I always liked Fig Newtons, but I find that many people like the filling and are a bit bored by the plain cake that surrounds it. I can see this because the cake doesn’t have a strong flavor to it and serves, primarily, to make the Newton easier to hold and eat. I was inspired by my last batch of Fig Newtons to make a fig bar that had a little more personality to it and the result was this recipe for Fig Crumble Bars.
The bars taste similar to Fig Newton, only much better. The crumble mixture is crisp, buttery and has an addictive salty-sweet quality to it. I actually added a bit more salt than I might usually add to the crumble mixture because of how intensely sweet figs are; having a pinch of extra salt lets the fruit stand out without the bars becoming overly sweet and cloying. The same crumble mixture is also pressed into the bottom of the pan to make a crust for the bars. In between, there is a rich fig layer that adds a tremendous amount of flavor and creates a nice contrast with the crisp, buttery top and bottom layers of this bar.
I would usually use jam or preserves as the filling for a bar cookie like these because they are easy to find, sweet and have a good fruit flavor. This time, I had a jar of Fig Butter from Trader Joe’s and I used that. Fruit butters are a lot like jams, but typically do not have much (or any) extra sugar added to them and they’re cooked to have a very, very smooth consistency. Some fruit butters tend to be a little watery (and would make the crust soggy), but this one was thick and rich with a great fresh fig flavor. If you have a Trader Joe’s, definitely try the fig butter. Otherwise, any good quality fig preserves will work beautifully here. I suggested a range for the filling so that, just in case you’re not a huge fig fan, you can put a slightly thinner layer of filling in your bars and still know that they’ll turn out.
Fig Crumble Bars
1/2 cup butter, room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 cup all purpose flour
1 cup oatmeal (regular or quick cooking)
1/2 tsp salt
8-10 oz fig preserves (or fig butter)
Preheat oven to 350F. Line a 9×9-inch square baking pan with aluminum foil and lightly grease.
In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Beat in flour, oatmeal and salt until a crumbly mixture forms. Set aside 1 cup of the mixture.
Pour remaining oatmeal mix into prepared pan and press it firmly in to an even layer. Spread fig preserves evenly over the crust (it helps to dollop the preserves in smaller scoops and spread them carefully). Top evenly with remaining crumble mixture.
Bake for 30-35 minutes, until bars are golden brown.
Cool completely in the pan, then use aluminum foil to lift bars out before slicing.
Makes 20 bars.