Snowed under with essays and a dissertation back in May, I couldn’t think of anything better than time like this. Free, empty time with no deadlines and very little that I ‘had’ to do. I imagined it would be fantastic; time to do whatever I wanted. I could spend entire days reading, writing, creating recipes and working on blog posts.
But somehow it just isn’t quite working out like that.
I’m currently experiencing a classic case of tasks expanding to fill the time available. Somehow largely fruitless job searches on-line, the occasional job application when I do finally come across something and editing a book for a family friend, seems to be taking up my entire time.
I have also fallen into a bad habit of losing vast stretches of time to the internet, reading blogs, looking for recipe inspiration, researching wheat-free baking. It’s just far too easy to get lost out here!
I’ve been wanting to post about this recipe for a few days, but couldn’t find the words to put with it. It’s as if this currently rather hum-drum, monotonous patch of time is causing my brain to adopt a similarly hum-drum pace, zapped of inspiration and struggling to stay motivated. I need to wake it up somehow before I go crazy in frustration at its sluggishness!
Struggling to write this post, I recalled reading something months ago on the blog Orangette. The particular post in question was on the creative process and I went right through her blog archives to try and track it down.
Boy am I glad I did!
Reading it again I wanted to jump up and down thinking ‘yes, that’s just how I feel, that’s exactly the way I think.’
Molly writes, for instance:
‘I missed writing! I know that probably seems like a perfectly normal thing to feel, given that writing is what I do. But the truth is, most of the time, I will do anything to avoid it.’
And again, ‘I have wondered many times if I’m maybe not supposed to be a writer, because I will go to such lengths to avoid writing.‘
I couldn’t have spoken my own thoughts better if I tried! And it is the most wonderful feeling to know I am not alone in thinking those thoughts and acting as I do… procrastinating…doing anything else I can think of to avoid writing.
Fortunately Molly’s post made that perfectly clear to me too.
She writes about how embarking on a creative project is like entering a cave, and that doing so can feel a bit daunting. And so you can find yourself sitting on the edge of the cave, unsure about entering in.
While writing a blog post can hardly be compared to writing a book, I still find something to relate to in the analogy. Because so many times when I come to write a post, I sense a flicker of uncertainty, of self-doubt. I want to write something meaningful and attach an interesting story to the recipe I post. But sometimes I find myself flailing around in an attempt to write that story, doubting my ability to find the right words, lacking the confidence to think I’ve got what it takes to write something worthwhile.
And so I procrastinate. Out of worry and anxiety I find other tasks to put between myself and the writing I’m afraid won’t be ‘good enough’, all the time slowly plucking up the courage to enter the cave.
And the thing is, once I’m finally in there, the fear seems to disappear almost instantly. I find I’m actually pretty comfortable in the cave. I’m enjoying myself and in no real rush to head back out again. Somewhat miraculously I manage to find the words I was convinced didn’t exist. And I can plod along, reassuring myself when doubt seeps in around the edges of my conciousness, that this is, after all, only the ‘shitty first draft’; it doesn’t have to be brilliant. Not just yet.
Did I want flapjacks? Or did I want crumble? I’ve had a craving for date crumble bars for a while, but what about if I jazzed the date filling up a bit?
I’d like to think, however, that my bouts of indecision pay out in the final creation…they certainly seemed to this time. Choosing to roll several elements into one, I produced flapjacky chewiness, buttery, sweet crumble and gooey date paste, the sweetness cut through with a zingy marmalade.
My multiple cravings and curiosities were instantly satisfied in a very pleasing first mouthful.
Date and marmalade flapjack crumble bars
For a wheat-free, FODMAP friendly version use a gluten-free flour mix and keep serving sizes small.
For the date and marmalade filling
- 125g dates, roughly chopped
- 150ml water
- 75g marmalade
- finely grated zest 1 small orange
This makes quite a strong marmalade -flavour filling, if you’d like the marmalade flavour to be a little less intense, try using 150g dates, 200ml water and 50g marmalade. Alternatively you could make a plain date filling with 200g dates and 250ml water and omit the orange zest.
For the flapjack base
- 75g soft brown sugar
- 75g butter
- 2 tbsp golden syrup
- 150g oats
- 30g flour
For the crumble topping
- 100g flour
- 100g cold butter, cubed
- pinch salt
- 1/4tsp bicarbonate of soda
- 60g oats
- 40g demerara sugar
- 40g soft brown sugar
For the marmalade glaze (optional)
- 3 tbsp marmalade
- 2 tbsp water
- Preheat the oven to 180 °C and line an approximately 20x25x4cm baking tin with baking paper.
- For the date filling, place the dates and water in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer over a moderate heat. Reduce the heat and cook gently for about five-ten minutes until the water has evaporated and you have a thick, sticky paste. Set aside and allow to cool.
- For the flapjack base, melt the butter, brown sugar and golden syrup together in a small saucepan over a gentle heat. Stir frequently and remove from the heat as soon as the butter has melted and the sugar dissolved.
- Combine the oats and flour together in a large bowl and pour over the melted butter/sugar/syrup. Stir well to combine, ensuring all the oats are coated in the syrup. Tip the flapjack mix into the lined baking tin and press down well with the back of a wooden spoon or spatula to form a compact, even layer.
- Stir the marmalade and orange zest into the cooled date paste and spread the mix evenly over the flapjack base.
- For the crumble topping, sieve the flour, bicarbonate of soda and salt into a large bowl. Stir in the two sugars and the oats then rub in the cold cubes of butter with your fingertips to create a rough, crumbly mixture. Sprinkle this evenly over the date paste in the tin and press it down slightly.
- Bake in the preheated oven for 35 – 40 minutes until the crumble topping is golden in colour.
- To make the glaze, warm together the marmalade and water in a small saucepan until the marmalade is runny. Trickle over the crumble bars while they are still warm.
- Allow to cool in the tin before removing and slicing into squares.