Living in this postmodern era of ours, we've begun to think of things far more in a shade of gray rather than black or white like our modernist forefathers. But I think there are still some subjects that evoke polarized opinions in 99% of folks out there and the one I'm talking about specifically today is the one, the only...fig.
I love figs. That's not surprising because anyone would be hardpressed to find a food that I don't enjoy, as long as it's not black pudding (honestly, though, I've never tasted it but the mere thought of ingesting curdled pig's blood is unsettling on so many levels) or any fruit with the suffix "-melon" (and this one I simply can't explain--there is just something about my tastebuds that refuse to blossom in the presence of this rinded beauty--I want to love it but I simply can't).
But I'm willing to argue that if you don't love figs, you probably hate them. With that in mind, I proceed to the following recipe knowing that I will possibly alienate some of my readership for today, but I'm willing to take that chance because, well, it's a great recipe and those fig-lovers out there deserve to have it.
You know that I'm a compulsive label reader and ever since I read the ingredients on a package of Fig Newtons, I can no longer enjoy them with a clean conscience. They've got all the bad boys in there, including the notorious high fructose corn syrup and partially hydrogenated oil. So there I was without a Newton to nibble, and then I stumbled upon this recipe, the answer to my craving.
Disclaimer: These are by no means "healthy". They are healthier because they don't have some of the bad stuff in them, but they're still made with white flour and refined sugar. I imagine you could recreate them into something ultra-healthy with some wholewheat flour and honey, but that wasn't what I was looking for. I just wanted a non-lethal Fig Newton and that's exactly what these are.
Mai's "Arguably Non-Lethal" Fig Bars
6 tbsp. cold butter, cut in pieces
1 c. plus 2 tbsp. flour
1/2 c. plus 2 tbsp. sugar
1 1/2 c. dried figs
1/2 c. Simply Lemonade (Here's the deal: if you don't have this brand of lemonade, then you have to find one, or make your own, that only contains, water, lemon juice and sugar. You absolutely cannot use the stuff that comes in the plastic gallons at the gas station. Don't ask me why, just trust me on this one...Okay, so the reason is that those cheapo lemonades have all the bad stuff in them that the packaged Newtons have so if you use them, then really what's the purpose. Alright, I'm done preaching.)
1/4 c. water
Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Line a 8x8 inch pan with a sheet of foil with enough overhang on two sides to lift the bars out when they've cooled. Butter the foil.
In a food processor, blend 1 c. flour, 1/2 c. sugar and butter chunks until you have a coarse looking mixture. Press half of this mixture into the foil-lined pan and set the remaining crumbs in a bowl to the side.
Back at the food processor, blend together the figs, lemonade, water, and remaining 2tbsp. each of flour and sugar. Keep pureeing this mixture until it forms a thickish paste. Spread this paste on the crumb base in your pan and then sprinkle remaining crumbs on top of the fig paste.
Bake bars for 30-35 minutes, or until beginning to brown. Cool completely in pan, then, using the foil overhang, remove the whole square from the pan and cut into bars. Makes 16 bars.