makes two dozen cookies
I think it’s safe to say I am the top consumer of figs in North Carolina? Maybe on the East Coast? That’s a pretty bold statement, I know. I eat about five every day (yes, every day – I brought a bag to Nicaragua) which equates to roughly 150 pounds a year.
Fig Newtons take me back to lunchtime in elementary school, where I would trade my round, wax-covered Babybel cheese for a pack of the chewy, fruit filled cookies. This made-from-scratch version replicates the store brand’s dense-yet-delicate, cake-like cookie crust, as well as its thick, sweet, seedy filling.
These are super easy to make, but note that the dough does have to be refrigerated overnight! They come together quickly in the morning. Eat warm out of the oven, dip in tea, pack in lunches, binge on at 11pm..
- 1 cup flour, sifted
- 6 tbsp butter, room temperature
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1 tbsp honey
- 1/4 tsp baking soda
- 1/8 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp vanilla
- dash of cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp orange zest
- 2 egg yolks
- 1 tbsp orange juice
- 1 cup Calimyrna or Black Mission figs (I used Calimyrna but Black Mission is more similar to the original)
- 2 tbsp applesauce
- 1/2 tbsp honey
- dash of cinnamon
Cream together the butter through orange zest on medium speed until the mixture is light and fluffy.With the mixer still running, add the yolks one at a time, mixing thoroughly after each addition. With the mixer on lowest speed, add in the sifted flour all at once. Drizzle in the orange juice. Continue mixing until just homogenous. The dough will be very soft and wet! It’s fine. Transfer the dough to a large sheet of plastic wrap. Fold the wrap over the dough, flatten it into a disc, and refrigerate overnight.
For the filling, combine the figs, applesauce, honey and cinnamon in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until smooth. Scrape the bowl down with a rubber spatula and pulse again to ensure no chunks remain; if any sneak by, they will clog the pastry tip during piping, much to your annoyance. Transfer the fig paste to a pastry bag fitted with a plain round tip.
Preheat the oven to 325° and have a parchment lined cookie sheet ready. Even after chilling, the dough will be significantly softer than the typical rolled dough. Dust the rolling surface heavily with sifted flour to prevent sticking, and dust the surface of the dough generously as well. With a pin, roll the dough to 1/4” thickness (check with a ruler or your cookies will be too thick!). Frequently lift and move the dough, redusting if needed, to ensure it does not stick. If any places do stick, slide an offset metal spatula between the dough and the counter to loosen and dust the problem area with more flour. Use a ruler and a pizza cutter to cut the dough into several 3 1/4” wide strips. Cut these strips into 6” lengths. Gently dust away excess flour with a dry pastry brush.
Down the center of each dough strip, pipe the fig filling into an 1” wide, 1/4” thick strip. (You may have to make more than one pass if your pastry tip is narrow.) Fold one side of the dough up and over the fruit filling, then roll the log over to cover the remaining portion of dough. You’ll have a cookie log with smooth dough on top and a seam along the bottom that is double thick where the two strips overlap. This will give the cookies their characteristically bowed shape. Repeat this folding process with remaining cookie bars.
Use a dry pastry brush to dust off excess flour from outside of the cookie bars (you can roll them over to dust off the bottoms too). Transfer the uncut bars to the prepared cookie sheet. Freeze for 20-30 minutes so that the cookies hold their shape when baked. Bake for approximately 15 minutes or until the bars have puffed and browned lightly. They will be just slightly firm to the touch; if they feel puffy or moist, continue baking a few minutes more.
As soon as you have removed the cookies from the oven, use a sharp knife to trim each bar into 6 1” long cookies. While the cookies are still warm, transfer them to a plastic container with a lid or large zip-top bag.
Seal the container or bag tightly. This will trap in heat and moisture and slightly steam the cookies, ensuring they remain soft and cake-like from end to end. Skipping this step will result in Newtons with a slightly drier texture, more like a cookie and less like cake.