Friday, July 22, 2011
Fig & Chocolate Oatmeal Bars
Glancing at my calendar, I realize that in one month I will have completed four incredible years in this pastry studio. As I experiment in my lab week after week after week, it seems I almost always find myself keeping things simple and fresh. I have my days when the ideas I have or the recipes I’m testing don’t quite measure up, but for the most part, the process of discovery of what works and what doesn’t is one that is enjoyable in and of itself. When the contents of your toolbox consist of the aroma of flour, the luxury of butter, the constant mystery of chocolate and the bright spring palette of luscious fresh fruit in a region brimming with it, it’s hard to mistake your good fortune. It’s a supreme pleasure to be able to keep my hands in it.
This particular pastry gathers the wonderful worlds of oatmeal, fresh figs and decadent dark chocolate into one welcome cookie universe. It’s a comforting collision of great flavors. It comes in the form of a bar cookie that makes it very easy to prepare and even easier to entice. I also like the chewiness that bar cookies invariably deliver. It’s hard to argue with something so simple.
Since oatmeal is one of my obsessions, I decided to use it as the base for everything else. Fresh figs cooked on the stove for just a few minutes bring out their jammy goodness, add moisture and unmistakable figgy flavor. A layer of chocolate is included just to gild the lily, which is sometimes necessary when pursuing these things.
- Use old-fashioned oats, not the “quick” variety.
- If you want the figs to dominate, use 3 oz of chocolate. For a more pronounced chocolate layer, use 4 oz.
- Vary the fig jam by adding lemon or orange zest or vanilla bean or crushed anise seeds or a punch of port.
- For an even grander supreme experience, add a handful of raspberries after the figs are cooked.
- I think it would also probably work nicely to substitute whole wheat flour for the all-purpose flour.
- More fig cookie goodness: Whole Wheat Fig Raspberry Bars, Fig & Goat Cheese Chocolate Sandwich Cookies and Blue Cheese Cookies with Fresh Fig Jam .
Fig & Chocolate Oatmeal Bars
makes 1 dozen 4” x 1 1/4” bar cookies
16 - 18 fresh ripe figs
2 – 3 T water
2 T sugar, to taste
1 C flour
1 3/4 C old fashioned oats
1 t baking powder
1/2 t salt
1/4 t cinnamon
1/4 C brown sugar, packed
1/4 C + 2 T granulated sugar
6 oz (1 1/2 sticks) cold butter
1 t vanilla
4 oz dark chocolate, chopped
1/2 cup sliced almonds
Stem and chop the figs and place in a saucepan with the water and sugar. Cook on low heat until the figs are soft and juicy, stirring to prevent scorching. Add a bit more water if necessary as the mixture cooks and taste to adjust sugar. Pull off the heat and cool completely.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Lightly grease an 8” square pan and line with a piece of parchment paper large enough to form an overhang along two sides of the pan.
Combine the flour, oats, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and both sugars in the bowl of a food processor. Process until ingredients are combined and the oats are chopped a bit but not ground completely.
Cut the cold butter into small pieces and add to the dry ingredients along with the vanilla. Pulse until the mixture starts to clump. It should remain a bit loose but hold together when pinched.
Press about 2/3 of the oatmeal mixture into the prepared pan to form the bottom layer. Distribute the chopped chocolate evenly across the surface. Pour the fig mixture over the chocolate and spread gently. Top with the remaining oatmeal mixture. Press the sliced almonds gently into the surface.
Bake for 25-30 minutes or until slightly browned. Place the pan on a wire rack to cool completely. Gently lift out of the pan using the parchment overhang and cut into bars.