These cookies happened by accident. And YES. Fig Newtons ARE cookies in my world. Not cake. Soft orangey shortbread wrapped around figgy jam… oh goodness Fig Newtons are good. I will readily admit that if I am left unattended with a book and that bright yellow package I am likely to mindlessly eat every single one. Well maybe I would leave a couple. But only so no one would blame me for eating the last cookie.
We stopped by a local produce stand that sits just around the corner from us; I’ve been trying to get there for a while. They sell plants and fresh vegetables and nuts by the pound. There are flowers and wind chimes and handcrafted cedar Adirondack chairs. This place is right up my alley. I smiled sweetly at Chad while I loaded the back seat of our car with hanging baskets, oregano plants, and a six pack of jubilee watermelons that are already bearing tiny little fruits. Chad just humors my slight obsession with buying plantlife every time I see it. I think it’s so I don’t roll my eyes at the amount of money he spends on parts for his remote controlled randomness.
The owners were a friendly couple eager to help us, and we fell into a lengthy conversation about this and that. Chit chat finally landed on the figs they had for sale that no one knew what to do with. The fig tree is yielding at an alarming rate and the fruit is ripening faster than anyone can eat the fresh figs. They told us they thought they would sell more figs if people had ideas about what to do with them. AND THEN they gifted us a whole basket to experiment with!
I returned home happy, HAPPY, HAPPY because not only did I acquire a carload of plants to fuss with, I got myself a kitchen project, too!
I’ll be honest … I’ve never made anything with figs.
I spent a few hours surfing around with my laptop finding gorgeous fig salads with goat cheese and delicate fig tarts. And while those fig recipes are beautiful and definitely have a tasty place in this world, that place IS NOT HERE in the land of fried chicken, pinto beans, and Sundrop.
So I settled on cookies. More specifically, Fig Newtons. From Scratch.
Everyone likes cookies, right?
If you don’t like cookies I’m not sure we can be friends anymore. Sorry bout that.
I sliced up the figs and put them into a heavy-bottomed saucepan with some brown sugar, lemon zest, and vanilla.
After 40 or 50 minutes of simmering and a little bit of stirring/smashing the larger pieces with the back of a fork, my fresh figs turned into a gooey jam that was deliciously sticky and sweet. I had to talk myself out of smearing it on toast.
I stowed the jam away in a jar while I worked on my cookie crust. The jam can be made ahead. It will keep in the fridge for 3-ish days. Less if you make toast.
The dough gets divided; half is pressed into the pan to bake and half is pressed or rolled out and set aside in the freezer while it waits its turn. I pressed mine out in between two generously buttered pieces of foil. Parchment paper would have been better, but you hafta work with what you’ve got. Am I right?
Go get the top layer of pressed out cookie dough from the freezer. Carefully peel it from between the foil or parchment paper.
As you can see, my dough is very ugly and broke apart in places.
That’s because this is real life.
And it’s cool. Because when it bakes, it all melts together. No one will ever know it wasn’t perfect.
Except in the case of mine because I published my imperfections on the internet.
After baking and cooling completely, I lifted the foil out and sliced my Newtons into little cookie-sized bars. You see? No evidence of the uncooperative cookie dough anywhere.
Of course we promptly returned to the produce stand with a bag full of these cookies and a copy of the recipe. I hope they enjoyed them. We didn’t wanna be creepy and make them try the cookies while we stood there to judge the reaction.
But my verdict is: WIN!!!
I absolutely love them. You will, too.
- 6 fresh figs; washed, dried, and quartered
- zest of 1 lemon (about a tablespoon)
- ½ cup packed brown sugar
- ¼ teaspoon salt (I like kosher salt here)
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1½ cups all purpose flour
- 1 cup whole wheat flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1½ sticks of butter, at room temperature (12 tablespoons)
- 1½ cups brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon orange zest
- 2 eggs
- 4 teaspoons vanilla
- In a medium-sized heavy-bottomed saucepan bring the figs, brown sugar, lemon zest, and vanilla to a boil, stirring as needed.
- Reduce the heat and simmer for 40-50 minutes, occasionally smashing the larger pieces with the back of a fork and stirring. They will cook down and thicken with a jam-like consistency.
- Remove from the heat and cool completely. This fig filling can be made ahead stored in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
- Preheat the oven to 350. Line a 9X13 pan with parchment paper or foil and then butter it. Plenty of butter.
- In a medium sized bowl whisk together the flours, baking powder, and salt.
- In a large bowl, beat the butter and brown sugar until it’s fluffy. Add the orange zest and eggs. Beat on medium until the dough comes together. Then stir in the vanilla.
- Gradually incorporate the flour mixture with the mixer on low. The dough will be sticky.
- Butter two “pan-sized” pieces of foil or parchment paper, measure 1½ cups of the dough out, and roll or press the dough in between the pieces. This will be your top crust, so get it into a rectangle-ish shape if you can. Put it in the freezer.
- Press the remaining dough into the prepared pan and bake for about 20 minutes. It will be pretty and golden brown.
- Spread the fig filling across the baked crust and then get the top crust out of the freezer.
- Gently peel the foil or paper away from the frozen cookie crust and then place it over the top of the fig filling. Pat any stray crust pieces into place.
- Bake for another 20-25 minutes. Watch it closely! The top will turn a nice golden color.
- Let the whole thing cool completely in the pan, on a wire rack if you have one. Once cooled, lift the foil out of the pan and slice into squares.