Happy October, friends! As I write this post, I’m cuddled up under a blanket, and grudgingly just turned on the heat for the first time this season. The good news? My new house seems to have a pretty speedy and efficient heating system for a 110 year old structure. The bad news? Heating bills are imminent I love fall when the sun is out and the sky is gleaming blue, but when we’ve got hurricanes threatening and rain coming down, it’s a bit foreboding. Good thing I have a fridge full of fig bars and pumpkin tassies and Reese’s pieces cookies (recipes all coming soon!) that I’ve packed away so I eat my feelings about the impending cold weather. No wonder I’ve needed to work harder at the gym lately!
I still love fall though, not just for the typically good weather, but for the new bounty of produce it brings. Apples and pumpkin are of course typical in this season, but figs are fresh right now, too, and I’ve decided that they really don’t get the love they deserve.
These bars were my first foray into baking with fresh figs. I’m not really sure why, but from the second I came across this recipe, I was completely captivated, and had to make it. I’ve always wanted to try making my own, healthier version of the fig newtons that I loved as a kid, but these seemed like a close cousin, healtheir, more rustic, and definitely more intriguing.
One night after work, I swung by the store stocked up on the requisite ingredients, cringing more than just a little when I saw the total cost for my little basket of figs, dates, walnuts, and a lemon. Ouch. Hoping it was worth it, I rushed home and put the recipe together.
I made a few tweaks to the original recipe, and found there to be a lot of moisture in both the crumble and the fig filling. I measured the figs by weight not be volume, so I used a full pound of figs, and I actually thought the filling came out really well. There is no processed sugar in this recipe – just a bit of maple syrup for sweetening — so the fig filling isn’t super sweet, but it has a wonderful texture. Almost like the fig part of fig newtons, but more tender, and much fresher tasting. My crumble dough ended up being pretty tacky before I baked it, and the only change I made there was to add 2 tablespoons of butter. Once baked, it firmed up nicely, though I think because there is no flour in this recipe, it just has an inherently different texture than other similar crumble bars.
Ultimately, I really liked this recipe! It’s a major deviation from the kinds of things I normally bake — much less sweet, even moderately healthy as far as desserts are concerned — and I won’t lie that I thought more than once about serving one of these beauties heated up with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. But I ended up enjoying them on their own, and they were a slightly sweet, and much less guilty, end to my meals for a couple weeks. I look forward to my next chance to bake with fresh figs!
Have you ever baked with fresh figs? If so, what have you tried?
- 2 cups toasted walnuts*
- 2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 8 tablespoons butter, cubed and softened
- 1/3 cup maple syrup
- 1 egg
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 cups halved fresh figs (I used tw0 8 oz packages, for a total of 1 lb of fresh Turkish figs)
- 4 medjool dates (seeds removed)
- 1 lemon, juiced
- 2 tablespoons maple syrup
- 2 tablespoons cornstarch
- Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Line a 9 x 9-inch baking dish with parchment paper, and set aside.
- In the bowl of a food processor, pulse the the rolled oats, toasted walnuts, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt, until the mixture resembles a very coarse flour. Add the cubed butter and continue to pulse until the mixture begins to stick together, 30-45 seconds.
- Dump the crumble ingredients into a bowl, and add the honey, egg, and vanilla extract. Mix ingredients well until combined.
- Clean out your food processor as needed, and then add the figs, dates, lemon juice, honey, and cornstarch. Pulse until the ingredients form a paste.
- Divide the crumble mixture in half, and press half of the mixture into the bottom of your lined pan. It will seem like there’s not quite enough crumble to cover the bottom of the pan, but just keep at it!
- Pour the fig filling over the crumble bottom, and spread evenly. Drop the rest of the crumble mixture over the fig filling, and then bake in your preheated oven for 25-30 minutes, until the top of the crumble begins to brown.
- Remove the bars from the oven and allow to cool in the pan for 10-15 minutes, then lift the sides of the parchment from the pan, and lay the bars on a cutting board. Cur the crumble bars into squares, and serve warm, or let cool completely. These bars can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a week.
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