Little Squares of Bitter Sunshine

Is there a foodstuff that you love everything about... apart from the taste? You want to like it, you've given it a go several times, but so far your taste buds remain stubbornly unconvinced. This is how I feel about marmalade.

Just the word alone — marmalade — it's lovely to look at, lovely to say. A jar of marmalade sat in the sun is a joy to behold, the light creating a bright orange glow, illuminating flecks of peel like rigor mortis specimens suspended in a laboratory jar.

Paddington Bear loves it. My husband loves it. And many, many Britons love it with a nostalgic zeal, creating batches of their own zest-infused jam at home. We bought this glorious looking jar of marmalade from a kindly old gentleman who resembled Santa Claus, selling his jams at a church fair in the neighbourhood. I want to join the party that beloved stuffed bears, Father Christmas and countless others are attending. It's the peel that I have a problem with. I love jams of pretty much all varieties, but marmalade is laced with thousands of tart strips. The bitterness they infuse that's loved by so many is precisely what puts me off.

I hear there are 'shred-free' varieties of marmalade, but that just sounds like jam. 'Orange jam' doesn't quite have the same phonetic flair as marmalade. Surely the specialness lies in the inclusion of the peel. Maybe I should try making my own marmalade? Then I could adjust the sugar levels, very finely slice the peel, and monitor how much is added. A bespoke creation that may not leave such a bitter taste. That will be the next step in my quest to love the 'lade!

While staying at the wonderful Woodlands Country House near Padstow, Cornwall this spring we enjoyed fabulous breakfasts, which included homemade marmalade bars. The sweet chewy oat layers are filled with marmalade, which makes for a nice contrast. It was the first time I enjoyed marmalade, but after making the bars at home I found myself eating them in a reverse Oreo cookie fashion, taking effort to eat the outside layers and eschew the middles. Alex, however, happily gobbled one up approvingly and then I busted him shortly after with a second one clutched in his hand, and a guilty smirk on his face. He took some into his office to share with colleagues, and he tells me they were well received, although I can't be sure they ever made it past his desk...

Marmalade Bars
Adapted from: B&B: The Book of Breakfast & Brunch by Hugo Woolley 

Hugo is a B&B proprietor, trained chef, and a B&B (breakfast and brunch) expert. We thoroughly enjoyed his morning meal creations and were pleased to discover upon check-out that we could take all of the recipes home with us in the form of his book. It's a souvenir that's already had a lot of use.

Makes approx 12 lg or 24 sm bars

250g (9oz) unsalted butter
200g (7oz) soft light brown sugar
150g (5oz) self-raising flour
350g porridge oats
3 - 4 tablespoons of your favourite marmalade
50g (2oz) sultanas
50g (2oz) dried apricots, thinly sliced
50g (2oz) sliced almonds
About 2 tablespoons honey

Preheat oven to 190C/375F/Gas Mark 5. Butter a non-stick 32cm L x 18cm W x 3cm D baking pan. (I used a square pan, 22cm x 22cm x 4cm and it worked fine).

Melt the butter and combine it with the sugar in a mixing bowl. Stir in the flour and oats and mix it all up well. Press half of the mixture into the bottom of the baking pan, and flatten it out so the surface is level. Spread the marmalade evenly over this bottom layer.

Sprinkle the apricot slices and sultanas on top.

Stir the almonds into the oat mixture and spread the rest of that mix on top of the fruity centre and flatten down so it's even. Warm up the honey so it is very liquid and brush it across the top.

Place the pan on the middle oven shelf and bake for about 35 minutes. Allow the bars to cool completely, several hours at least, as they will cut much cleaner if they are allowed to firm up properly first.

Love your Leftovers: The bars will keep nicely for a week in an air-tight container.

1 comment:

  1. I agree- sooooo lovely but soooo tart!


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