I'm a big fan of garden-to-table cooking, but my relationship with the fig tree in our backyard is more tree-to-mouth. This tree just gives and gives. To me, figs have got to be the strangest, most alluring fruit anyone can have in their backyard. And I feel extremely lucky to be within reach of so many fresh figs. Inspired, I was eager to try baking with them. So I hit the search button for recipes that feature fresh figs as the star. I found a muffin recipe that has figs sharing the limelight with another favorite ingredient of mine: carob powder.
Naturally sweet and high in fiber and calcium, carob powder is made by roasting and grinding the edible pulp from the pod of the carob tree, an evergreen tree native to the Mediterranean. Due to its resemblance to cocoa powder, it is often used as a cocoa substitute, especially for chocolate lovers with caffeine sensitivity. Although I personally think it tastes nothing like chocolate, I've learned to love carob for its own unique flavor. This fig and carob muffin recipe by My New Roots is just the way I like my muffins because it uses ground oats instead of wheat flour, chia seeds instead of eggs, applesauce instead of oil and coconut sugar instead of refined sugar.
I substituted a 1/2 cup of the rolled oats in the recipe with oat bran and I used non-dairy milk (unsweetened almond milk, to be exact). I've also tried the recipe with ground flax seeds instead of chia seeds and the muffins turned out lighter and without the crunch of seeds. I used kadota figs instead of what looks like black mission figs in the recipe photos because that's what we have in the backyard. Kadota is apparently the most common green fig and is among the most widely seen type of fresh figs in California.
This recipe's a real keeper! The texture of the muffins is dense but not heavy and very moist. The caramel sweetness of coconut sugar makes a good team with the fruity figs and malty carob. A few words on carob: it deserves to be enjoyed for what it is and not merely as a cocoa supplement. Trust me, it has a great personality, and that personality shines in this muffin.
Fig and Carob Muffins (Vegan, Gluten-Free)
Adapted from My New Roots. Makes 12 muffins.
2 tablespoons chia seeds/ ground flax seeds
6 tablespoons water
1 1/2 cups (150g) rolled oats
1/2 cup (50g) oat bran
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup (25g) carob powder
1/2 cup (75g) coconut sugar
1/2 cup non-dairy milk (I use unsweetened almond milk)
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Zest of 1 orange
1 1/2 cups chopped fresh figs (about 8-10 figs)
Sliced figs, for garnish
Stir chia seeds/ ground flax seeds in the water and set aside to let them expand. Preheat oven to 350° F.
Blend rolled oats until the consistency of rough flour. Transfer to a large bowl and add oat bran, baking soda, baking powder, salt, carob powder and coconut sugar. Stir well to combine.
In a small bowl, combine non-dairy milk, unsweetened applesauce, vanilla extract and orange zest. Stir to combine, and then stir in the chia seeds/ ground flax seeds, which have now become gel-like.
Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients in the large bowl and mix until there are no more dry bits. Gently fold in the chopped figs.
Spoon batter into lightly greased muffin cups. Garnish each muffin with a slice of fig on top. Bake for 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Transfer to a wire rack to let cool completely.