Baking with Michelle Darmody: Dried figs

There are lots of left over dried fruits in my cupboard after the Christmas baking. 

I seem to have had a little too much of everything but what I had most of was dried figs. I put together a few recipes to use them up over the past week. 

Dried figs, like all other fruit which lends itself well to drying, was originally sun-dried along the coasts of the Mediterranean. 

Through history it was dried as a way to preserve the fruit and also for ease of transport. The process keeps quite a lot of the nutritional value of its fresh counterpart and it was prized for its concentrated sweetness. 

A dried fig must have left like a reminder of hot summer sunshine in the dark winters gone by when fresh fruit would have been impossible to attain out of season.

Seed and nut bars can be made quite quickly and chopped up for lunches or snacks later in the week. 

A little goes a long way so I would cut the eight-inch slab into five sections and divide each of these into three, giving you 15 bars, each packed with energy and sweetness. 

The pear and fig cake recipe can also be made quite well with spelt flour, if you prefer substitute the wheat flour for equal parts spelt. 

The brack is an adaptation of a recipe by a friend of mine, Fiona Hallinan, who made a similar brack on a crisp cold day in Sligo last year. 

It is moist and rich and wonderful served from the oven. 

I think the figs and whiskey work well.

Fig and pear cake

Ingredients

  • 225g of butter, at room temperature
  • 210g of brown sugar
  • 3 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 100g of slivered almonds
  • 100g of dried figs, chopped
  • 225g of self raising flour
  • 2 level tsp of baking powder
  • 400g of grated pear
  • 1 tsp of mixed cake spice
  • 3 fresh figs

Method

Heat the oven to 180 degrees and line a 9-inch round cake tin.

Keep aside a handful of the almonds and brown sugar to top the cake

Mix everything except the pear and spice with a low setting on your mixer, with the paddle attachment. You can mix everything well with a wooden spoon if you do not have a mixer.

Spread just over half of the cake mixture into the lined tin. This can be tricky to spread so you can use a warm wet knife if you wish.

On top of this spread the grated pear. Do not press it into the cake mixture just spread it on top. Dust it with the mixed spice, then top with the rest of the cake mixture. 

You will need to dip a knife into warm water again to help spread the mixture as it is quite sticky.

Scatter a handful of the slivered almonds and brown sugar on top of the cake.

Bake for an hour to an hour and 10 minutes until golden on top and a skewer comes out clean.

Top with the fresh figs just before serving, a spoon of whipped cream is perfect on the side.

No bake fruit and seed bars

Ingredients

  • 100g of crunchy peanut butter
  • 80g of honey
  • 120g of porridge oats, toasted until golden
  • 20g of buckwheat
  • 75g of slivered almonds, toasted
  • 30g of mixed seeds
  • 130g of dates, stoned and finely chopped
  • 50g of cocoa nibs (or dark chocolate broken into small pieces)
  • 20g of golden raisins
  • 20g of sultanas

Method

Line an 8 inch square tin with baking parchment.

Melt the peanut butter and honey gently until they are completely combined.

Mix all of the other ingredients together and stir in the honey mixture while it is still hot. 

Coat all of the ingredients completely and then press down into the lined tin.

Smooth the mixture and pat it completely. Place into the fridge and slice when it is completely cold.

Fig and whiskey brack

Ingredients

  • 200g of dried figs
  • 200g of raisins
  • the zest of 2 oranges
  • 350mls of warm strong tea
  • 2 tbs of whiskey
  • 200g of self raising flour
  • 130g of Demerara sugar
  • 1 tsp of mixed cake spice
  • ½ tsp of nutmeg
  • ½ tsp of powdered ginger
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten

Method

Mix the dried fruit and zest together and add the tea and whiskey. Place into a large bowl and cover with clingfilm. Leave to stand over night.

The next day line a 2lb loaf tin and heat your oven to 180 degrees.

The next day add the flour, sugar, spices and stir everything well. Stir in the eggs and combine the mixture completely and scoop it into the lined tin.

Bake for 50 minutes and then test it with a skewer, it may need another ten minutes or so.



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