacks: sans butter, sans syrup—sans hope if my friend is to be believed. The taste tells a different story, though. In place of any sugar, the banana and dates step up to the plate, imbuing the steel-cut oats with such intense, creamy sweetness, not only is syrup redundant, but butter, too.
A splash of sunflower oil lends a warm glow of indulgence, and the picture is complete: “It’s vegan, nut-free and gluten-free, but it’s one of our most popular things. People love it,” explains Tania on the stall. The buzzing sweetness of the dates, the classic comfort of ripe banana and oats—like a particularly posh porridge, the kind you find in smart cafes: warming, nourishing, slightly luxurious but with all the virtuosity we need of a treat in the first week of January.