What? I know, they don’t look exciting. In fact, they look like a paler cousin of the date square. And yeah, they are. But they excite me because they’re full of possibility. From the filling to the crust to the topping, they can be changed up in so many ways to make them completely different.
I was originally going to use a mix of dried figs and apricots in them, until I realized that my daughter had eaten the apricots. But already I’m wondering about other fruits. Like dried cherries! Oh.my.gosh. Can you imagine? If you love cherries like I do, you’ll understand my excitement.
This crust does double duty as the topping, with the egg helping it all set up well. The addition of hemp hearts gives the squares a healthy punch. But you could mix chopped nuts into the half used for the topping. Like almonds with those dried cherries (I may be obsessing). Feel free to add spices, too. Cinnamon, allspice… coriander!
I will confess that the maple flavour is not pronounced. But that’s okay. I chose maple syrup because it complements the earthy sweetness of the figs without overpowering their flavour, and is far healthier than white sugar. When I try this with cherries (and I will) I’ll swap out the maple for honey or agave nectar. And the butter could just as easily be coconut oil. In fact, if you like that flavour, how about making these with dried apricots and honey, with shredded coconut and a little lime zest in the dry mix? See? Exciting!
While these squares do have butter and sugar in them, they are also loaded with fibre. Especially if you choose to use whole wheat flour, which further complements the earthiness of dried fruits.
Maple Fig Squares
8 oz chopped dried figs (about a cup)
1/4 cup real maple syrup
pinch of salt
1/2 cup water
1 1/2 cups rolled oats
1/4 cup hemp hearts (or chopped nuts or other seeds)
1 cup all-purpose or whole wheat flour
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup butter, melted and cooled slightly
1 egg, lightly beaten
Preheat oven to 350F. Grease an 8×8 pan and set aside.
In a small saucepan, combine the figs, maple syrup, salt and water. Bring to a boil and simmer for about 5 minutes to soften the figs. Remove from the heat and cool slightly. Puree the mixture, adding more water if necessary. Just don’t let it get thin. You want it to be spreadable and thick. Small chunks are fine.
In a medium bowl, combine the remaining ingredients. I used my hands. It was just easier. The mix should be crumbly, but hold together somewhat when squeezed.
Pat half of the mixture firmly into the bottom of the pan. Spread with the fig mixture. Crumble the remaining oat mix over the top and press in lightly. You don’t want it to overtake the fig filling.
Bake for 20-25 minutes until light golden. Cool on a wire rack and then cut into squares.