fig newtons.

fig newtons.

When I was a kid, I loved me some fig newtons. I remember them being moist and chewy and just the right size for sneaking out of the kitchen. Plus, they had actual fruit (or rather, “fruit”) in them, so they didn’t quite count as “real” cookies. Having eaten a few of these guys as an adult, however, I’ve been disappointed by the chalky, gristly quality of the dough and the over-sweetness of the filling. So I was really excited when I came across an organic, planet-friendly, small-bakery type of fig newton at Urban Rustic a few weekends ago. And they were really quite good; they were flavorful and chewy and not nearly as gristly as the packaged kind. But they were still a little bland, and I started thinking to myself, “you know what? I can probably make these cookies myself, and make them better.” So I set out to do exactly that.

figgy dough.

kenan with cookie

I happened to have a recipe in one of my cookbooks for “fig newton dough,” but the book, curiously enough, did not include a recipe for filling. Taking a closer look informed me that this cookie (which I was beginning to suspect was intended as more of a stand-alone cookie than a foil for fig filling) had figs and raisins and oats in the dough. But stranger things have happened to my tummy, so I decided to go along with it, more or less: I’d make this crazy fig-filled dough and then fill it with more figs and other jam and fruit things, and hopefully end up with something at least approximating the cookies I knew and loved. But, you know, actually good, rather than just good in memory.

Having hashed all of this over, I schlepped over to the Garden to buy some fig foodstuffs. I picked up figs, raisins, apricots, fig jam, and some wild local honey for the filling. Then I scurried back home, excited for this new little adventure. I laid out all the ingredients and got ready to bake.

When I started to combine the ingredients as listed in the recipe, however, I thought that the proportions seemed a bit off. The recipe noted equal amounts of flour, figs and raisins, but it seemed to me that that particular combination would make for a dough that would be really tricky to roll out. In fact, even though the recipe mentioned something about filling at the end of the instructions, I became fairly convinced that the recipe as written would turn out a dough that wasn’t intended to be filled or rolled around anything. But I also thought it would be crazy to make a fig newton without the newton (in my mind, the “newton” is the filling part, for some reason) – why, that would give you nothing more than an overladen oatmeal cookie, which was not what I was in the market to bake.

In order to remedy this chunky situation, I cut back significantly on the amount of figs and raisins called for and added a bit more flour because the dough was seriously wet and sticky and seemed like it would be a nightmare to roll out as prepared. I also used about two-thirds cake flour (which is what is called for in the recipe) and one-third wholegrain hot cereal (uncooked, of course) (the one I used was made by Bob’s Red Mill, but any whole-grain flour or cereal will do). I changed up the flour because I thought it would add a nice bit of nuttiness, and also because I wasn’t really concerned about the cookies being puffy or flaky, which is generally why one would use cake flour. Anyhow, then I cut the dough in half, shaped each half into a little disc, flattened them out, and let ’em hang out in the fridge for a little while to cool their heels and firm up.

figgy filling and falderal.

making soldiers

And then it was dough time. I didn’t really have a clear idea of what to do with the filling, so I just winged it: I chopped up some more dried figs and put them in a bowl. Then I added some chopped dried apricots, a few raisins, and a bit of honey. And with that simple little admixture, my figgy guys were ready to be assembled. I got the dough out of the fridge, dusted my work surface with flour, and rolled one of the dough discs into a wide circle.

And then… I was a bit stumped as to how best to proceed. I’m sure you know what fig newtons look like: they’re little squares of dough filled with a smooth, figgy substance, with two straight and cleanly demarcated edges. But my dough and filling were both really chunky, and certainly weren’t going to lend themselves easily to being forced into tight little packages. So I improvised. I spread some filling over the surface of the dough, leaving a border around the edge, and rolled everything up. This turned out not to work so very well; as you can imagine, rolling the whole thing up into one log made for a really, really thick cookie. So I had to chop them up pretty good, and by the time I had gotten them into manageable chunks, they were a far cry from picturesque (Kenan and I destroyed the visual evidence of this first, aesthetically disastrous attempt). But they were still gonna taste good, so I plopped them on my baking sheet and threw ’em in the oven. And despite their ugliness, they baked up really well: the outside took on a nice dark golden brown color and looked really appealing. The only problem was that they didn’t quite have enough filling; I wanted to get some real chewy fig taste along with the crunch of the cookie part.

Luckily, I still had more dough to use, so for the next tray, I thought better of my filling and rolling system. This time, after I had rolled the dough out into a circle, I cut it into wide strips and spread a good bit of filling on each of the strips and then rolled the long edges of the strips up so they looked like little mini-logs. Then I sliced them up and they looked much, much neater and prettier than their visually challenged cousins.

And after those guys were cooked and cooled and ready, we gave them a taste. And they were super duper. Really. Chewy and tasty and crispy and crunchy and nutty and fruity. They bore just enough resemblance (as far as I’m concerned) to actual fig newtons, but they had their own character, too. They had texture and spiciness and oomph. In short, I liked them.

So maybe you should give ’em a shot, eh?


fig newtons

fig newtons.
(adapted, very loosely, from Culinary Institute of America)

fig dough.
dried figs 1 heaping cup
golden raisins 1/2 cup
sliced almonds 1/2 cup
cake flour 1 2/3 cups
hot cereal (dry) or whole wheat flour 1 1/2 cups
baking soda 1 1/2 teaspoons
unsalted butter, pliable but still cool 1 1/2 cup
granulated sugar 1 cup
salt 1/2 teaspoon
vanilla extract 1 1/2 teaspoons
1 large egg, at room temperature
milk 2 tablespoons
rolled oats slightly heaping 2/3 cup
fig filling.
dried figs, chopped 2/3 cup
dried apricots, chopped 1/2 cup
golden raisins 1/2 cup
fig spread 2/3 cup
honey to taste (I used a very scant 1/4 cup)

for the dough: Finely chop the dried figs, raisins and dried apricots and mix together in a small bowl. Sift together the flours and baking soda.

In the work bowl of a standing mixer on medium speed, cream together the butter, sugar, salt and vanilla, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Continuing at medium speed, add the egg, making sure it is fully incorporated into the mixture, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Add the milk and blend to combine.

Turn the speed to low and add the sifted dry ingredients, mixing until just combined. Add the fruit and nut mixture and the oats and mix on low speed just until combined. Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured work surface. Divide the dough in half and shape each half into a disk. Wrap the discs in plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator to cool for 15-20 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and cover a baking sheet with parchment paper. Place a rack in the center of the oven.

In a medium mixing bowl, mix together the figs, apricots, raisins, fig jam, and honey. Optional: If you want the filling to be more smooth, you can place the ingredients in a food processor and process them until they turn into a paste.

When the dough is cool, take one of the discs out of the refrigerator and turn out onto a floured work surface. Roll the dough out to a large circle. Cut the dough length-wise into 4-inch to 4 1/2-inch strips. Spread a generous dollop of filling along the length of each of the strips. Working from one of the long edges, roll the strip up so the two edges meet. Chop the log into 1 1/2-inch to 2-inch chunks.

Place the prepared cookies onto the baking sheet, spacing them about 2 inches apart. Bake at 350 degrees for about 17 minutes, or until the outsides have turned a nice golden brown. (obviously, your oven may take less or more time to get to this stage. Check your cookies often.) Repeat with the remaining dough.

kenan with cookie

photos, with the obvious exception of this one, by the magnificent and marvelous kenan.
fancy-pants camera provided by smash!

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3 notes

  1. Boots says:

    What? I always thought the newton was the cookie part!

  2. edward says:

    nice, nice um is there any certain place YOu guys buy YOUR figs?

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