I have a real sweet-tooth when it comes to baking, which is something I’ve definitely inherited from my two sets of grandparents. My paternal grandmother (Nanny) had a biscuit tin of dreams – we’d go around each Saturday and it would be freshly-filled with biscuits for my brother and I to enjoy. At that time, my brother loved Jaffa cakes and she’d always say, ‘Go on, have another one… they’re only small’ and I loved the quadruple chocolate biscuits, which are perhaps a little rich for me now but they made my eyes sparkle with delight back then. She always kept a sugar cube in the tin which she claimed prevented the biscuits from going soggy – I’m not entirely sure this worked but equally there wasn’t much chance of this happening with two biscuit-loving grandchildren around. Although the biscuits were normally shop-bought, she was the queen of making cakes – particularly fruit-cake and Christmas pudding, which I remember with much fondness.
On my maternal side, my grandad (Poges) who I was inseparable from growing up, also has the biggest sweet tooth. He must be one of McVitie’s top customers with the amount of chocolate digestive biscuits he gets through. He also loves cheesecake. Baked but especially set cheesecakes – the blackcurrent one from Sainsbury’s used to be his go-to favourite but with age (and very few teeth left) he prefers the softer fruit cheesecakes – strawberry or mandarin. If he had his way, he’d have cheesecake every day and this is perhaps where my love of cheesecake has stemmed from!
So from this rather nostalgic intro, you’ll probably have gathered that sweet treats would be my preferred option. Very occasionally however, it’s nice to branch out and bake something a little less sugary and a bit more wholesome. This is exactly what these apricot and walnut sandwich bars are like – they’re quite substantial and are a slightly healthier alternative to other types of bars.
The oat mixture contains; porridge oats, light muscovado sugar, chopped walnuts, wholemeal self-raising flour and butter. The filling simply contains dried apricots, water, caster sugar and lemon rind. It’s really simple to put together – you firstly snip the apricot into small pieces and pop them in a pan with water, caster sugar and lemon rind and leave to simmer until the apricots are lovely and soft and all the liquid has gone.
While the filling is cooling, you put the oats, sugar, walnuts and flour into a bowl and add the melted butter. It comes together really easily and then you simply divide the oat mixture in half – half of it forms the base, then you spoon over the cooled apricot mixture and then cover with the remaining oat mixture. It bakes on a low heat so does take a while to get to a lovely golden brown colour – it suggests 45 minutes but I found that mine took closer to 1 hour. Make sure to cut your sandwich bars while it’s still warm otherwise you’ll be faced with a crumbly mess!
I’m not sure I’ll make this Mary Berry recipe again – although it made a pleasant change, I definitely prefer sweeter, more indulgent treats. I don’t think I’ll ever get excited about a sandwich bar in the same way as I would a lemon meringue pie but there’s definitely something to be said about the humble apricot and walnut sandwich bar if you fancy a bit more of a wholesome bake.