A couple of months ago Oh Nuts contacted me, asking if I’d like any free samples of their products. So, I know that bloggers are supposed to be inundated with schwag all the time from companies – free ingredients, free meals, free kitchen equipment – but that hasn’t really been the case for me. Needless to say, when Oh Nuts asked me if I’d like some free stuff I was like “hell yes.”
One of the products I chose was their dried Calimyrna figs, since I always have a hard time convincing myself to pony up the cash for dried figs at the supermarket. The figs are sulfured, and when I tasted them I could definitely detect a slight chemical aftertaste. Because I’m not a dried fig connoisseur, I’m not sure if this is how sulfured dried figs always taste. But the taste disappeared when I cooked them and they were delicious, so they worked out fine.
I chose the figs because I’ve been kind of dying to make my own Fig Newtons. I’ve had a deep appreciation of the Fig Newton – they’re soft and cakey, and I loved the slight crunch of fig seeds in the filling. (Hence the tagline “a cookie is just a cookie, but a Newton is fruit and cake.”) I’ve enjoyed them with a glass of tea many times, and they make a lovely addition to a cookie plate. What I wanted in my homemade version was that same soft, cake-like texture, but a more complicated and less sweet filling than the store-bought Newton.
I had a hard time finding a good recipe to base these off of. Fig Newton’s aren’t a shortbread cookie, they aren’t a sugar cookie, they’re not a madeline – they’re something in between. I finally decided to use this recipe for the cookie base, but I changed the mixing method to a standard creaming method, which I thought would create a more cake-like texture. I used this filling recipe from Martha Stewart, but added brown sugar instead of honey and changed the proportion of figs to wine. Ideally I would have cooked the figs in red wine, but as I only had white in my fridge, I went with what I had.
It didn’t seem to matter all that much, because the cookies were delicious. Completely, utterly delicious. Cooking the figs in wine and spices tempers their sweetness, brings out their flavor, and adds a complex note to an otherwise simple filling. The cookie wrapper is exactly what I wanted – soft, sweet, with a cake-like fluffy texture. I would take a homemade fig “Newton” over the store bought kind any day.
For the cookie:
1 1/2 cups (7.5 oz) Unbleached all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
6 tbs (3 oz) unsalted butter, softened
1/4 cup (1.75 oz) sugar
1/4 cup (2.1 oz) dark brown sugar
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
For the fig filling:
1 cup (4.5 oz) dried figs, stemmed and roughly chopped
2 tbs brown sugar
1/2 cup wine (can use red or white)
1/4 cup water
Salt and pepper to taste
For the egg wash:
1 egg lightly beaten with 1 tsp water
In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking power, and salt. Set aside.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Add the egg and vanilla and beat until combined. On low speed, gradually add the flour mixture, mixing until just incorporated. Gather dough into a ball, wrap in plastic, and chill in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour.
In a small saucepan, combine the figs, sugar, wine, and water. Bring to a simmer over medium heat and cook, stirring occasionally, until figs are soft and tender, about 10-15 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Remove from heat and let cool to lukewarm. Process fig mixture in a food processor until it resembles a fine paste, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary.
Preheat oven to 350.
Remove dough from the refrigerator and roll on a lightly floured work surface until 1/8 inch thick. Cut into 2×4 inch strips, re-rolling scraps as necessary. Place strips in the refrigerator for 15-20 minutes before filling – this will make the dough easier to work with.
Place a teaspoon of filling on each strip of dough, spreading evenly with a small offset spatula and leaving an 1/8 inch border on the sides of each strip, and a 1/4 inch border on the top and bottom of each strip. Fold the bottom of each strip up until it is 1/4 inch below the top of the strip. Lightly brush the top of each strip with egg wash, and then fold over the bottom strip, sealing the cookie. Place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and chill in the freezer for 15 minutes before baking, to help them hold their shape.
Bake for 18-20 minutes, rotating sheets 180 degrees halfway through, until cookies are lightly brown on top. Let cool on a rack before serving.