This recipe grew out of a need to satisfy cravings for my favorite childhood cookie. I knew that if I went to the store and simply bought a package of Fig Newtons, I would probably be disappointed, as taste memories always seem to be more vibrant than the food that inspired them.
But I had a hunch that homemade Fig Newtons might just live up to my nostalgia-fueled expectations — and boy, did they ever. Soft and slightly chewy with the pleasant pop of tiny fig seeds in the filling, these figgy lovelies manage not only to outshine the cookie that inspired them, but they're also good enough to make new memories.
The idea to "steam" the cookies in a plastic bag comes from the lovely BraveTart of Serious Eats renown. May we all aspire to be as ingenious.
Makes about 30 two-inch cookies
For the cookie dough
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
10 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) butter, softened
2/3 cup brown sugar
1 large egg
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Zest of one orange
For the fig filling
1 pound dried figs, cut into small pieces
1/2 cup water
Whisk the flour, baking powder, and salt together in a mixing bowl and set aside. In a large bowl (or the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment), beat the butter and brown sugar in a large bowl until light and fluffy, about three to five minutes.
Add the egg, vanilla, and orange zest and beat until combined. Stir the flour mixture into the butter mixture until well blended. Scoop the dough onto a piece of plastic wrap, shape into a disc, and refrigerate for at least four hours or overnight.
Meanwhile, make the filling. Combine the figs and water in a medium saucepan. Bring the water to a boil, cover, and allow the water to boil until the figs have absorbed it. Transfer the figs to a food processor and pulse until the mixture is completely smooth.
Preheat the oven to 325˚ F. Place a large piece of parchment on your work surface and flour it liberally. Divide the chilled dough into four pieces, place one piece on the parchment, and return the other three to the refrigerator.
Shape the piece of dough into a rectangle, then roll the dough, stopping frequently to make sure it isn't sticking to the parchment, into a long rectangle (about four inches wide by twelve inches long). Be vigilant about lifting and reflouring the dough as you roll to prevent sticking.
Scoop the fig filling into a pastry bag or a plastic zip-top bag with one corner cut off. Pipe the filling in a one-inch strip down the center of the dough rectangle. Fold one side of the dough over the filling, then the other. Press down on the seam to close it.
Using the parchment, flip the cookie roll over, seam-side down. Transfer it gingerly to a baking sheet and refrigerate while you repeat this step with the other three pieces of dough. Bake the logs of dough for about 16 minutes or until the dough is no longer tacky and has begun to brown around the edges.
While the cookie rolls are still warm, cut them into 1 1/2- to 2-inch cookies. Immediately place the cookies in a single layer inside a plastic zip-top bag and close the bag. This seems counterintuitive, but in order to keep the cookies soft, like the real thing, they need to steam.
Cool the cookies completely. Remove them from the bags and place in an airtight container. They can be kept, at room temperature, for up to two weeks.
Photos by Megan Scott
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