Friday, August 27, 2010
Whole Wheat Fig Raspberry Bars
I’ve been wanting to see if I could put together a good recipe for fruit bars that uses fresh fruit rather than dried. I’ve also sort of been in the mood to do something with whole wheat flour, so these bars are a reflection of that mood. My aim was to develop a nice little rustic pastry where both the dough and the filling are moist and delicious. I think these bars do the trick.
The cookie dough bakes into a very tender, crumbly melt-in-your-mouth pastry. The filling has just a hint of sweetness to allow the fullest flavor of fresh fruit to blossom. If you don’t care for figs, substitute your favorite fruit or fruit jam. I’m sort of wondering about blueberries or plums or apples myself. And if whole wheat flour isn’t your thing, just use 1 3/4 C all-purpose flour instead. Add spice and/or finely chopped nuts to the filling for extra joy.
- The pastry dough can be made ahead and stored in the refrigerator overnight. The filling can be made a few days ahead. In fact, I prefer to let the filling set up in the refrigerator so it’s a bit easier to work with.
- If you’re going to substitute the fruit, the main thing is to cook it down until the fruit is jammy and most of the liquid is just about evaporated. Add sugar to taste, depending on the ripeness of the fruit.
- Keep the dough lightly dusted with flour to prevent sticking and tearing. Have a kitchen towel handy to wipe your rolling pin clean every few rolls. Flour your hands, dust the rolling pin with flour and keep rolling. If the pastry warms up, put it back in the refrigerator for a few minutes to firm up. If you’re not used to working with pastry dough, divide it into three equal pieces rather than two and roll out smaller rectangles so they are easier to work with.
- I use King Arthur Premium 100% Whole Wheat Flour (also known as King Arthur Traditional Whole Wheat Flour) for its superb flavor, consistent high quality and easy availability at many markets. It’s milled from the hard red spring wheat of the northern Great Plains and uses 100% of the wheat berry, which provides the full flavor and nutrients of the bran and germ. I think it’s the best of its kind out there and I highly recommend it.
- The ground wheat germ in whole wheat flour contains oil that can become rancid over a long period of time. Whole wheat flour will keep 1 to 3 months at room temperature. For longer storage, place it in an airtight container or freezer bag in your refrigerator. It will maintain good quality for about 6 months in the refrigerator and up to 12 months in the freezer. If you place it in the freezer, be sure to bring it to room temperature before using it. The very cold temperature of frozen flour will discourage the baking properties of yeast or baking powder.
- If you favor whole wheat pastries, you might also enjoy Whole Wheat Honey Cake.
Whole Wheat Fig Raspberry Bars
Makes about 26 cookies
Whole Wheat Pastry Dough
1 1/4 C whole wheat flour
1/2 C all-purpose flour
1/8 t cinnamon
1/3 C sugar
2 T dark brown sugar
1/4 t salt
6 oz (1 1/2 sticks) cold butter
2 T whole milk
3/4 t vanilla
Fig Raspberry Filling
1 lb fresh ripe figs
3 T water
3 T honey or sugar, to taste
zest of 1/2 orange
1 t lemon juice
3 oz raspberries (about 3/4 C, loosely packed)
To prepare the pastry dough, place the flours, cinnamon, sugars and salt in a food processor and process to combine. Cut the cold butter into small cubes and add to the dry ingredients. Pulse the mixture until the butter is in very small pieces about the size of grains of rice. Combine the milk and vanilla and add. Process until the mixture begins to gather in large clumps around the center of the food processor blade.
Pour the dough onto a piece of plastic wrap, gather it into a cohesive package and shape it into a flat rectangle. Divide the dough into two equal pieces. Wrap each tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate until thoroughly chilled or overnight.
For the Fig Raspberry Filling, cut the stems off the figs and chop coarsely into small chunks. Place them in a saucepan with the water, honey or sugar and orange zest. Cook on medium heat until the mixture comes to a full simmer. Lower the heat and cook the fruit slowly and gently for about 15 – 20 minutes or until the fruit is jammy, stirring every few minutes and adding a bit more water if necessary to prevent scorching. Add raspberries and continue cooking for another few minutes until the raspberries have softened and broken down into the fig mixture. Take off the heat, add the lemon juice and cool completely. Store in the refrigerator to set up.
When ready to assemble the bars, remove one of the Whole Wheat Pastry Dough packets from the refrigerator, place on a lightly floured piece of parchment and let it sit a few minutes to take off the chill. (The dough is ready to roll out when it doesn’t crack when you try to roll it out.) Dust the top of the dough lightly with all-purpose flour and roll out to a rectangle measuring 15” x 5”. Work quickly, running an offset spatula under the dough to make sure it isn’t sticking to the parchment and dusting lightly with flour whenever necessary. When you have the finished rectangle, lift the parchment paper with the pastry dough onto a baking sheet and refrigerate. Repeat with the next piece of dough.
Once the pastry has been rolled out and slightly chilled, remove one rectangle at a time and continue to work on the parchment paper. Lift the rectangle up to be sure it isn't stuck to the parchment. When the dough feels pliable, place half the fig raspberry jam on one half of the dough lengthwise, leaving a small border on all three sides. Gently lift the length of the parchment furthest away from you and bring it up and over toward you to fold the dough over the fruit. Gently guide and press the dough into a finished rectangle. If the dough is too cold and cracks slightly, just pinch it together as it warms up. Take a fork and press the edges together to seal. Lift the parchment onto the baking sheet and place in the refrigerator while you repeat this process with the second batch. Chill the formed pastry for about an hour.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Take a sharp knife and cut slices in the pastry about every inch or so but leave the pastry in tact and do not separate the slices. Place the baking sheet in the lower third of the oven and bake for about 25 minutes. Cool completely, then slice the bars again to separate. These are best eaten the same day. They soften over time.