Friday, December 23, 2011

"adult" fig newtons.

from preparation to post, this healthy cookie series has been highly educational so far. i've grown as a gluten-free and vegan baker and spent way too many hours perusing cookie recipes online. through numerous baking adventures - and misadventures - i've kept my classmates well fed and created a name for myself as "that vegan girl". i've learned that just because a cookie isn't what i (or ina garten) would call a success, people will still eat it, enjoy it, and then lie to you about how wonderful of a baker you are. the best part? knowing it's a lie doesn't detract one bit from how good it feels.we're nearing the end of the series, and i have two amazing recipes left to share. the first are these vegan fig bars. in an attempt to curb my natural tendency to only bake things with chocolate in them, i decided to revamp a treat from my childhood lunchbox: the fig newton. whereas the packaged über-sugary fig newtons aren't particularly appetizing, these bars are dynamite. the smell of freshly stewed figs with agave is heavenly, and the dough is the perfect amount of chewy with a crunch from the chia seeds. what more, you'll have leftover figs to use in other assorted treats.... (stayed tuned!).
"adult” fig newtons
adapted from post punk kitchen

for the fig filling:
16 oz. dried black mission figs, stems removed and chopped into small bits
1 cup water
¼ cup agave nectar
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest

for the dough:
2 tablespoons chia seeds
1/3 cup almond milk
½ cup vegetable oil
¾ cup brown sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 ¾ cup all purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
¾ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
turbinado sugar, for topping

start by making the filling. in a small saucepan, throw in the chopped figs, water, agave, and citrus. bring to a boil over medium heat, and reduce to a simmer. stirring every minute of so, cook for a good 10 minutes, until figs begin to soften. let them continue to cook, but mash them with a fork or masher (?!) to create a chunky paste. the water will evaporate in the process – if it gets too dry, add in more water, a tablespoon at a time. remove from heat and set aside. you can leave your figs chunky, or if you want a smoother puree, throw it in the food processor (i prefer chunky!).

line an 8 x 8 square baking tin with aluminum foil so that the foil hangs over the sides of the pan. spray the foil with a bit of non-stick cooking spray.

now, it’s time for the dough. in a large mixing bowl, combine the chia seeds, almond milk, oil, sugar, and vanilla. whisk for a good 2 minutes to make sure it’s combined. in a small mixing bowl, combine flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. add dry to wet mixes, a bit at a time, stirring constantly. stir to form a soft dough. using your hands, form the dough into a ball and then divide into two equal parts. shape each section of the dough into a small square about an inch thick.

take the first two square and place it between two large sheets of wax paper. using a rolling pin, roll the dough into a larger square (or square-like shape) about the size of the 8 x 8 pan. if it is slightly larger, that’s ok too.

when you have your square shape, peel off the top layer of wax paper. flip the dough directly onto the pan. push it into pan. this will help to peel off the top wax paper layer, which you should do… now! when the dough is firmly in place, spread the fig filling all over.* don’t forget the corners!

using the same method as with the bottom crust, prepare the top crust. flip the crust on top of the fig mixture, press down firmly so it sticks, and peal the wax paper away.

bake for around 20 minutes, or until the crust is slightly golden and puffed. remove from oven and let cool. when cool, grab the edges of the tin foil and remove the cookie block from the pan, placing it on a cutting board. cut into bars of any size. enjoy, and then store in a sealed container.

*note: i used about ¾ of it the fig mixture here and reserved the rest for another recipe.