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« The true nature of pie | Main | Patching together food traditions »

Fig bars gluten-free


I grew up on Fig Newtons; summer days at the pool, my prune and waterlogged fingertips wrapped around these cookies disguised as snack food.

Imagine my surprise to see a recipe to make your own lurking in the pages of a book that’s already in heavy rotation in my kitchen. Julia first turned me on to page 145 of Linda Ziedrich’s Joy of Jams Jellies and Other Sweet Preserves way back when she first posted about jelly rolls and fruit bars. Only after my fig jam escapades a couple weeks ago did I finally set to work de-gluten’ing the bars. If you’re not gluten-free, have a go at her recipe directly.

Beyond figs, you can make these with any thicker (i.e. non-watery) fruit spread you’d like.

Gluten-free Fig Bars

yields roughly 34 small bars

1. Set out 1-1/2 sticks of unsalted butter on the counter first thing to soften. Tear off 3 pieces of parchment paper that are each about 18” long. Cut them in half lengthwise so you have 6 long strips of parchment paper. Set aside. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

2. Combine your flours in a large mixing bowl (or use 2.5 cups of a gluten-free all-purpose flour mix like Pamela’s gluten-free bread mix or similar)

3/4 cup tapioca starch (I’ve also successfully subbed 1/2 cup potato starch and 1/4 cup cornstarch here)

3/4 cup sweet rice flour

1/3 cup oat flour (I grind gluten-free rolled oats in my food processor)

1/3 cup buckwheat flour

1/3 cup millet flour

2 tsp xanthan gum

1/2 teaspoon salt

3. I have a stand mixer, so I used it. Use whatever mixing technology you have on hand, which might be your own biceps, to cream the following:

1-1/2 sticks butter, softened

3/4 cup light brown sugar

4. Separate an egg and add the yolk to the butter and sugar and keep the white for sealing your bars later.

5. Add to the butter, sugar, egg mixture:

1/3 cup milk (I used whole)

1 tsp vanilla extract

5. Add wet mixture to flour mixture and incorporate the two with a wooden spoon or firm spatula. The wet will try to stick to the spoon, so you’ll need to scrape it off with your finger periodically. Mix together until there is no more dry flour anywhere in the bowl. Split the dough into three even balls. (Yes, I know there are only two pictured below. I have the other dough segment already out for Step 6!)

6. Grab one of your strips of parchment paper and lay one of the dough segments out along the paper. Use your hands to pull and shape it into a long snake of dough.

Place another strip of parchment on top of the dough and use your rolling pin to flatten the dough into a long rectangle shape. Get the dough as thin as you can without oozing out of the constraints of the parchment paper.

7. Use a butter knife to cut away excess blob-iness and form a real rectangle out of the dough. Aim for a 4”-wide strip, but you don’t need to pull out your ruler; it’s okay if your strip ends up being a little wider. Keep the scraps you peel off so you can make an extra strip or a fun-shaped cookie in the end.

8. Add filling of your choice by spreading about 2”-wide of a strip, 1” away from the long side closest to you and from both the short sides. You should basically end up with one long side that’s a little farther from the jam. (Notice below how the right side has a bit more space than the left?)

9. Brush egg white along the side farthest from the jam (the right side in my image above) and along both the short ends. Fold the parchment paper over lengthwise to meet the two sides.

Carefully peel off the parchment paper top flap and cinch together the seams with your fingers. The egg wash will make it rather sticky, so you might need to grease your fingers to keep from pulling up the edges of your bars each time you pinch.

Transfer strip carefully and swiftly to a cookie sheet keeping the parchment paper underneath. Repeat with other two dough balls.

You will need to trim the parchment paper surrounding the third strip since you don’t want to cover up the other two strips.

Bake for 20 minutes, rotate pan in the oven and bake for another 10-15 min or until the cookies are firm when tapped.

Slice (carefully) while still warm and place individual cookies on cooling rack.

(I made an alternate flavor, rhubarb peach, and an olallieberry empanada with my dough scraps!)

Reader Comments (7)

These look amazing. What a great idea for a gluten-free option. I thought I didn't like figs for the longest time because of the traditional fig newtons. I didn't realize that real figs and fig preserves are so much more delicious. I plan to try a dairy free version of these. I'll share if they turn out!

Sommer, I can't wait to hear about your dairy-free version!

July 29, 2011 | Registered CommenterKate

The rhubarb peach sound especially tasty!

July 30, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterDeborah

I love the the part where you say :add filling of your choice: You are amazing,, Kate Payne.. I often find my self saying I wish Kate lived closer to me and suddenly I realize how close your are because of my computer and the internet. I am 79 yrs old and you are teaching me things I wouldn't have thought of. If I DIDN'T KNOW BERTHA BURNHAM I WOULD LOVE YOU ANYWAY.


July 30, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterShirley Munafo

I love figs! This recipe looks delicious and I can't wait to try it.

August 2, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterStarr

fun!! my kids love fig newtons, so this will be a welcomed snack at our house!! thanks!!!

August 7, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterThe Mixing Bowl Diary

This was a fantastic idea. I also used the recipe for the fig preserve. I used xylitol as the sugar. For the fig bars I did make it, gluten free, dairy free, and egg free. Instead of egg I used 1/2 cup of apple sauce, you can use any fruit mashed. For the butter I used the Earth Balance, natural buttery spread. For milk I used almond milk, (i make my own almond milk) Milk can be replaced with any other milk, soy, almond, hemp, etc. I will try this next weekend with a homemade peach preserve.

August 19, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMaresa Ricoca

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