Tuesday, August 18, 2009
I have been in a baking rut. Every weekend, I pull out the baking accouterments and work with the heat to produce something that S can have for breakfast during the week. But I have been repeating myself - biscotti, savory muffins, wholemeal chocolate cookies and bread. If it was a grind for me, the repeats must have been a bore to S. I needed to be inspired! Fittingly, it took a cookie to re-ignite my taste buds; specifically, a lemon fig cookie. My love for figs has been documented. Throw in a lemon? The flavor combination appealed to me. I had also just picked-up an old dessert recipe book from Know Knew Book store and was inspired by its use of wholegrain flour and natural sweeteners like honey and maple syrup. I have already started using whole wheat pastry flour and was keen to try the newer natural sweeteners like agave and brown rice syrup. I chose to use brown rice syrup in this recipe; it is less sweet than agave and honey tends to impart its own flavor.
Since I was experimenting, I decided to use a butter substitute from Earth Balance. When my in-laws visited last year, I bought a tub of the spread on the recommendation of my friend J because it is healthier for those with heart issues. Now, I am one of those who believe it's butter or nothing. But this is not your mother's margarine. It has no trans fat and is non-hydrogenated. In fact, the Earth Balance spread really impressed me. It has a light buttery taste that melts just right on warm toast. Here, I used their baking sticks; this makes the recipe vegan-friendly.
I was very happy with the results. More importantly, S liked it. The lemon was a little subtle - maybe next time I will try lemon peels to contrast more strongly with the figs. I have to confess now that I am actually not a fan of fruit bars - this was just for S. But I like the crust so much that I could eat it even if it didn't have the fig lemon topping on it. The crust tasted a little nutty, like there was a touch of peanut butter. I wonder if that's the net taste of wholemeal flour, oats and brown rice syrup. But it is a promiscuous type of crust - the type that demands pairings with other luscious toppings.
Fig lemon oatmeal bar*
Inspired by The Common Ground Dessert Cookbook
2 cup rolled oats
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
½ cup Earth Balance (or butter)
6 tablespoons brown rice syrup (or honey)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
Fig lemon topping
1 cup dried figs, cut into ½ inch pieces
¾ cup water
½ cup fresh lemon juice
zest of 1 organic lemon
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1. Heat oven to 350°F. Mix the flour, oatmeal and spices. Add the brown rice syrup and Earth Balance (these should be at room temperature). Use your fingers to blend the flour mixture until well-incorporated. Press the mixture into an oiled an 8" by 8" baking pan.
2. To make the topping, put all the ingredient, except the cornstarch into a small saucepan on low heart. Stir until mixture becomes fairly smooth. Scoop a tablespoon of the mixture into a small bowl and dissolve the cornstarch in it. Pour back into the saucepan and stir until mixture thickens. If it is too thick, just a little water.
3. Pour fig lemon mix into the baking pan and spread evenly on the pressed oatmeal mixture. Bake for about 30 minutes. It's done when a cake tester comes out clean. Let it cool before cutting into bars.
*Update: On the second day of his breakfast bar, my husband, known for his salt tooth, decides that the crust could do with a little salt. If you are the same way, add ½ teaspoon salt.