Modified English Flapjacks=All Natural Energy Bars


If you're not British, or at least an Anglophile, chances are your first association with the word flapjacks is a steamy stack of pancakes with a drizzling of real Vermont maple syrup (OK, there wasn't really a need for quite so many descriptors there, but I was referring to one of my favorites!). Of course, if you do happen to hail from the UK and are reading this, then you may be presently associating the word pancakes with what I know as crepes, making things more potentially confusing. But I digress. What I wanted to explain is, in the context of the UK, flapjacks are thick, buttery, somewhat chewy oat squares I think have a bit of a toffee taste to them. And in our house, the idea of them has recently become a model for experimentation in natural, homemade energy and breakfast bars (minus the butter) which so far, we've thoroughly enjoyed. The reason for our flapjack revival and alterations is, in early August Dave took a much overdue trip back to England by himself,  visiting family while I did the usual back-to-school dance that generally constitutes a time when I am best avoided when not at school. Returning jet-lagged, sleep deprived, and droopy-eyed,  he  silently lay out his souvenirs, which consisted almost exclusively of items from the Kendal Cadbury factory, across the kitchen counter, and let the array speak for itself. Included in the assortment, nestled between a big crinkly purple bag of Cadbury Mis-shapes (seconds) and a giant Toblerone bar, was a box of Porage (not sure why this spelling) Oats. In spite of the corny yet somehow charming-in-its-own-way picture of a muscular  Scot in  traditional kilt poised to hurl a shot put (I think) into the highlands sunset, these oats were more welcome than any chocolate. I'm not sure why, but when it comes to rolled oats, Scottish are the best. I don't know if there's some particular way of milling them, or if it's purely psychological, but they are special. On the side of the box was a recipe for traditional English flapjacks.  Half conscious Dave mustered enough energy to say he'd been wondering if he could  make flapjacks serve as energy bars for fueling long training  rides in the lead-up to Silverman, and so the testing began.

I'm the first to admit, I'm no expert when it comes to creating sport fuel, but considering that throughout long training hours on the bike in particular, just about anything is useful, particularly peanut butter sandwiches and fig bars, it seemed like a very minimal risk to go with something hearty and flapjack-like. For my first attempt, I used pureed dates and applesauce in place of butter, and sweetened with orange juice, blackstrap molasses (brimming with great stuff) and maple syrup. I plugged all the info into the nutrition data calculator, and worked on achieving roughly the values of a Clif bar as a guide. Here's what we've got right now:

Nutritional info for a popular energy bar (Chocolate Chip Peanut Crunch Clif) 260 calories;  6 g fat;   1.5 g saturated fat; 0 mg cholesterol;  11  g protein; 42 g carbohydrates;5  g fiber; 200 mg sodium

Date Bar nutrition info WITH nuts (based on 9 servings): 267 calories;  6.7  g fat;   .8 g saturated fat; 0 mg cholesterol; 5  g protein; 51.2  g carbohydrates; 5.2  g fiber;  136.5 mg sodium *Use 3/4 teaspoon salt to yield approximately 201 mg sodium per bar!

Date Bar nutrition info WITHOUT nuts (per serving, based on 9 servings): 223.4 calories;  2.2 g fat;   .4 g saturated fat; 0 mg cholesterol; 4.0  g protein; 50.3 g carbohydrates; 4.8 g fiber;  136.4 mg sodium

Obviously, the big difference here is protein, and I'm planning to experiment  to bulk that up a little. That said, recently research seems to point to protein intake being less of a factor during exercise as opposed to recovery.

Cranberry Date Energy Bars

  • 1 cup pitted dates
  • 3 cups quick oats (not instant)
  • 1/2 cup orange juice
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 1/4 cup blackstrap molsses
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/3 cup dried cranberries
  • *optional: 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
  • *optional: 1/2 teaspoon salt

1. Soak dates in 1 cup hot water for ten minutes, then process until (fairly) smooth.

2. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (175 C).

3. Combine all ingredients in a mixing bowl, then pour into a prepared 8-inch square baking pan. The mixture should be about 1 inch+ thick.

4. Bake for 25-30 minutes, until edges look firm and top is slightly golden. Cut into squares, then leave to cool before removing.  (You don't actually have to cut these into squares before cooling, but that is what we needed to do with the original flapjack recipe, made in comparison, or the squares would crumble when cut.)

Next up,  some different flavors with the same general template, including apricot and peanut butter banana. If they're at all successful, I'll update this post!

Also, all comparisons aside, no salt is needed to still make these a nice breakfast bar for when you're on the go, but not necessarily concerned about sodium intake. I've been bringing them along with fruit as quick breakfast-on-the-go on days I get up early for morning swims, and they've been just-right sweet and filling.