Green Market Baking Book Review, Recipe, and Giveaway

The Green Market Baking Book : 100 Delicious Recipes for Naturally Sweet & Savory Treats by Laura C. Martin is premised on the idea that baking with fresh, seasonal ingredients, and without refined sugar, is better for both our bodies and our planet. If you like that idea, you’ll like this book.

The majority of the recipes are treats of the sweet variety (cakes, pies, cookies, puddings, muffins, etc.). All are made with one or more “natural sweeteners” such as honey, maple syrup, brown rice syrup, and barley malt syrup. The book includes a section on substituting these ingredients for refined sugar in your own recipes. Whether or not you believe (and I’m not sure I do) Martin’s assertion that these sweeteners are more healthful than sugar, you may still wish to “support the small producers of alternative sweeteners — the honeybee keepers, the maple syrup farmers, and so on.”

The recipes — some Martin’s own, but many contributed by bakers and chefs around the country — are grouped by season, and most, though not all, feature fresh produce. Some are designated as low-fat, gluten-free, or dairy-free, and many contain a good proportion of whole grain flours and/or heart-healthier fats such as olive oil.

For me, though, what any baking book that focuses primarily on desserts comes down to is not whether the recipes are healthful, because I’m not going to go looking to dessert to fill my nutritional dance card. What it comes down to is do the recipes work, and do they taste good? The answer here, as far as I can tell, is yes they do (mostly).

My main disappointment with the book is that it contains no photographs, which I always appreciate both to inspire me and to gauge the target I’m shooting for. Also, there are some inconsistencies in style and terminology that are sometimes confusing (does barley malt mean the same thing as barley malt syrup?).

I have tried three recipes so far. Spelt Scones, sweetened with barley malt and maple syrups, were earthy and good with the addition of dried blueberries. Spring Carrot Teacakes with Maple Cream Cheese Frosting were also tasty and pretty, but I found a few problems with the recipe (incorrect yield and baking time).

Honey Fig Bars (top photo, and recipe below) were a hit with everyone I fed them to. Although I was skeptical about the high filling-to-dough ratio, it really worked and yielded a moist, not-too-sweet bar that I’d have to say is superior to my favorite Newton.

Other recipes on my to-bake list include Fennel and Mushroom Pie, Plum and Walnut Upside-Down Cake, and Goat Cheese and Green Garlic Flan.

Sound appealing? Enter to win a copy of the book! Leave a comment on this post before 11:59 PM (PDT) on Friday, May 6 and I’ll choose a winner at random. (I regret that I must limit this to US addresses.)

Honey Fig Bars
National Honey Board

Makes 16 bars

1 1/4 cups honey, divided
1/2 cup butter, at room temperature
1 egg
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 cups whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 pound dried figs (about 2 1/4 cups, chopped)
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 teaspoons lemon zest
1/2 cup chopped pecans or walnuts (optional)

  1. In a medium bowl, cream 3/4 cup of the honey with the butter until light and fluffy. Beat in the egg.
  2. Add the flour, baking powder, and baking soda and combine. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate it for about 2hours, until firm (or overnight).
  3. Meanwhile, in the bowl of a food processor with a metal blade, combine the remaining 1/2 cup of honey, the figs, lemon juice, lemon zest, and chopped nuts (if using). Process until the figs are finely chopped. Set aside.
  4. When the dough is well chilled, dust a work surface and the dough with some flour. Working quickly, roll the dough to 1/4 inch thick. With a sharp knife, trim the dough into two 14×6-inch rectangles. Dough trimmings can be used to make cutout cookies.
  5. Spread half the fig mixture evenly down the center of one dough rectangle. Gently fold the right side of the rectangle over the filling, then fold the left side over the right so they overlap. Pinch the ends to seal. Repeat with the remaining rectangle and the fig mixture. Carefully place the dough logs seam-side down on a greased baking sheet.
  6. Bake at 350?F for about 15 minutes, or until the logs are lightly browned. Remove the cookie sheet from the oven, allowing the logs to cool for 5 minutes on the sheet. Transfer the cookies to a wire rack to cool completely. Cut into 3-inch bars. [Susan’s note: I cut each log into 12 bars, so they were smaller than 3 inches, but still quite a large cookie.]

Reprinted with permission from Green Market Baking Book © 2011 by Laura C. Martin, Sterling Publishing Co., Inc.

Full disclosure: The publisher provided me with review and giveaway copies of the book. I did not receive additional compensation. Opinions are fully mine.

CommentsLeave a comment

  1. says

    Hi! I love your site, first comment. The cookbook looks great: I’m currently interacting with thinking about food through the Flavor Bible, so a move to something like this would be a great accompaniment.

  2. says

    I love fig cookies and fig bars, and yours look great!
    I agree with you regarding photos – it is also the first thing to catch the eye, and we eat with our eyes first.

  3. says

    I really appreciate your perspective and analysis on this cookbook, since your take seems to fit my level of skepticism. And yet these recipes still sound tempting and would be more appealing to people in my area (which is full of vegans, anarchists and people nurturing distrust of refined sugars).

  4. Sarah says

    No photos?! Doesn’t everyone like to sit around gawking at photos of baked goods… Oh well! Sounds great anyway!

  5. Kerragh says

    You must have read my mind. I have an overabundance of figs, and I have been craving a healthy version of Fig Newtons. In fact, I just started searching out alternatives yesterday afternoon. Thank you for sharing this wonderful and healthful recipe of a classic snack. They have just been added to my to-do list.

  6. Ashley says

    We love sugary baked goods in my house… but have no problem with sweet honey and maple syrup as sweeteners of choice as well. Yay for Vermont! And yay for you posting pictures…

  7. Ann says

    I feed a lot of people and am always trying to find a way to reduce and/or replace refined sugars. This book looks like just the ticket. I’ll try those fig bars soonest.

  8. says

    I’ve been waiting for a book like this to come out! Most of the unrefined sugar recipes I have come from the internet and thus are of varying degrees of “goodness” (taste, accuracy, ect). Thanks for reviewing the book and offering this giveaway!

  9. Tania says

    Thank you for the honest review. I am glad to hear you mention the pros *and* cons. But not as glad as I am to share the fig bar recipe! I have 2 lbs of dried figs in my cupboard waiting for me to find the perfect “Newton” replacement recipe. Looks like you’ve done it! And, as always, thanks for the beautiful, tasty photos.
    I’ll keep my fingers crossed for the giveaway. :-)

  10. Erika says

    I was just thinking about making fig bars the other day! I am going to try this recipe today. Thanks for sharing it and thank you as well for your review. It seems very thoughtful and helpful.

  11. says

    I’m up for those fig bars!! I made some thing like those a couple of years ago that we really were super surprised with enjoyment.
    But I have to admit what really intrigues me is those three on your list: Fennel and Mushroom Pie, Plum and Walnut Upside-Down Cake, and Goat Cheese and Green Garlic Flan. I think if I had the book right this minute I’d try the Fennel and Mushroom Pie and Plum and Walnut Upside-Down Cake for our company tonight!

  12. Elana E says

    I agree with everyone here that the fig bars look great! I even think my kids would like them. Hmm. We’ll see. I’m in!

  13. Linda says

    Love fig bars. Can’t wait to make these. Thanks for posting the recipe. This looks like a good cookbook.

  14. Rose says

    Yum! I’m excited to try these fig bars, and interested in every recipe. I would luvvvv to have this cookbook!!!

  15. Una says

    Thanks for the honest review. I’m currently working on starting a School Farm in which we hope to include bees, so any alternative baking recipes are always welcome.

  16. Julia E says

    I’m so excited for the farmers markets to begin again! We were lucky to have a great winter one, but I can’t wait for June! These honey bars look delicious…

  17. Tommi Nick says

    I’d love to give these recipes a go. The goat cheese and green garlic flan sounds great.

  18. regina says

    OH thank you for the recipe I have been wanting to introduce my kids to the yummy goodness of fig bars and now I can. Thanks again, enjoy the blog immensely.

  19. says

    I never liked commercial fig bars, but I made my own once and they were pretty good. Maybe I’d give these a shot.

    I also appreciate your honesty with the review. When all I see is “squeeeeee it soooooooo good” on everything it makes me wonder. Even in the best cookbooks, not everyone is going to love everything, and it’s good to see what the negatives are.

  20. Cheryl says

    I am just always looking for variety. I eat refined sugars and natural ones as well. I just love seeing the different things we can make to enhance our eating pleasure. Thanks for the review!

  21. Simon says

    We do many medieval recipes, inconsistency? HA!
    A simpler and much older fig recipe is figs, raisins and a touch of merlot cooked down until like jam. That and a lighter buttered dough is very tasty. Even as a 100 percent whole grain using barley and time can release a sweeter flavor than just the “standard” whole wheat and white flour. Malting the grains will release lots of sweetness you never knew was there, it is why brewers malt before mashing. Even allowing the whole grain flours time to break down as an unleavened “clay” will release the enzymes and sugars already in them.

  22. Emily says

    This sounds like an interesting cookbook. I have a lot of people in my family who love and hate how much I bake. Recipies like these (if they turn out well) will be a good comprimise.

  23. Bobbie Hayes says

    I LOVE to bake and I agree… pictures are always a welcomed addition. They truly do inspire me to try new recipes.

  24. says

    This is to healthy sweeteners what Good to the Grain was to whole grain baking! I haven’t heard of this book until now, but it does sound like something I’d love – and your experiments so far seem to confirm :)

  25. says

    OOoooh carrot teacakes sounds amazing!

    I love working the seasons into my baking, and I’m always on the hunt for suitable recipes. I, however, agree with you on the need for pictures!!!

  26. Yvonne says

    Can’t wait to try this recipe this summer when the figs start bearing. I have been looking for a good recipe geared towards healthier ingredients for homemade fig newtons. The book sounds like it would be great to have. I enjoyed the comment from Simon on May 3 2011. Something else to explore.

  27. Janie says

    A cookbook without photos is hard to imagine (!), but the recipes sound intriguing and earthy. Regarding Simon’s comment, can we vote for a winner? I nominate her!!

  28. jacquie says

    you had me w/ the picture of the cookies – yummmy looking – i would love the opportunity to have this cookbook.

    though i do have to agree with you and several of the other comments – a cookbook really does need pictures and if it doesn’t have them i pretty much will not purchase it.

  29. AJ says

    My husband loves fig bars. These look healthier than anything I’ve ever seen in stores and best of all they are green! I’m putting that cookbook on my wish list.

  30. jacky brown says

    these fig bars look great! Your photos?
    I’m looking forward to trying this :-)
    thank you!

  31. says

    The fig bars looks awesome. wish to have some. It reminds me of the mamoul dates cookies. Recipe looks wonderful with the addition of honey.

  32. says

    I have always loved fig cookies as a kid and my kids also love them. This recipe sounds great and I will use some local honey in the recipe. I may even try making it with other fruits like dried apricots. Has anyone else tried other fruits?

  33. Candace says

    This book sounds very interesting. I love the fig cookie recipe, and look forward to trying it. Hope I win!

  34. David Wilson says

    Those bars look scrumptious. I would love a copy of the book to try some of the other recipes as well. Thank you for producing this wonderful site!

  35. Anne says

    Thanks for posting about this book – it looks like a great source! The fig cookies sound really good and I think I will try to make them soon.

  36. Cari says

    Sounds like a great cookbook! I’m trying to learn to cook without refined sugar for health reasons and those fig bars look GREAT!

  37. says

    Sounds like a great book. I love the honey and figs combo for the cookies. Sweetie loves figs intensly and these must be better than those dry things he buys at the store.

  38. Amanda J. says

    I saved the Honey Fig Bars for my own personal recipe file – I’d love more recipes that use the lovely produce I find at my Farmers’ Markets!

  39. terri says

    those fig bars look amazing. i was wondering, though–does the book have directions for using fresh figs in this recipe when they are in season?

  40. says

    For me, dried figs are sweet enough without honey added. Most of fresh or dried fruit don’t need additional sweetener to be tasty. Raw fruit are better for us then these baked or cooked.
    I agree with you that desserts are not for health but pleasure.
    My second comment is that honey is beneficial (and better than sugar) when is raw and organic. Heating and processing destroy most of its nutrients. If I use honey in baking (rarely) it’s only about flavor not about health.
    This kind of book can mislead people like other marketing tricks which use the words: healthy, beneficial, reduced fat etc. I don’t believe that anybody in this world (except my relatives) cares about my health. It’s all about money.

  41. RobynB says

    I’ve been converting all my favorite cakes and desserts to being made with white whole wheat flour, and cutting back the sugar dramatically, and I’m actually liking them better now :-) I do believe honey and maple syrup are better for our metabolism than white sugar, but converting can wreak havoc on texture!

  42. Jacqueline says

    Enter me to win this cookbook. I love to cook. This recipes sound just like what the doctor ordered. My husband and I have had some health issues and have eliminated white flour, sugar, etc. – would love to try some of these recipes. Thanks

  43. says

    This sounds really interesting. Like you, I feel that if I’m eating dessert, I’ve already given up on the nutrition aspect of things, but I do find that “alternative” ingredients can be really delicious, if you know how to use them!

  44. karen K says

    I’ve been baking artisan type bread for a year, and I love your site. There is something about bread baking….

  45. Penny F says

    The recipes you describe sound really yummy. I am in love with flavor – adventures in flavors – most preferably in nutritious bites. I just put my bag of figs on the counter so that I can try the fig bars as my husband loves them.

  46. Elle Hyson says

    This book sounds marvellous – and the honey fig bar recipe has brought back childhood memories of my favorite cookie, fig newton – haven’t had them in years.

  47. Laura says

    This is a random comment to say how very much I enjoy visiting your website for ideas and authors to investigate. Every time I visit, I am inspired!

  48. nik amartseff says

    I’m so glad I found your website about a year ago. I’ve been learning artisanal bread baking for years now, learning about techniques and ingredients. After many bad loaves I’m now consistently baking near professional bread. Many years ago I supported my family through baking whole grain all natural sweets and savories of my own devising including fig newtons. I’m looking forward to making some using your recipe

  49. Sharon says

    Love the idea of sweet treats without refined sugar! I’m addicted to sugar and my husband is diabetic, so I’m always on the lookout for great natural ingredients.

  50. Greg H. says

    Looking forward to trying the Fig Bar Recipe without sugar. Thanks for the ongoing recipes and ideas!

    “None of us can have as many virtues as a loaf of bread, or half its cussedness; but we can try.” Mark Twain

    Note: This quote was actually about Fountain Pens, but I thought it a bit of revisionism was appropriate.

  51. says

    This sounds like such a wonderful cookbook! I’ve been experimenting a lot of whole grain flours – I’m in love with buckwheat and spelt. I we stick to natural sweeteners – usually honey, but I’d love to try out some others with the help of some fabulous recipes!
    Thanks for a great giveaway!

  52. Llamabean says

    What an interesting book. Thanks for the giveaway, it seems like a great way to try out some alternative sweeteners.

  53. Kathy LaShure says

    Now that many bakers know about all the alternatives to bleached white flour, it’s about time we get with the alternatives to white sugar – hurray!

  54. ginger says

    I tried this recipe this morning. I used the figs I dried from our tree last year. The crust was really hard to roll out–it shattered and was not fun to work with. I managed to get them together. Haven’t tasted them yet, but hoping they taste better than they look. Ah well.

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