Thursday, 8 November 2012
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
Brown Sugar, Cinnamon and Hazelnut Meringues