Today is one of those days that makes you want to leap around like a baby deer in spring. Why? Because it feels like spring! That’s not stating the obvious too much is it? Now, I know it is only mid July so technically we are only halfway through winter. I probably shouldn’t get too eager should I? The thing is, it’s kind of hard not to feel joyous when the sun is shining and it’s currently 23.3C (yes I’m a weather nerd). It’s the kind of weather that calls for sitting in the garden and sunning your legs. Is really sad that I’m ecstatic to be wearing a skirt again? After spending the last week with a terrible head cold and sounding like Janice from Friends I feel as though a healthy ‘glow’ is in order. A little vitamin D to help keep future colds at bay.
It is rumoured that figs are an effective treatment for sore throats. Now I’m not quite sure if that’s just an old wives tale, however they do contain a fair amount of iron (1.5mg per ½ cup to be exact) as well as high percentages of calcium and potassium. Among other things, iron deficiency leads to one feeling lethargic and being more susceptible to infectious colds. So in keeping in tune with my poor attempts to increase my cold resilience, I decided to make a fig-filled snack to eat whilst soaking up the sun. Is that not a good case of killing two birds with one stone? Or more precisely, me just going to sizeable extents to justify baking!
Anyway, lame baking justifications aside, I had bookmarked a recipe for Fig Oat Bars from the Wholefoods Market website a few weeks ago and was dying to try it out. It was well worth the wait. The fruit mix smelt like Christmas, increasing my jolliness to even higher levels – Christmas means LOTS of baking. Okay, back on topic, back on topic. The bars were kind of like a glorified (and significantly healthier) coconut jam slice. Soft buttery base? Check. Sweet oozing filling? Check. Coconutty crumble topping? Check. In my book these bars were far tastier – I find that wholemeal flour brings a superior flavour and texture to most dishes, and they weren’t overly rich and cloying like the traditional slice can be.
It does make a lot of dishes, or perhaps I’m just a messy cook…in any case you have to wait for the slice to cool completely before cutting (otherwise it will crumble to pieces) so doing the dishes is a good way of preventing yourself from getting to eager and cutting it whilst it’s warm!
Lastly, feel free to substitute the walnuts with something else if you don’t have them at hand. Almonds, hazelnuts and pecans all work well with figs, so choose your favourite and give these bars a go, regardless of whether it is a sunny day or not…
Fig Crumble Bars
Makes approximately 21 6x4cm bars
½ cup raisins
½ cup currants
½ cup dried figs, quartered
Juice and finely grated zest of one orange
2/3 cup water, divided
2 cups rolled oats
2/3 cup wholemeal flour
¼ tsp cinnamon, plus an extra pinch for sprinkling on top
1/8 tsp nutmeg
1/8 tsp ground cloves
90g chilled unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 ½ tbsp brown sugar
2 tbsp shredded coconut
Heaped ¼ cup walnuts
2 tbsp maple syrup
Preheat oven to 180C. Grease and line a 28x18cm (or similar size) baking tray, ensuring that the baking paper comes well over the edges (you will want something to grip when removing the slice from the tin).
Tip the raisins, currants, figs, orange juice and zest and 1/3 cup of the water into a small saucepan. Stir well , cover and bring to the boil. Simmer for eight minutes, stirring occaisionally then remove from heat and leave to cool in the pot on a wire rack, until just warm (about 15 minutes). Stir once or twice whilst cooling as this will allow more steam to escape and thus speed up the process.
Meanwhile, put the oats, flour, salt and spices in a food presser and briefly pulse 6-8 times to break up the oats just a tad and combine the ingredients. Add the butter and brown sugar and pulse for about 30 seconds or until the mixture takes on the appearance of coarse meal. Add the remaining 1/3 cup water and process for a further 30 seconds or until the mixture starts to come together in small clumps. Do not over mix – texture is good!
Firmly press two cups of the mixture in an even layer on the bottom of the prepared pan. Transfer the remaining mixture to a bowl and use your fingers to mix through the coconut.
Place the cooked fruit (juices and all) and walnuts in the food processer and pulse for 20 to 40 seconds to puree the fruit and grind up the nuts a little. You should now have a grainy paste (you don’t want to completely puree the nuts). Spread evenly over the oat base and sprinkle the remaining oat mixture over the top. Dust with extra cinnamon and drizzle with maple syrup – drizzle one tablespoon in lines horizontally and the other tablespoon vertically to ensure maximum coverage.
Bake for about 25 minutes or until the top is slightly crunchy in texture and golden brown.
Leave to cool in pan on a wire rack for at least half an hour then cut into bars with a sharp knife.
Source: Inspired by Wholefood’s Market.