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.

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