Tomorrow is my day to provide a snack for Zander’s Montessori class–I love it when it’s my turn! 🙂 I’m supposed to bring (vegan) cheese and crackers, and I will honor that (scroll to bottom), but I will also be delivering some healthy whole wheat “figgy bars” that Zander and I baked this morning. It’s no secret that figs pair nicely with cheese, and I think the toddlers will agree–I already know from this morning’s taste test that Zander agrees!
I found this recipe in one of my favorite cookbooks: Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar, by Isa Chandra Moskowitz. It is also posted on Isa’s website, Post Punk Kitchen. I’ll share it below along with my own observations about the process.
WHOLE WHEAT “FIGGY BARS”
1 lb dried figs, preferably black mission figs, hard stems removed and diced into small pieces (I only had about 1/2 lb of black mission figs on hand, so I substituted 1/2 lb calimyrna figs and the bars still came out great)
2/3 cup water (Isa notes in her book that you may need to add more water while cooking, and that was true for me–I probably added at least another 1/2 cup)
1/4 cup agave nectar or pure maple syrup (I used agave nectar)
2 tsp finely grated citrus zest (try lemon, orange, lime or a combination) (I was too lazy to zest the one lemon in my fridge, so I added about 1 tsp of lemon juice instead)
2 Tbsp ground flax seeds
1/4 cup non-dairy milk (I used soy milk)
1/2 cup canola oil
3/4 cup granulated sugar (I used turbinado sugar)
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 3/4 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
Preheat oven to 350°F.
Line an 8 x 8 square metal brownie pan with enough aluminum foil so that it folds over the sides of the pan by about an inch. Spray bottom of covered pan with a little non-stick cooking spray. (I don’t have an 8×8 square metal pan, so I used an 8×6 glass baking dish plus a small round glass dish for the extra dough and filling–this worked out well, because then we had a separate batch that Zander and I could taste at home before sharing with his classmates).
In a large saucepan, combine chopped figs, water, agave nectar/maple syrup, and citrus zest. Bring to boil over medium heat, reduce to a simmer, and stir occasionally. When figs begin to soften in about 8 to 10 minutes, continue to cook, but mash figs with a firm spatula or a fork to create a chunky, moist paste. (We used a potato masher). If mixture starts to look overly dry, add 2 Tbsp of water and stir, dribbling in additional water to mixture if necessary.
Remove filling from heat and set aside. If mixture still seems too chunky, puree in a food processor until desired texture is reached. (Zander and I ran our fig mixture through the Vitamix to create a velvety smooth paste).
In a large mixing bowl, combine ground flax seeds, non-dairy milk, canola oil, sugar, and vanilla extract until smooth, mixing for about 1 1/2 minutes. Sift in whole wheat pastry flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Stir to form a soft dough, gather into a ball with your hands, and divide into two sections. (We divided ours into 4 sections, because we were using 2 dishes). Shape each section of dough into a square shape about an inch thick. (We made 2 large rectangles and 2 small balls, which we squished into circles with our hands).
Place one half of dough between two large sheets of waxed paper. With a rolling pin, roll dough into a larger square about the same size of the pan (slightly larger is fine). Occasionally rotate the dough while rolling to help maintain an even thickness. (Zander was DELIGHTED to help with this part, especially since he had been practicing with his play dough all morning).
When finished rolling, peel off top layer of waxed paper and flip dough directly into the prepared baking pan. Remove bottom layer of waxed paper, and press dough firmly into the pan. Spread fig filling over the dough, making sure to spread evenly all the way to the edges. Prepare the top crust with the remaining dough using the same method as bottom crust, flipping on top of filling and pressing dough evenly and all the way to the edges.
While I was preparing the larger dish, Zander was supposed to be helping with the smaller one. Instead, he went rogue and decided to break off half of the dough and shove it into his mouth as fast as possible!
I managed to retrieve the other half, and I used the trimmings from around the edges of the rectangular piece to replace what Zander had eaten from the circular one.
Bake for 20 to 22 minutes until crust is golden and puffed. Remove from oven and place pan on wire rack to cool.
When completely cool, remove bars from pan by grabbing edges of foil, then lift everything out of pan and flip over onto cutting board. (First, we flipped over our little round taste-test figgy bar–then sliced it into quarters and promptly devoured it while the larger one continued to cool…)
Peel off foil and slice into 12 bars. (Because these are for toddlers, I sliced them into 24 mini-bite-sized bars instead of 12 larger ones). Store in a tightly covered container.
For the cheese and crackers, I used one Daiya Jack Style Wedge and one Daiya Cheddar Style Wedge:
I sliced each one into 30 little bite-sized pieces to deliver with a box of organic stone ground wheat crackers. I hope the rest of Zander’s classmates will like this snack as much as he and I did today!