Fig Cookie Bars
When I was a kid my parents were pretty strict about not keeping “junk food” in the house. We never had things like potato chips, packaged cookies, or pop readily available to us. They were all reserved for a treat – a birthday party, eating out, sleepovers, etc. The only snack I remember being in the house pretty much all the time was pretzels, but forget it when it came to anything else. It wasn’t really until high school that I started trying different types of packaged cookies, and through four years of hanging out at friends’ houses, weekend retreats, and bus trips, I emerged with three loves: soft-baked chocolate chip cookies, pink-iced animal cookies, and Fig Newtons. Only one still tugs at my heart strings today – my beloved Fig Newtons. I can do without any other store-bought treat, but any time I see those in the store I immediately want to buy a box and then sit down and eat the entire thing. It’s the one treat that I never thought could be properly replicated at home. I really should know better. You can make anything homemade. And it’s guaranteed to taste a thousand times better than what you buy in the store. All hail Fig Bars!
No one in my family seems to like figs, but my mom has told me on a number of occasions that my grandpap LOVED figs and, as a result, their house was always stocked with Fig Newtons. Now I know it’s in my blood 🙂
These fig bars require a few steps, but can still be completed in less than 2 hours. I was astonished at how similar to Fig Newtons they actually taste. The filling is spot-on, and the cookie base and topping has the same type of soft, sponge-like texture that the cookies have. There is one key to these bars being a perfect replication – make sure that you use Turkish or Calimyrna figs. These are lighter on the outside than the more typical Mission figs. I found the Calimyrna dried figs right next to the Mission figs at the grocery store, so I believe they are readily available in most locations. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have an entire pan of cookies to eat!
What are your favorite store-bought treats that you enjoy recreating at home?
¾ cup all-purpose flour
½ cup whole wheat flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt + Pinch of salt, divided
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
¾ cup light brown sugar
1 egg, at room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
8 ounces dried Turkish or Calimyrna figs, stemmed and quartered
2 cups apple juice
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line an 8-inch square baking pan with aluminum foil, allowing excess to hang over the pan edges. Grease the foil; set pan aside.
2. Combine the flours, baking powder, and ¼ teaspoon of salt in a small bowl. With an electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Beat in the egg and vanilla until combined. Stir in the flour mixture until just incorporated. Place all but ¾ cup dough into the prepared pan and spread into an even layer. Bake until just golden, about 20 minutes. After you put the bottom crust in the oven, roll the remaining dough into an 8-inch square between two sheets of greased parchment paper, then place in the freezer until firm, about 30 minutes.
3. Meanwhile, cook the figs, apple juice, and the remaining pinch of salt in a saucepan over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until very soft and syrupy, 15 to 20 minutes; cool slightly. Process the mixture with the lemon juice in a food processor until jam-like.
4. Spread the fig mixture evenly over the baked crust. Top with the frozen dough square and press lightly on the dough to adhere. Bake until the top is golden brown, 25 to 30 minutes. Cool completely on a wire rack, about 2 hours. Using the foil overhang, lift bars from pan and cut into squares. Store leftovers in an airtight container at room temperature.