Chocolate Fig Bars

So I’ve had this baking book for over a good year now and hadn’t made anything out of it until this last Christmas. The recipes are awesome! From ginger scones, vanilla-spiced chai, dairy-free pumpkin pie, cinnamon-cardamom snickerdoodles, and mexican sweet potato pudding, it would be impossible to find something that didn’t sound good. There are recipes for main courses as well like hempseed-crusted tofu with agave-mustard sauce, chicken satay, and gado gado salad. Obviously those are not sweets, but the book is based on different kinds of sweeteners and alternatives to regular granulated white sugar. The introduction discusses the nutritional and chemical aspects of sugar, gives a brief history of sugar, and thorough explanations of almost every kind of sugar out there–ethnic sugars (jaggery, panela), raw sugars (sucanat, turbinado), moist brown sugars (demerara, muscovado), liquid sugars (molasses, cane syrup), and sweeteners from non-sugarcane sources (agave syrup, honey, maple, etc). It’s pretty great actually, in fact I should really study up on those especially since I order those kinds of sugars for the baking section now and knowledge = power and all of that good stuff. I like knowing what I’m talking about.
Anyway, I’ve had a few recipes bookmarked, especially this chocolate fig bar recipe, but never seemed to have all of the ingredients when I wanted to make it and wasn’t motivated to go out and buy everything. But I had some leftover heavy cream from making those (semi-disastrous) white chocolate truffles so I had no excuse at that point. I pretty much love anything involving figs so this was a must-make. Honestly, it was a little time consuming (finely chopping nearly 2 cups of dried figs took me probably fifteen minutes) and took a little longer than a typical vegan bar recipe but I wanted to give out these treats to friends and family for the holidays so it was all worth it. Everyone loved them. So I’d do it all again. (I just wish I’d taken a better picture of one cut into a square so you could see the pretty layers but they were gone so fast that I forgot!)
Chocolate Fig Bars
Makes 32 small bars — From Sweet! From Agave to Turbinado, Home Baking with Every Kind of Natural Sugar and Sweetener

For the ganache:
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 cup (6 oz) semisweet chocolate chips
3 tablespoons orange-flavored liqueur, such as Grand Marnier
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, at room temp

For the dough:
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
3 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temp, plus more for pan
1 cup light brown sugar, packed
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 1/4 cups finely chopped dried figs

1. Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees F. Lightly butter a 9 x 13-inch baking pan.

2. To make the ganache, bring the cream to a simmer in the medium-size saucepan over low heat. Remove from the heat and add the chocolate chips. Let stand until the chips soften, about 3 minutes. Stir until the chocolate is melted. Add the liqueur and butter, and stir until the butter melts. Let cool, stirring occasionally, until tepid and pourable, about 20 minutes.

3. Whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt in a bowl. Mix in 2 cups of the rolled oats.

4. Beat the butter and brown sugar in a medium-size bowl with an electric mixer at high speed until the mixture is light in color and texture, about 3 minutes. Beat in the egg, then the vanilla. Reduce the mixer speed to low. Add the flour mixture and mix just until the dough barely comes together–it should not be absolutely smooth.

5. Press three-quarters of the dough evenly over the bottom of the baking pan. Sprinkle the chopped figs into the pan. Pour the ganache over the figs and use a metal spatula to spread it as evenly as possible.

6. Combine the remaining dough with the remaining 1 cup of oats in a medium-size bowl, and work together with your fingers until crumbly. Scatter the streusel over the chocolate and figs.

7. Bake until the streusel is golden brown, 30 to 35 minutes. Let cool in the pan on a wire cake rack. Cut evenly into thirty-two bars. (The bars can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days.) These are also really great with fig gelato, if you can find some!

Optional Variations!
Apricot and Bittersweet Chocolate Bars: Omit the semisweet chocolate chips and substitute 2 1/4 cups of chopped dried apricots for the figs and 6 ounces of finely chopped bittersweet chocolate (60-70%).
Cherry and White Chocolate Bars: Omit the semisweet chocolate chips and substitute 2 1/2 cups dried cherries for the figs and 6 ounces white chocolate chips. If the white chocolate chips are stubborn and don’t melt, place the saucepan in a skillet of hot water and let stand until they cooperate.

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