Let's Just Call It a Fig Bar: Fig Bars with Thyme

To use up my remaining fig supply, I decided to try a recipe from Fine Cooking for Fig Bars with Thyme. I was intrigued by the combination of fig with thyme, as I often find desserts with herbs to be quite interesting.

These bars are filled with a fig jam that you make by cooking chopped figs with sugar and thyme until the fruit is tender and the juices have reduced, pulling out the thyme sprigs, and then adding lemon zest and lemon juice. The recipe says it should only take about 20 minutes to cook the fruit, but it took me about 40 minutes to get the juices reduced enough so that the mixture was not too runny. I made the jam a day in advance and kept it in the refrigerator.

You make the base of these bars by combining flour, sugar, brown sugar, salt, baking powder, butter, egg yolk, and vanilla in the food processor. You press two-thirds of the dough into the bottom of a pan and bake it until lightly browned. Then you spread on the fig jam, crumble on a mixture of the remaining dough, sugar, and ground walnuts, and bake.

It was actually a bit difficult to see the layer of fig jam in the middle of these bars -- even though it was quite thick -- because the light colored figs I used created a pinkish-orange jam that didn't provide much color contrast from the bar base and crumb topping. I really loved these bars. The base had the perfect firm texture, the fig jam was bright and sweet, and golden crunchy nuggets of buttery crumbs were simply the bomb. However, I was disappointed that there was no detectable thyme flavor at all in the fig layer, even though I used the specified amount (and the thyme couldn't have been fresher; Tom picked it from our herb garden moments before I made the jam).

I also encountered a serious problem when it came to storing the bars. The recipe didn't provide any storage guidelines, so I left the bars at room temperature. The bars become horribly soggy after a few hours at room temperature, to the point where a bar wouldn't even hold together if someone tried to pick it up. Refrigeration was a necessity keep them from turning into a hot mess.

Despite the lack of thyme-i-ness, I would absolutely make these bars again. The refrigeration requirement is not terribly convenient, but it's definitely worth the trouble to preserve these sweet delights.

Recipe: "Fig Bars with Thyme" from Fine Cooking Cookies, recipe available here at seriouseats.com.