For anyone who has ever wanted to eat an enormous fig newton for breakfast (is it really so much to ask?), these are for you!
Alyna, remember our satirical take down of Wellesley's "For Sale" e-mail forum (on which people would try to sell half-empty bottles of Pantene Pro-V), when we put up for sale a "finals care package" that starred a single Fig Newman along with a lightly used Halloween-themed straw? I did a thorough search of my laptop and could not find the photo of this care package -- I absolutely trust that you have it somewhere. What crazy college shenanigans... My parents had it way, way too easy.
I've always loved fig cookies and bars: Fig Newtons, Fig Newmans, Trader Joe's This Fig Walks into a Bar, the fig bars you can buy in bulk at Whole Foods that have no punny name. My fig cookie tastes were all-welcoming, but now that I've made Post Punk Kitchen's vegan and whole wheat fig bars, I'm afraid I can't go back to any of these, especially the Trader Joe's ones -- so exorbitantly sweet that they made my teeth hurt. I've tinkered with Post Punk Kitchen's original recipe, mainly to reduce the sugar, since the dried figs themselves are naturally, delightfully, and sufficiently sweet, and to make the crust a bit less infuriating to pull off.
The whole wheat flour, low-sugar content, and nutritious figs make these bars a great on-the-go weekday breakfast option. And they're vegan! These also freeze extremely well, so you can just take one out of the freezer the night before and throw it into your work bag. This is particularly handy if you've recently discovered that Mr. Holmes Bakehouse is on your walk to work, requiring not even the slightest detour. If you are lucky enough to call San Francisco home, zip right past the cruffin line (there is no feeling more ridiculous than standing in a long line -- you could be making delicious figgy bars!) and get yourself the best savory croissant you will ever eat.
Fig Breakfast Bars
Slightly adapted from Post Punk Kitchen
For the Fig Filling:
1 pound dried mission figs*, stems removed and diced into small pieces
2/3 cup water
Juice from a small lemon
*It's best to use dried figs that don't have any additives -- I made an earlier batch with dried figs that were treated with potassium sorbate, and the filling ended up being weirdly gummy.
For the Whole Wheat Crust:
2 tablespoons ground flax seed
1/4 cup almond milk
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup turbinado sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 3/4 cups white whole wheat flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
Preheat oven to 350°F. Line an 8 x 8 pan with enough parchment paper to leave an overhang of about an inch. Set aside.
In a medium saucepan combine diced up figs, water, and lemon juice. Bring to boil over medium heat, then reduce to a simmer and stir occasionally. When figs begin to soften at around the 8-minute mark continue to cook but mash figs with a firm spatula or a potato masher to create a chunky, moist paste. If mixture looks to dry, add more water at a tablespoon at a time. Remove filling from heat and set aside to cool down.
In a large mixing bowl, stir together ground flax seed, almond milk, olive oil, and vanilla extract until smooth (this will take about 2 minutes of stirring). Stir in the sugar. Then add flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt, and stir until combined to form a soft dough. Divide the dough into two sections.
Because this is a soft dough, the original instruction of rolling the dough into squares and then flipping them into the pan was damn near impossible to follow without the whole thing crumbling. Instead, I firmly pressed half of the dough into the bottom of the lined pan so that it was of even thickness, and then used the parchment paper overhang to remove this first layer of pressed dough and placed it in the freezer for 30 to 60 minutes (so that it would flip to create the top crust later without breaking). Then I lined the pan again with parchment paper and firmly press the rest of the dough into the bottom to create the bottom crust.
Evenly spread entire fig filling over the bottom crust all the way to the edges. Remove the top crust from the freezer, and flip it on top of the fig filling and gently press down.
Bake for about 25 minutes, or until crust is golden and puffed. Remove from pan from oven and place on a cooling rack. When completely cool, use parchment paper overhang to lift fig bars from pan and cut into pieces of desired size. Store in airtight container at room temperature, or store in freezer.