For a number of years I have been collecting the original recipe books of regional Women’s Institutes. They usually take the form of spiral-bound, text-only booklets and are, I feel, a great indication of dishes being prepared in the homes at time of publication.
I have books dating from the 1920s to the 1980s and am always on the look-out for editions from missing counties to fill out the collection. For the most part, they are tried and tested recipes that embody the very best in home cooking, as long as you gloss over the late 70s/early 80s lowpoint characterised by an almost fanatical obsession with recipes that involved opening cans and packets – yes, even in the sainted W.I.!
The recipe comes from the recipe collection of the combined Federation of Women’s Institutes of Northern Ireland. The booklet is undated, but with a little digging, I’m pretty confident it comes from the 1980s.
This traybake is a variation of a flapjack, but without all the earnest oats, which, speaking even as an oat-lover, can be a little much unless you’re particularly in the mood. It caught my eye mainly due to the title, but also because it was just that little bit different from a lot of the elaborate bakes seen today. It is also my most favourite kind of recipe, a storecupboard one: a recipe that does not require a special trip to the shops, that can usually be made with the contents of your cupboards. A mixture of crumbled digestive biscuits and dessicated coconut is sandwiched with a layer of chopped apricots and (optional) jam. It can also be varied very easily, just by changing the fruit used in the middle – I recommend keeping it sharp but exotic, with pineapple, mango, papaya, cranberries, prunes etc.
The result is crisp, crunchy, sharp, sweet and very moreish, ideal for packed lunches, and I hope you’ll enjoy them as much as we did in our house.
Apricot Dream Slice
Add as many or as few apricots – or whatever fruit you have – as you like. The original recipe called for just 125g, but after trying it, I felt this a little on the meagre side, and since the bag of apricots held 200g, and I just knew the extra would inevitably end up spilled on the cupboard floor, here we are. I like it with the extra fruit – it makes it deliciously indulgent.
For the base
100g digestive biscuits (about 7), crushed
125g wholemeal flour
100g dessicated coconut
100g dark muscovado sugar
½ tsp salt
115g unsalted butter, melted
For the filling
2 large eggs
200g dark muscovado sugar
Juice of 1 lemon
40g plain flour
½ tsp baking powder
¼ tsp salt
125-200g chopped dried apricots
4-5tbs jam (optional) – I used up half a jar of apricot and passionfruit (divine combo, by the way)
- Preheat the oven to 175°C, 155°C Fan.
- Line a baking tray with parchment. I used one of dimensions 20cm x 28cm, but anything roughly that size is fine.
- Put all of the base ingredients except the butter into a food processor and blend until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Muscovado sugar can be a bit clumpy and this is a speedy and efficient way to break down the lumps.
- Tip the mixture into a bowl and stir in the melted butter.
- Set aside 1/3 of the mixture for the topping, and spread the remainder into the prepared tin. Pack it down firmly – use a flat-bottomed glass tumbler or similar to get a really smooth, firm surface.
- Bake the base for 15 minutes.
- While the base is baking, whisk the eggs with the sugar and lemon juice until creamy.
- Stir in the rest of the ingredients except the jam.
- When the base is cooked, spread over the jam, if using – the heat of the base will make it runnier and help it spread more easily.
- Pour over the filling and smooth over.
- Sprinkle the reserved base mixture over the top and pat smooth.
- Bake for a further 35-40 minutes until nicely browned.
- Allow to cool in the tin.
- When cold, cut into bars or squares to serve.
- Store in an airtight container.