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Monday, July 28, 2014

Mrs. Anderson's Spiced Fig Bars

Here is a recipe with quite a bit of mystery to it.  I'll start right off the bat with the recipe clipping from Helen's breadbox:

The first mystery is that this recipe doesn't really give much indication as to what it is.  I mean there is a nice divided list of ingredients and the main portion of the instructions are there, but some of the details are missing.  It looks like it has some mixture that would indicate some sort of cake maybe, but there is a fig filling with a lot of sticky fruit which kind of throws me off a bit.

The second mystery is Mrs. Anderson from Caseville, Michigan. Was she a friend of Helen Reilly?  Maybe.  A quick web search results in a couple Mrs. Anderson's in the Caseville area, but I don't really have much of a way to verify who this might be.  Finding Mrs. Anderson is another investigation in it's own right.  Maybe I'll figure it out some day.  But for now, onto the recipe.

So for the most part, ignoring the filling, this looks like it could be a muffin or another coffee cake.  The directions "pour water over cocoa..." are a little unfamiliar to me.  I assume this probably just means to mix the water and the cocoa first, then add the honey and eggs prior to mixing with the rest of the ingredients.  This, in all honesty, reminds me of the muffin method so that's another good sign that this is some sort of muffin.

Next, the filling.  First, it calls for 1/4 citron which I interpret to actually mean 1/4 cup of candied citron peel which is a popular ingredient in fruit cake.  I assume the same unit is used for the raisins (1/2 cup instead of 1/2 of a raisin which wouldn't be much at all).

So ingredients and proportions solved (more or less) onto mixing.  Mixing the dry and wet ingredients together via the muffin method yields a batter that is actually pretty thick, more like a cookie dough almost.  Looking back at the recipe I noticed that there really wasn't much water at all compared to the dry ingredients.  So, this probably should have been mixed via the creaming method as it's probably more of a bar than a muffin.  That being said, when you take the filling into consideration this is probably a fig cookie, kind of like those popular soft fig sandwich type cookies (sorry "fruit and cake").

For the filling, I put everything into my food processor (probably not what Mrs. Anderson originally intended but it works) with a little hot water (per the recipe) and sent it for a spin until it turned into a sticky, thick mash.

Rather than making individual cookies out of it, I decided to layer it in a pan.  Here is what it looked like after coming out of the oven:

That's layering 1/2 of the dough, then all the fig filling, then the other 1/2 of the dough.  Finally baked at 350 degrees F for about 35 minutes.  Looks OK to me.

After cutting into bars, they look like this:
I have to say they look (and taste) pretty good.  Not really super sweet, but sweet enough for a dessert bar.  So Mrs. Anderson, wherever you may be, thanks for a great fig bar recipe.

Here is my final take on the recipe:

Ingredients:
Bars:
2 1/2 c. Flour
1 tsp. Baking Soda
2 tsp. Cinnamon
1/4 tsp. Ground Cloves
2 tbsp. Cocoa
3 tbsp. Water
3 tbsp. Honey
1 Lemon

Filling:
1 c. Figs
1 c. Nuts
1/4 c. Citron
1/2 c. Raisins
1 tsp. Lemon Juice


Directions:
1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
2) To make the spiced bar dough mix flour, baking soda, cinnamon, and cloves together and set aside.
3) Mix cocoa and water together in a large mixing bowl.
4) Add honey and stir until combined.
5) Add eggs one at a time and cream until well blended.
6) Add the zest of the lemon and the juice from ½ of the lemon and stir until combined.
7) Add the flour mixture and stir until combined. The mixture will resemble a wet cookie dough.
8) Chill for a least an hour before using.
9) For the filling, place figs, nuts, citron, raisins, and lemon juice in a food processor and process until a think
paste is formed. Add a little hot water to the mix if it is too dry.
10) Press ½ of the bar dough into a 9x9 pan.
11) Press the filling over the dough
12) Top with the remaining bar dough and press to cover the filling.
13) Bake for 35 min until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. The filling will still be soft and may stick to the toothpick.

Makes approximately 2 dozen servings