Thursday, 8 November 2012

Fig & Hazelnut Crumble Bars

Almost two years ago to the day, on the 14th November 2010, I posted a recipe for Date Crunchies. I've been eating the little squares of buttery semolina crunch with a lemony date filling all my life.

As with most people, when I'm stressed, tired or ill, I reach for the food of my childhood. Just as I was in that post two years ago, I'm stressed about work at the moment - it's a very deadline-heavy and time-short patch of term. I needed some crunchies but this time I wanted to try a variation.

A few weeks ago I was perusing the bakery section in M&S when I spotted a little sample tray of bread cubes. Curiosity piqued by the idea of a 'fig and hazelnut loaf', I tried one. It was so good that I gave in to the marketing ploy and bought a loaf (don't tell anyone I said this or I'll get pitchforked by the purists but it's wonderful in a streaky bacon sandwich).

I'd been thinking about fig as a filling for an updated crunchie for a few months but it felt like it was missing something - hazelnut was the answer. I swapped the dates for figs, lemon for orange, some of the flour and semolina for ground hazelnuts and scattered some more hazelnuts over the top. I spent at least five minutes debating in my head if it was too predictable for me to brown the butter. In the end I gave in (as I always do). My defence is that as it's beurre noisette and the whole point is that it's hazelnutty, I had to.

The final product is crumbly (hence the new name), crunchy and gloriously full of that noisette - I can't tell where brown butter ends and hazelnut starts. The fig filling has a lovely bit of chew, but it's the seeds that are the best bit: they crackle almost like popping candy.

Finally. The reason that you don't have a picture of a full tray is because darkness fell while they baked. So I had to save them for today. I couldn't resist.

Fig & Hazelnut Crumble Bars
(Adapted from Date Crunchies, which were adapted from Delia's Book of Cakes)

For the crumble base and top:
100g whole hazelnuts
175g unsalted butter
150g plain flour
125g fine semolina
75g light brown sugar
1/2 tsp baking powder
pinch of fine sea salt

For the filling:
220g soft dried figs
3 tbsp water
2 tbsp orange juice
1 tbsp brown sugar

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F. Line a 20cm/ 8" square tin (or similar size) with baking parchment. Place 75g of the hazelnuts in the tray and toast for a few minutes. If they have skins, rub them in a tea towel until most of the skin has come off. Place the butter into a medium pan and heat until you have brown butter (see here for more instructions/tips) then leave to cool.

Chop the figs up into small chunks and place in a saucepan with the water, orange juice and brown sugar. Heat until the figs have softened into a spreadable paste (still with some lumps) - help it along by squishing them with a spatula/spoon.

By now your hazelnuts shouldn't be too hot, so place them in a food processor and blend until they're finely ground. Tip into a mixing bowl and add the flour, semolina, brown sugar, baking powder and salt. Use a whisk to stir everything together (it's a great way to combine dry ingredients when they'd struggle to get through a sieve). Pour in the brown butter and stir until just combined.

Tip half of the mixture into the tray and press down into an even layer with a spatula/spoon/your hands. Scrape the sticky fig mixture into the tray and spread it out, trying not to pull up the base. Finally add the rest of the mixture to the tray, spread out (press down a little - I didn't and mine was very crumbly on top) and fork up a little so you get some pebbles. Roughly chop the remaining 25g of hazelnuts and sprinkle them over the top. Bake for 25-30 minutes until golden brown. Leave to cool in the tin, then chop into bars. Keeps well - I think they're better on the second day.

(Makes about 12-15, depending on size)

A few related posts:
Toasted Coconut and Dark Chocolate Blondies
Snickers Brownies
Brown Sugar, Cinnamon and Hazelnut Meringues


  1. Great idea,
    I have some quince paste I've just made, and I was wondering what to bake with it. Now I know!
    Thanks Emma

  2. Love your words, Emma! Takes me to what you're feeling & experiencing. :) I just recently discovered figs, and I agree about the seeds - lovely crunch! Your bars sound scrumptious.

  3. They give out samples in the Oxford M&S?! Cambridge never offered such luxury... I feel cheated. This however, looks amazing. Best of luck with all deadlines!

  4. Katrina - Thanks - they're perfect essay-breaks :)

    Lande-Diner - Ooh, quince paste! I've been wanting to make that for ages. Would love to hear how it works in these.

    Erica Lea - Thanks! I love figs. Sometimes the seedy crackle gets in the way but I think it's perfect here.

    Siri - They do indeed! Just another way Oxford is better than Cambridge :P Glad you like them, I'm really pleased with the update.

  5. I love your posts so much. I look forward to Friday mornings with a coffee and your latest recipe. These look delicious. I'm obsessed with brown butter...if I can work brown butter into something I will try.

  6. Having read this I can't decide what I want to try first - the date crunchies or these beauties. Food is the first thing I turn to when I'm stressed or under the weather - the planning, the baking, the eating, it's all so therapeutic and a wonderful escape from everyday life.

  7. I love the combination of fig with hazelnut, such a delicious little bit of autumn.

  8. Wow, I love figs and hazelnuts! A perfect sweet for a rainy day like this.. :)

  9. what a genius combination! i love the photos. :)

  10. That looks lovely! I look forward to trying it myself.

  11. Haha, if I'm ever melting butter for a recipe nowadays, I end up browning it too! They sound and look delicious- great flavour and texture combos going on :)

  12. the cake hunter - I'm so pleased to hear that you look forward to Fridays - I was hoping that it'd be nice to know when the next post would turn up. & I am an official brown butter addict.

    thelittleloaf - Try both! I think I need to make another batch. Food is definitely good therapy - there's something so good about bothering to make yourself a nice meal.

    london bakes - It's lovely little combo. I'll definitely use it again. Or just make this again and again.

    Zucchero e zenzero - It definitely cheered up a few rainy days for me :)

    marissa bognanno - Thanks! They work really well together. - I hope you do get to try them - let me know what you think :)

    Izy - I can't help it! It just happens - whoops.


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