Are there some treats from your childhood that always bring back amazing memories? For me, there are some “pre-packaged” cookies that I indulged in years ago and still think of fondly as an adult. Oatmeal creme pies…those chocolate cupcakes with the swirl on top and white cream filling inside…and Fig Newtons. Creating homemade Fig Newtons has been an item on my “foodie bucket list” for a while now, so I needed to make it happen.
Here’s the funny thing: I enjoyed Fig Newtons as a child, but if you put a real fig in front of me there is no way I would ever have eaten one. No way, Jose. And I do have to admit: I still don’t eat them whole as an adult. I love them when they are a component of a dish, but not by themselves. A flatbread with figs, arugula, and goat cheese? Yes please. Figs dipped in chocolate on a tart? I’ll take a slice gladly.
But oh, if I could recreate a homemade Fig Newton at home, that would be grand. As luck would have it, Justin’s parents happen to have a fig tree in their backyard. Convenient, eh? The bounty of fresh figs definitely varies year to year; last year was a bit meager…but this year the tree is exploding with fruit. Of course, the birds also happen to adore figs so there is a constant fight to see who gets to them first. Those stinking birds have a tendency to peck a hole in a fig and then leave it to move on to the next one. What a waste. We were lucky enough to yield a nice bunch of figs the last time we visited my in-laws’ house, so I knew the time had finally come for my homemade Fig Newton dream to become a reality.
I scoured the Internet for recipe inspiration and tips. I have to say: there are a ton of different recipes out there, so it became a bit of a task to sift through and see where elements differed or were the same. Some simply cooked down the figs in water to make the filling. Some included an exorbitant amount of sugar in the filling. The list goes on. In the end, I created my own recipe and crossed my fingers my instincts were right with the proportions. Go figure. I live dangerously.
The result? Oh my goodness. I used the oh so genius tip on Food52 to slice the warm cookies and place them in a zippered bag to steam in order to give them that soft baked quality everyone loves. Best idea ever. The cookies are soft and chewy. The cookie itself is not super sweet, but the fig filling adds that touch of sweetness. The fig seeds add extra texture as well. I am lucky to have had any cookies left to take pictures to share – Justin and my family ended up devouring the entire batch in record speed. They have already requested a second batch. Ok. I’ll take that as a positive review!
Although I enjoy noshing on these treats throughout the day, they do make a nice end to the day as a dessert. I paired my plate of homemade Fig Newtons with a fresh Riesling from 14 Hands Vineyards. I found the light yet sweet flavors to be a delicious complement to the figs…and it’s great for the summer season as well!
Have you tried to recreate a childhood treat? What did you make?
- 1 lb fresh figs
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 cup water
- 2 tbsp honey
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 1½ cups all purpose flour
- ½ tsp baking powder
- ¼ tsp salt
- ½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
- ½ cup brown sugar
- 1 egg
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 2 tbsp orange juice
- First, prepare the fig filling. Slice the stems off of each fig and cut them into quarters (or small pieces). Add to a pot with sugar, water, honey, and cinnamon over medium heat. Simmer for 40 min, stirring occasionally until fig mixture cooks down to a dark hued color with a paste consistency. I turned my heat down to medium-low after 20 minutes to avoid burning my mixture; at that point it had darkened and thickened quite a bit. Just make sure to keep an eye on it as it cooks!
- When the mixture is finished cooking, use an immersion blender or food processor to pulse until consistency is smooth throughout. Allow mixture to cool fully. If the filling is still a bit too runny to spread, stir in a tablespoon of flour at a time until it reaches the consistency you desire. Refrigerate until you are ready to make the cookies.
- For the cookies, combine flour, baking powder, and salt in a bowl. Mix together and set aside.
- Meanwhile, cream the butter and brown sugar with a blender. Then, add the egg, vanilla, and orange juice. When those ingredients are incorporated, begin adding the bowl of dry ingredients until a cookie dough forms.
- Remove dough from the bowl and place it on a large sheet of plastic wrap. Press dough into a flat disc shape, then cover and refrigerate overnight (or at least 4 hours+).
- When the dough has been fully chilled, preheat the oven to 325° F, then remove the dough from the refrigerator. Slice the dough into four equal pieces. Place one piece onto a heavily floured sheet of parchment paper and the three remaining pieces should be returned to the refrigerator. Use a rolling pin to roll the dough out to about ¼" thick, 4 inches wide, and 12 inches long, making sure the dough is floured liberally and can be released from the parchment. It will become sticky very quickly, so you have to work somewhat fast!
- Spoon the fig filling into a zippered sandwich bag. Snip the tip off of one corner, then pipe ¼ of the filling down the center of the dough strip. Fold up the sides of the dough to close over the top of the filling, and press the ends together to close them up. Carefully roll the log of dough to be seam side down on a parchment lined baking sheet, then place the sheet in the refrigerator.
- Repeat the rolling and filling process with the remaining three pieces of dough, then bake the filled dough for 30 minutes, until the dough turns golden brown and is not tacky to the touch. Remove from the oven and allow the cookies to rest for 3-5 minutes.
- Before the cookies cool fully, slice the cookie dough logs into rectangular slices, then place the cookies into a gallon sized zippered bag and close it. This allows the cookies to steam and attain the soft baked texture.