How is it that it’s been more than two weeks since I started talking about this hazelnut recipe? There I was, being all efficient and explaining how to toast and skin hazelnuts in preparation for this post, and then… woah… two weeks go by and the post still isn’t up.
Kinda like how it’s already August, when the last time I checked the summer was just starting. I’m barely in my twenties and life already feels like it’s moving too fast… sheesh.
Let’s just forget about that for a second and talk about something good, like… THESE BARS. And brown butter. And hazelnuts. And sweet, fresh, summer figs. Yes. I’m not sure I can even explain to you how good these are. I mean I’ll try (of course), but is it really even necessary? I think the name says it all.
I know everyone is really excited about peaches coming in season (me too!), but – hey – figs are in season now too! Figs always seem to be an under-the-radar fruit, and I seriously feel like the luckiest person ever to be able to get them in my own backyard every summer. The best ones (in my opinion), the ones that are really soft and practically fall of the tree when you touch them, with skin that looks like it’s drying up just a tad from the sun, have such an incredibly sweet, concentrated flavor that I can’t get enough of. And now that I’m on a hazelnut kick, and since I’m always on a brown butter kick, I knew I had to create something that would combine all three flavors. The result? Serious Perfection.
Every bite is jam-packed with flavor, from the bold brown butter/hazelnut combination in the crust and crumb topping to the naturally sweet and nutty fig filling. And by the end of this post, I know I’ll have said the words “rich” “sweet” and “nutty” a million times over, but I honestly can’t thick of any better words to describe these. Or maybe it’s just because these fig bars are so good, my mind can’t fully function around them. Could be….
1) They’re really easy to make! The base layer and the crumb topping come from the same batter, and the fig filling is a throw-it-in-the-blender kind of thing. Easy.
2) If you can find hazelnut meal and want to buy it, you don’t have to toast, skin, and grind your own hazelnuts. But if you do decide to go the DIY method, you might want to toast and skin the hazelnuts the day before you make the bars. The toasting/skinning process can be tedious, so you might need a break after that. You know, for the sake of your sanity. ;)
3) If you can’t eat hazelnuts, or don’t like them (who are you?! – just kidding), or just don’t want to be bothered with dealing with them, you can use almond meal in this recipe. Obviously, the flavor will be different, but it’s still delicious that way. (See recipe notes for more on this).
These three-layer bars have a rich, nutty hazelnut flavor that perfectly compliments the sweet fig filling in the middle. An easy batter makes both the dense bottom layer and the golden crumble topping, which means you can whip these up in no time!
- 4 ounces (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, cut into 1/2" slices
- 5 3/4 ounces (1 3/8 cup, spoon and level) all-purpose flour, divided
- 6 ounces (1 1/4 cups) toasted and skinned (whole) hazelnuts*
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- scant 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 5 ounces (2/3 cup, packed) brown sugar
- 1 egg
- 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 15 1/4 ounces (2 1/4 cups) chopped Calimyrna figs
- 1 3/4 ounces (1/4 cup) granulated sugar
- 2 tablespoons cornstarch
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- Preheat oven to 350ºF. Line an 8" square baking pan with foil, leaving enough foil hanging over the sides to lift the bars from the pan when done baking.
- Brown the butter: Place the butter in a small fry pan set over medium-low heat. Allow the butter to melt, whisking occasionally, until it starts to bubble. Once it bubbles, continue to whisk more frequently, cooking the butter until it turns golden and small brown specks appear on the bottom of the pan. Remove from heat immediatley and continue to whisk for about 30 seconds. Transfer to a large bowl to cool briefly.
- While the butter is cooking, combine 4 1/4 ounces (1 cup, spoon and level) flour with hazelnuts in the bowl of a food processor.** Process until the entire mixture is fine in texture, similar to that of a nut meal, stopping to wipe down the bottom and sides of the bowl as needed to prevent clumping. Add the cinnamon, baking soda, and salt and pulse in until evenly combined.
- While the butter is cooling, combine the ingredients for the fig filling (figs, sugar, corn starch, lemon juice, and salt) in a blender and blend until completely smooth.
- Add the brown sugar to the slightly cooled brown butter and whisk together until well-combined. Add egg and vanilla and whisk in until smooth. Add dry ingredients and fold in until just combined with no streaks of the dry ingredients visible.
- Set aside 6 3/4 ounces (3/4 cup) batter and transfer the remaining batter to prepared baking pan. Using your fingertips or a flat, wide spatula, press batter into the pan in a flat, compact layer that covers the bottom entirely. Spread the fig filling on top in an even layer to cover the first layer, shaking the pan back and forth gently to smooth out the fig layer.
- Add the remaining 1 1/2 ounces (3/8 cup, spoon and level) flour to the reserved batter and rub in with fingertips until incorporated into a crumbly dough with no dry flour visible. Crumble over the bars, ensuring that the fig layer is covered entirely.
- Bake bars in preheated oven for 30 minutes, or until the crumble topping is just barely starting to turn golden and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool bars in pan on a wire rack. Once cool, use foil to lift bars from pan and slice with a bench scraper (works really well!) or a knife. Store in an airtight container.
*If you don't want to use hazelnuts, you can substitute 6 ounces (1 1/2 cups) almond meal. The flavor of the bars will be different, but still really good! You can also use pre-made hazelnut meal if you prefer; just make sure it's fresh.
**If using almond meal or pre-made hazelnut meal, all of the dry ingredients can simply be whisked together in a bowl.
P.S. Speaking of being behind, I still have some strawberry recipes I want to share. Are you guys still getting good strawberries where you are?