Fig Bars part 1: Experimental phase

My kids love fig bars, especially those Nature’s Bakery fig bars from Costco. When I used to buy them, I wouldn’t even bat an eye at the $11+ price tag, because it worked out to something like 30 cents for 2 bars, and I felt like they were worth it. I actually bought 6 boxes when they were on sale for $8 something once and had no trouble finishing them in 2 months. The truth is, my husband and I both like them as much as the kids do.

The real reason I don’t buy them anymore is because they are made with canola oil. I can forgive the little bit of sugar, and even the reformulation of the recipe which seemed to reduce the actual fruit in the bar… but we are no longer eating seed oils. I know there are a lot of people who believe canola oil is healthy, but my personal experience and health crisis has led me to research that implicates these modern, non-traditional fats in almost all of the western diseases. They just aren’t proper food for our cells, and end up building up in our bodies, taxing our livers and causing inflammation. There is really strong correlation between the introduction of seed oils (cottonseed and soybean shortening etc) and the increase in heart disease and type 2 diebetes. There are also actual studies. The Weston A. Price foundation is a good place to start if you are interested in finding out more about the actual research.

My personal experience with oil-free vegan diets and high-fat ketogenic, as well as a more traditional foods diet has led me to a strong belief that avoiding modern oils is the most significant health choice I can make for myself and my family. This single choice may have compounding benefits, for example – I no longer buy 99% of bakery, snack foods or processed foods. This means I make almost all of our food from scratch, and while I am at it, I am using more whole grains, coconut sugar and good fats. I’m not using hydrolyzed soy protein or high-fructose corn syrup. I choose organic when I think it matters, and I’m crafting foods that are designed to fuel and nurture my family. I think of the flavor, presentation and texture part of food preparation to be for the soul. It’s the part that I use to express love and encouragement to my family. Recipe creation is a science, and while I’ve always loved experimenting, it’s taken years to actually get good at it. Being able to make something yummy, with a balance of textures and flavors that are not only repeatable at home, but shareable is an incredible task. I love it, and I love that people will always take their own spin on things, but I want to communicate my recipes in a way that if it’s followed precisely, it will come out precisely like it did for me. This might be a lofty goal, but it comes from the heart for me.

Something like making someone’s favorite food when they are going through a tough day or week can make a huge impact on the overall mood and mental health of your loved ones. I believe food is medicine, not just as molecules that nourish our cells, but also as a powerful tool that can nurture our souls. This is why I advocate for eating guilt free. You should choose foods you believe are healthy, and while I believe you should do the research and find out as much science as you can, a large aspect of health is actually derived from our emotional and mental health. I strive to create consistency and eat and prepare foods according to my own conscience.

These are the two Fig bar recipes I made yesterday.

Recipe A: https://www.food.com/recipe/whole-wheat-fig-bars-107352

Recipe A was not practical to roll, so I put it in a 9 X 13 pan. This is before baking.

Substitutions: I used coconut sugar in the dough instead of brown sugar. I used sustainable, organic Palm shortening instead of butter. I used noname unbleached flour and noname wholewheat flour. I left out the orange zest. In the fig mixture, I used coconut sugar instead of granulated sugar.

Notes: The dough was very dry and crumbly. I could not find my rolling pin, but I’m pretty sure if I had found it, it would have rolled out like a pie crust, but been very hard to work with. I ended up pressing half of the dough into a 9X13 glass baking dish, spreading the fig mixture on and crumbling the remaining dough on top. I baked it at 350 convection for 20 minutes.

The fig mixture was easy and came out sticky/tacky but needed blending, so I put it in the vitamix and pulsed it until it was mostly smooth. This step was not in the original recipe, but it didn’t make sense to me to use lumpy figs because I didn’t think my kids would like it. I used the instant pot on saute to boil it, and it worked nicely. It was sticky enough to be hard to spread on the crumbly base, and I need a little bit of extra from the other recipe to actually cover the whole thing.

Recipe B: https://www.dessertfortwo.com/homemade-fig-newtons-recipe/

Recipe B was easy to make into rolls. This is just before baking.

Substitutions: I used coconut sugar in the dough instead of brown sugar. I used sustainable, organic Palm shortening instead of butter. I used noname unbleached flour and noname wholewheat flour. In the fig mixture, I used 2 cups of water plus 2 TBS coconut sugar instead of 1 TBS honey. I would have used honey here, but I’m all out.

Notes: The fig mixture was softer than the other mixture. My husband said it was “soft” and not the way he was used to fig bars. I followed the instructions and I thought it turned out good, but it was more wet vs sticky or jellied. The dough was awesome to work with, and even though the recipe called for pressing it into a pan and freezing half of it for the top, I couldn’t imagine why with how easy the rolling seemed, so I pressed it between parchment paper, cut it, filled it and rolled it into two rolls. I had some fig mixture left and added it to the other recipe, which seemed to be a little short. I baked it at 350 convection for 20 minutes, along with the other bars.

Thoughts on both recipes

They were both delicious! So fresh and delightful. I would take either one to a potluck, really. Aside from my husband’s comment about the figs in Recipe B being to wet, everyone has loved them. I would not discourage you from trying either recipe, but I will be doing some more tests to come up with the ultimate bar for my family, and sharing it here.

My ideal recipe will be rolled, but in a time crunch could be squished into a pan. It should also double as my hamentashen recipe at purim.

It will be made with palm oil and or coconut oil, coconut sugar and as much whole wheat flour as it can tolerate without making a dry bar. I will try reducing the sugar in the dough, but I will use as much as it needs to get that good texture like Recipe B has, and I want the filling to be more like Recipe A. I would also like to make a raspberry and a blueberry filling.

Thanks for reading! I’ll be back with part 2 and the final recipe, but we will need to eat these up before I make another batch.

#NaturesBakery – if you are listening, my family would love a fig bar made with coconut oil or sustainable palm oil, and if you could use coconut sugar or honey and sprouted wheat or spelt flour, this traditional foods mama and others will buy your snacks again.

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