Whole Wheat Fig Bars

by Melanie Gray, TCM apprentice

My little boys and I made these gooey, yummy treats after picking up some figs from the Co-op this weekend and wow, they were worth it! They are vegan, but trust me, you would never know it. They taste exactly like Fig Newtons but without the preservatives!

For the fig-filling:
1 lb dried figs (fresh figs work great too!), hard stems removed and chopped into small pieces.
⅔ cup of water
¼ Pure maple syrup
2 teaspoons of fresh citrus zest (orange, lime, and/or lemon).

For the dough:
2 tablespoons ground flax seeds
¼ cup non-dairy milk (we used almond, but hemp or soy works too)
½ cup vegetable oil of choice (canola, grapeseed, olive, coconut etc.)
¾ cup granulated sugar
1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
1 ¾ cups whole wheat pastry flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt

Line an 8 x 8 square metal brownie pan with enough parchment paper so that it folds over the sides of the pan by about an inch. Spray bottom of covered pan with a little non-stick cooking spray. Preheat oven to 350°F.

In a large saucepan combine chopped figs, water, maple syrup and citrus zest. Bring to boil over medium heat, reduce to a simmer and stir occasionally. When figs begin to soften in about 8 to 10 minutes continue to cook but mash figs with a firm spatula or a fork to create a chunky, moist paste. If mixture starts to look overly dry add two tablespoons of water and stir, dribbling in additional water to mixture if necessary (if using fresh figs, boil off the excess water so that the mixture resembles the consistency of jam). Remove filling from heat and set aside. If mixture still seems too chunky puree in a food processor until desired texture is reached.

In a large mixing bowl combine ground flax seed, non-dairy milk, oil, sugar and vanilla extract until smooth, mixing for about 1 1/2 minutes. Sift in whole wheat pastry flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Stir to form a soft dough, gather into a ball with your hands and divide into two sections. Shape each section of dough into a square shape about an inch thick.
Place one half of dough between two large sheets of waxed paper. With a rolling pin, roll dough into a larger square about the same size of the 8 x 8 inch pan (slightly larger is fine). Occasionally rotate the dough while rolling to help maintain an even thickness.

When finished rolling peel off to top layer of waxed paper and flip dough directly into the prepared baking pan. Remove top layer of waxed paper and press the dough firmly into the pan. Spread entire fig filling over the dough, making sure to evenly spread all the way to the edges. Prepare the top crust with the remaining dough the same method as bottom crust, flipping on top of filling and pressing dough evenly and all the way to the edges.

Bake for 20 to 30 minutes until crust is golden and puffed. Remove from oven and place pan on wire rack to cool. When completely cool remove bars from pan by grabbing the edges of the foil and lift everything out of pan and flip over onto cutting board. Peel off foil and slice into 12 bars. Store in a tightly covered container.

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