Spiced Port Fig Bars

The Bean doesn't like wheat or dairy or peanuts, have I mentioned that? 

I've read plenty that indicates that there's no solid link between colicky behavior and food intolerance in infants, but whatever voodoo possesses my baby to scream her little head off a few hours after I eat wheat, dairy, or peanut butter is clearly placated by my abstinence from those delicious things.  Her screaming is scraping years off of my life; and her tears, while delicious to lick, are awful.  

I've been slightly obsessed with Kim Boyce's Fig Butter from Good to the Grain, and looking for new ways to use it.   Beans doesn't seem to mind butter, god bless her (and while we're at it, I'd also like to thank her for allowing me to continue to eat bacon... not that that's a common allergy, but whatever), and so I haven't swapped it out for something like Spectrum or Earth Balance.  Lately I can get away with a little bit of wheat in things-- like the amazing buckwheat crepes I made last Friday which called for half all-purpose and half buckwheat flours-- but I'm happy to use a mixture of other flours and starches, as I did in the recipe for the pastry dough, below.  

I made this last batch of fig butter on Friday afternoon while Beans was napping, and that night Brian and I ate it with toasted walnuts and a drizzle of good honey inside those buckwheat crepes (which we'd stuffed with chèvre, sautéed mushrooms, spinach, and garlic for supper).   The next day my mother- and brother-in-law flew up from Phoenix to meet Beans, and we ate crumbly raw goat cheeses and salty manchego smeared with the fig butter alongside kale and apple salads for lunch.   Sunday we didn't eat fig butter.  Crazy, right?  Monday, I needed a break from family, and so I retreated to the kitchen and made up the pastry for the fig bars, because we still had almost two cups of fig butter left in the fridge. This morning, listening to the rain buffet the side of the house, I rolled out the dough and baked off the bars.  

The orange zest and cinnamon in the pastry filled the dim, Portland-in-winter kitchen with a lovely floral aroma, one which would have been irresistible had I not been busy feeding Beans.  As it was, I just had time to pull the baking sheet out the oven and run back to the bedroom to continue nursing her.  This may stand as the only time I have not nicked a bit of fresh-from-the-oven pastry off of the tray and into my greedy mouth, generally burning my tongue. 

I'm liking these smeared with a light layer of sunflower seed butter, which creates a kind of peanut-butter-and-jelly ethos. 

Orange-Flecked Pastry

1.75 c. whole wheat pastry flour, or a mixture of whatever flours you have on hand
(I used 1/2 cup sorghum flour, 1/2 cup potato starch, 1/4 c almond flour, 1/4 c barley flour, 1/4 c oat flour, and dusted my board with oat flour to roll out the pastry.)
1/2 c. butter, softened
1/2 c. raw sugar
1 tbsp. honey
2 tbsp. orange juice
1 tsp. orange zest
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
3 egg yolks

In a medium bowl with an electric mixer, beat together butter, sugar, honey, orange juice and zest, cinnamon, vanilla extract, baking soda, and salt.  When well-combined, beat in the egg yolks.  Beat in the flour.  Dough should be very sticky.  Scoop the dough on to a long sheet of plastic wrap.  Cover the dough with the plastic wrap and shape it into a long 1" thick rectangle.  Let chill at least four hours, preferably overnight. 

Fig Butter (adapted from Kim Boyce's "Good to the Grain")

1/2 cup sugar
1 star anise
1/4 tsp ground cloves (or 3 whole cloves)
12 oz. dried black mission figs, stems removed (Trader Joe's has good soft figs-- not too dried out)
1 cup red wine (I like a good stout cab for this)
1/2 cup port (Preferably ruby)
1/4 tsp cinnamon
pinch salt
1/2 cup butter

In a medium saucepan, combine 1/4 cup water and the sugar, wetting all the sugar.  Add the star anise and cloves, and bring to a boil over medium heat.  Boil for about 10 minutes, undisturbed, until the syrup begins to thicken and take on a light amber color.  Add the wine and port carefully-- it'll spatter!-- and whisk a few times to clean any chunks of sticky sugar off the bottom of the pan (they'll melt away-- don't worry about breaking them up entirely).  Add the figs, cinnamon, and salt.  Bring to a slow boil and allow the mixture to cook for two minutes, then reduce the heat to low and simmer the figs for 30-40 minutes, until syrup is reduced and figs are tender.  Cool completely, fish out the star anise and whole cloves (if you used them), and then puree with the butter in a food processor until very smooth.  Refrigerate until needed. 

To make the fig bars, preheat your oven to 325 and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  Slice off 1/6 of your pastry block and return the rest to the fridge or freezer.  If it gets soft, it gets sticky.  Dust a cutting board and the block of pastry liberally with flour.  Roll the pastry out into a 1/8" thick rectangle, about 4"x6".  Smooth a long 1"-wide strip of fig butter lengthwise down the middle of the pastry-- I used about a quarter cup of fig butter.  Fold the sides of the pastry over the fig butter and press together to seal.  Seal the ends as well, and shape with your fingers into a very long fig newton-y bar.  Gently place the bar on the parchment-lined baking sheet.  Repeat with the rest of the pastry and fig butter.  Make sure you give the bars at least two inches of room between each other on the baking sheet.  Bake for 18-20 minutes, until the bars are lightly golden and the dough is just slightly soft to the touch.  Remove from the oven, cool, and slice into 1" bars.  Stored in a sealed container, they should last 2-3 days.  They'll keep for a month in the freezer. 

Makes 36 bars.


Meal One:  Breakfast
I am here to tell you about my favorite breakfast of all time, which has trumped the eggs florentine that Brian made me when morning sickness pushed me away from everything else.  This breakfast is the nutritional powerhouse dieticians should have had in mind when they advertised eating your biggest meal first.  It is not the protein behemoth that fitness culture and the fat, lazy followers of Atkins unsuccessfully marketed as The Way:  it contains a respectable 15 grams (and 25 grams of fiber, yes, in one meal.  I hope you have toilet paper). 

It's oatmeal, people. 
However, there is so much other stuff going on, that you might forget that the creamy puddle of hot chewy oats under everything else is actually how the dish might be titled if it were to appear on a menu somewhere.  Oatmeal with the Works.  Everything Oatmeal.  Something like that.

So let's get down to it.  What happens first is that I cook Bob's Red Mill Scottish Oats in water-- usually double the water recommended, whisking it regularly as it cooks down into what Brian calls gruel, and I think of as oat velvet pudding.  It's heavenly.  Into my bowl it goes.  On top of that I scatter a couple tablespoons of chia seeds-- which we need to talk about-- a tablespoon of ground flaxmeal (you can't digest the whole seeds), a sliced banana, a half-cup of my father's Famous Cranberry Compote (in other seasons, I make apple compote, rhubarb compote, or summer fruit salad), and then a few tablespoons of Molly's French Chocolate Granola (made with sesame seeds!).  Let me tell you, it is spectacular

It can be made vegan, and is wheat-free.  Lately I have cut out wheat, dairy, and peanuts (sad), as well as continued to abstain from things I never eat anyway (soy, corn, processed foods) for the benefit of my slightly gassy, very vocal newborn daughter.  I like to make her buffet as delicious and nutritious as possible-- hence the massive amount of omega-3s in this meal, and also the lactation-boosting oatmeal. 

The fiber's really the thing for me, though.  They don't tell you that after you give birth, you get to relive the unmedicated experience through your bowels for several weeks.  Ouch. 

Cranberry Compote

24 ounces fresh cranberries (or substitute 4-5 tart apples, chopped into 1/2" dice)
1/4 cup water
3/4 cup sugar (1/4 cup if using apples)
1 bag (12 oz.) frozen raspberries
6 satsuma mandarin oranges, segmented (seedless)
1 cup raw walnut pieces or halves
pinch of salt
few gratings of fresh nutmeg (or 1/4 teaspoon dried ground nutmeg)
splash (1/4 cup? I splash heavy) port, Grand Marnier, or other delicious liqueur

Rinse and pick over cranberries, discarding the sketchy ones.  Combine cranberries (or apples), water, and sugar in a large pot (I use an enameled cast-iron dutch oven) over medium heat.  Bring to a boil, and then reduce to a simmer.  Listen for the popping of the cranberries, because it's awesome.  Simmer for 15-20 minutes (I've simmered the apples for up to 40 minutes-- I like them pretty compotey), and then stir in the raspberries, salt, and nutmeg.  Cook for five more minutes or so, then splash in the port, stir in the mandarins and walnuts, and remove from heat.  Compote should be very thick, but it'll keep thickening and set up as it cools. 

Makes about six 1/2 cup servings.