I adore figs for their syrupy sweetness, their sensuous jam like texture, and the unexpected beauty of their hidden interior. Figs are one of my favorite indulgences. And although they lose some of their more sensual qualities when dried, they do not lose any of their sweet flavor or their nutrition.
Figs contain many essential minerals, such as magnesium, manganese, calcium, copper, potassium, and zinc. They are also a good source of B vitamins, as well as vitamins C, K, and E. Plus their high fiber content puts them right up there with prunes in the laxative department.
I also love figs because they remind me of India, and I love India. When I lived there (many years ago), I had this ritual that I would perform every time I went to Mumbai during fig season. I would walk down Causeway St., in Colaba, in search of a fruit vendor. There were usually a couple within walking distance of my (cheap, decrepit) budget hotel. I would buy three perfectly ripe fresh figs. Then I would cross the street and make my way to Theobroma, a chocolate pastry shop, where I would buy myself a piece of chocolate decadence. Filled with desire, I would rush back to my hotel room with these culinary treasures, and lay them out picnic style on the bed, and forget all else while I savored the moment. Oh yah- heaven-chocolate and figs.
These days I would have to forgo the sugary baked good, but figs are still one of my favorite indulgences. That is why I am thankful for recipes like this. These bars are full of fig flavor and nutrition. But instead of being degraded in the usual way of baking-by adding lots of sugar and dairy fats- instead these have the addition of healthy ingredients, such as nuts, oats, and chia seeds.
The recipe came from one of my favorite cookbooks, My New Roots, by Sarah Britton. Her book is full of inspiring healthy recipes. And although I tweaked her recipe a bit, she gave me the inspiration to make these.
Walnut Fig Bars
adapted from My New Roots
1 1/2 T. chia seeds soaked in1/4 c.of water until gelled
1 c. raw walnuts (you will toast them in the oven)
2 cups of oats
1/4 c. applesauce (unsweetened)
1 T. coconut oil melted
1 tsp. vanilla extract
3/4 tsp. sea salt
1 tsp. baking powder
Start by preheating your oven to just under 350 degrees.
Spread the raw walnuts on a baking sheet and place in the preheating oven until toasted. Remove and set aside to cool.
In a food processor, process 1c. of the oats until a rough flour like texture. The remaining 1c. will be left whole.
Add the walnuts and process again until coarse to medium in texture.
Add the salt and baking powder and pulse for a couple of seconds to combine.
Next mix all of your wet ingredients. And then add these to the nut oat mix, and pulse until combined.
Put this mixture into a bowl and add the remaining 1c. of whole oats. MIx well with a spoon or your hands.
In a greased (with coconut oil) 8x8 baking pan, press a bit more than half of the mixture into the bottom for the crust. The rest will go on top.
Make the filling.
2 cups of dried figs roughly chopped
1tsp. of cardamom (or more to taste)
1 tsp. of lemon juice
1 tsp. of vanilla extract
pinch of sea salt
Wipe out the food processor bowl and pulse above ingredients until desired consistency. It can be completely smooth to chunky. Taste it and add more cardamom if you want a more pronounced taste.
Spread this mixture over the crust.
Add 1-2T. of maple syrup to the remaining nut oat mix and crumble over the top, covering as much of the filling as possible.
Sprinkle on a few extra raw walnuts if desired, and press gently into the topping.
Note: you could skip the maple syrup, but that would make the topping drier and less likely to stick together.
Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until it starts to get golden and toasted.
Cool completely before cutting.
These will keep for 5 days well wrapped and refrigerated.
Like any dried fruit, dried figs are very concentrated in sugar, so I suggest cutting these into 16 pieces, and then trying to eat just one!