Homemade Fig Newtons are so much better than packaged fig cookies.
I am just going to say that again. Homemade Fig Newtons are SO much better than any variety of packaged fig cookies. Of course they are. Homemade is always better. Well… perhaps always is a bit too strong. I am a huge advocate of baking from scratch for two reasons: homemade food generally tastes better AND you are in control of all the ingredients.
And yet, I can think of a few store bought items that have completely stollen my heart. Taleni Gelato, for one. Especially when folded into ice cream sundae crepes. (OMG. I need to stop writing this and go make those right now.)
Puff Pastry is another. I have actually made puff pastry from scratch and let me tell you – it is WAY too much work and tastes pretty much exactly the same as the store bought variety. Store bought puff pastry makes elegant, complicated looking desserts like the Napoleon Dessert actually quite quick and easy. I typically always have a package in my freezer.
The other store bought treat I really love is Fig Newtons. Or… I should say loved. Past tense. Because, I made homemade Fig Newtons this week and I like them much, much more. In fact, aside from gas station motorcycle road trip stops, where we stock up on cliff bars, fig newtons and beef jerky (energy, protein and won’t melt), I can’t imagine I’ll ever buy packaged fig newtons again.
In a lot of ways, Fig Cookies don’t sound like much of a treat.
To be honest, fig cookies don’t sound like something I’d normally want to eat. I don’t know why. Something about the name. I like figs and I certainly like cookies. But something about the name “fig cookies” makes me think that they will have an artificial candied fruit kind of taste like… fruitcake. Blech.
When I think of figs, I think about adding them to a salad or using them to create a dinner party appetizer. Goat cheese stuffed figs topped with pancetta? Yes, please. Fig cookies? Ummmmm…. maybe some other time.
Here’s the other thing: I generally want cake to taste like cake and cookies to taste like cookies. And fig cookies in general, Fig Newtons included, are really small fruit filled cakes. We call them cookies, but they’re totally not.
And yet, with all these objections, I think fig cookies are amazing. Fig Newtons are one of the only store bought cookies I truly love. I love that the “cookie” part is not too sweet, allowing the fig filling to take center stage. I also like how substantial the filling is – so different from cookies that include dried fruit or are filled with jam. And, the subtle orange flavor in the background adds a delicious bright complexity.
But you know what I really love about homemade Fig Newtons? They are just as much a breakfast or energy snack as they are a dessert. They’re awesome little multitasks.
I’m not going to assert that these fig cookies are health food. Except… they kind of are. Figs are really, really good for you, and each one of these homemade Fig Newtons contains a pretty high fig to cookie ratio. They are also fairly low sugar and fairly high fiber.
The low down on these Homemade Fig Bars.
Ok. Homemade Fig Newtons are not nearly as complicated and time consuming as a gorgeous peaches and cream layer cake, homemade croissants, or any number of other baked goods that come with a hefty investment of your time (even if they are totally worth it). But, they will take more time than say, chocolate chip cookies. No big deal. It’s not difficult to make homemade Fig Newtons. I just want you to know that they’ll take a bit more time than your average cookie so you can plan for it. Also, there are a few important things you should know about making great homemade Fig Newtons before you begin. Such as…
1. It’s really, really important to allow the dough enough time to chill in the refrigerator before you assemble and bake these fig cookies. The first time I made these, I got a bit impatient and didn’t allow the dough enough time to chill. The dough spread out while baking, creating the strangest looking homemade Fig Newtons you’ve ever seen. Oh, calamity.
The dough needs to hang out in the refrigerator for at least 8 hours – and preferably overnight. In many ways, this makes life easier because you can make the dough ahead of time. Just wrap it up and let it sit in the refrigerator until you’re ready to bake the Fig Newtons the next day.
2. Even after chilling the dough for a long time, it will still stick to the counter as you roll it out if you don’t use a generous dusting of flour. Dust your countertop generously with flour and sprinkle some more on the top of the dough. It’s also important to make sure there is enough dough to wrap around the filling completely.
Here’s how to do that: Roll the dough into a rectangle that’s about 11 inches long by 13 inches wide and about 1/4 inch thick. Trim the edges so that you have a clean rectangle shape. Then, use a ruler to cut strips that are 3 1/2 inches wide. Pipe the fig filling down the center of each strip of dough.
Fold one of the long sides of dough up and over the filling, then fold the other long side of dough up and over the filling, making sure to overlap the edges about 1/4 of an inch. Like this:
At this point, you’ll have three logs of fig filled dough. Press the long seam gently with your fingers to seal and gently lift them onto a parchment covered baking sheet. Press the ends to seal those too.
3. The last thing I want to mention is that you’ll notice that this homemade fig newton recipe instructs you to put the freshly baked fig cookies into an airtight container while they are still warm and let them hang out in there for about 30 minutes. This allows the cookies to steam. It’s kind of like letting them relax in a steam room. Ahhhhhh…… Such pampered little cookies. This is what gives them that soft, cakey consistency.
Now. Enough talking. Time to bake cookies.
- 1 cup unbleached, all-purpose flour
- ½ cup whole wheat flour
- 2 tbsp cornstarch
- ½ tsp baking powder
- ¾ tsp salt
- ¼ tsp cinnamon
- 1 stick of butter (4 oz), at room temperature
- ½ cup packed dark brown sugar
- 1½ tbsp sorghum syrup, OR - honey or dark corn syrup
- ½ tsp pure vanilla extract
- 1 tsp orange zest
- 1 large whole egg + 1 large egg yolk
- 12 oz. dried black mission figs
- ½ cup water
- ½ cup orange juice
- 2 tbsp unsweetened applesauce
- 1½ tbsp sorghum syrup or honey
- ¼ tsp cinnamon
- 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
- ½ tsp salt
- In a medium size bowl, add the all-purpose flour, whole wheat flour, cornstarch, baking powder, salt and cinnamon and stir with a wire whisk to combine.
- In the bowl of an electric mixer, add the butter, brown sugar, sorghum syrup (or honey or dark corn syrup), vanilla and orange zest and beat on medium high speed until the mixture is light and fluffy - 2-3 minutes.
- Scrape down the sides of the bowl and add the whole egg. Beat on medium high speed for 1 minute. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, add the egg yolk and beat on medium high speed for another minute.
- Scrape down the sides of the bowl again, add the dry ingredients and mix on low speed just until combined. Lay a large sheet of plastic wrap on the counter and dump the dough into the center. Dampen your hands with water to prevent sticking and press the dough into an oval that's about 8 inches long. Fold the plastic wrap over the dough to cover and place in the refrigerator for at least 8 hours or overnight.
- If the figs have stems, remove them. Add the figs, orange juice and water to a saucepan over medium heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and let sit until cooled to room temperature. (You can also allow the figs to sit overnight in the cooking liquid, covered in the refrigerator.)
- Drain the figs from their liquid and dump into the bowl of a food processor fitted with the chopping blade. Add the rest of the filling ingredients and pulse until smooth.
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
- Dust a work surface with a liberal amount of flour and roll the dough into a rectangle that's about 11 inches long by 13 inches wide, and ¼ inch thick. Trim the edges so that you have a clean rectangle shape. Then, use a ruler to cut strips that are 3½ inches wide.
- Add the fig filling to a pastry bag or a ziplock bag, and cut off about ½ inch of the tip. Pipe the fig filling down the center of each strip of dough. The filling will be about 1 inch wide and ½ inch thick.
- Fold one of the long sides of dough up and over the filling, then fold the other long side of dough up and over the filling, making sure to overlap the edges about ¼ of an inch. Press the long seam gently with your fingers to seal and gently lift each log onto a parchment covered baking sheet. Press the ends to seal those too.
- Bake for 13-15 minutes, until the dough is set and slightly firm to the touch. Remove from the oven and let cool on the baking sheet for 1 minute.
- Use a sharp knife to trim each bar into several 1" long cookies. While the cookies are still warm, transfer them to a plastic container with a lid or large zip-lock bag. If you need to stack the cookies, place a piece of parchment between the layers. Seal the container or bag tightly and let the cookies steam for 30 minutes.
- Remove the cookies from the sealed container and let cool completely. Store Homemade Fig Newtons in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 week.