Homemade Fig Newtons or Fig Bars. My husband LOVES fig newtons. I have been wanting to make him a homemade version for some time now. While I know you can buy the fig newtons, I don't particularly care for the ingredients listed on the package. It's been quite a while since I've bought fig newtons... but some time ago, I promised my husband I'd bake him a batch. Now, this was actually quite a few months back...ok, maybe a year or so. But I'm glad I finally came through on my promise.....
While the fig newtons I made weren't exactly like the store bought version I remembered, my husband still loved them. I suppose what threw me off was the cookie base. The fig newtons I made were more of a soft, orange-flavored shortbread...So I'm not sure if I should call them fig newtons... maybe they should be called fig bars. But you know, they did look like fig newtons:).
The bars reminded my husband of the layered Romanian apple bars(placinta de mere) his mom would make. It wasn't exactly the same dough... but very close in taste and flavor. Mom would roll out the dough quite thin, layer it with her homemade apple filling, top it with another layer of dough, and bake it. She would allow the placinta de mere to cool, covered the pan with a dish towel, and then let it sit overnight to soften. Boy did everyone love Mom's desserts! Needless to say, those apple squares didn't last very long in their house:). So this dough could probably be used to encase an apple filling just as well. The apple filling would have to be very dry (cooked down quite a bit) so you won't have any juice leaking out....and it would be better if the apples were grated. But I digress... back to the recipe:).
I'm thinking of making the the bars again. Would love to vary the filling a bit, adding some whole grain flour... and maybe even substituting some coconut oil for the butter. Since the fig bars can be made ahead, they would be great for school lunches, picnics, or even as a breakfast bar. And because they sort of have the Christmas flavors of orange and dried fruit, they could be considered a Christmas cookie?...maybe it's stretching it a bit:). Hope you enjoy...
Note: The fig newtons/bars will be crisp on the first day. Cover and allow to sit until the next day...the bars will then soften and be ready to eat. While you can eat them on the first day too(crispy), they will be much, much better on the following day(soft). Just saying:).
Tip: You can probably substitute the fig puree with another dried fruit filling... dates would be good, as you wouldn't need to cook them down... just process to a paste. And if you want, you can use some nuts as well. I am thinking other dried fruit would work just as well... apricots, cherries, blueberries, etc.... I've even contemplated making an apple/nut filling and adding some spices.
You will need: adapted from the boastful baker and originally from "Desserts by the Yard” by Sherry Yard.
1 cup chopped dried Black Mission figs
1 1/2 cups water*
1 cup apple juice *
1/4 cup sugar(I used a bit less)
1/8 teaspoon grated orange zest
* I didn't have apple juice, so I substituted orange juice...used 1 3/4 cups water and 3/4 cup orange juice.... to make a total of 2 1/2 cups liquid.
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon grated orange zest
1 large egg white
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour(you can use some whole wheat/spelt if you like)
Make Fig Filling: I made it the night before.
1. Combine the figs, water, apple juice and sugar in a medium sauceapan and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and cook at a bare simmer for 1-2 hours until the figs are so soft that they’re spreadable.... you will have very little liquid left. It took me close to 2 hours.
2. Transfer figs to a food processor or blender, add the orange zest and process until smooth.
3. Remove from the food processor and cool/refrigerate....
Make Cookie Base: I made it the night before.
1. Using an electric mixer, cream together the butter, sugar and orange zest in the bowl for 2-3 minutes on medium speed.... you may need to scrape down the bowl occasionally.
2. Add the egg white and vanilla and mix to combine, scraping the sides of the bowl.
3. Add flour and mix on low speed until the dough comes together.
4. Remove dough and flatten to in a disc. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2 hours or overnight... You want the dough to be firm when working with it. So I refrigerated it overnight, and it worked beautifully. If the dough is not firm ...you will have trouble rolling it, as it will stick and get too soft.
Assemble and Bake: I did this on the following day.
1. Place racks in middle and lower third of the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line baking sheet/s with parchment paper.
2. Remove dough from the refrigerator, cut into 4 equal parts. While working with one piece of dough, you will want to keep the rest refrigerated and cold.
3. Remove the fig filling from the fridge and divide it into 4 equal parts...it just allows you to have an even amount of filling for all 4 pieces. Set it aside.
4. Take one piece of dough and place it on a parchment paper( you could use a floured surface, but I find the parchment paper allows you to roll the dough without too much sticking and it also helps in turning the logs over and unto the baking sheet).
5. Shape the dough in a rectangle....and roll the dough out to about 12 x 4 inches.(I like to keep the rectangle as even as possible by adjusting the rectangle shape with the back of my knife as I roll).
6. Spoon a line of filling down the center of each strip.
7. Fold 1/2 of the dough over the filling...you may use a wide knife/spatula...or use the parchment paper as an aid to lift the dough over the filling. You need to be gentle as the dough is quite buttery and soft.
8. Place each finished log( seam side down) onto a parchment lined baking sheet. Use your parchment paper that you roll it on to help you transfer it. (If possible, keep it refrigerated, while working on the remaining logs....this way the butter in the dough doesn't melt).
9. Do the same with the rest of the dough and filling.
10. When you finished making all the logs, use a serrated knife to slice each log into about 5 cookies...or however many you want. You can make them larger or smaller... I like to keep all the logs refrigerated for a few minutes while I clean up, preheat my oven and then bake them.
11. Bake the fig newtons for 12-15 minutes, until lightly golden...you may need to rotate the baking sheets from top to bottom and front to back halfway through.
12. Remove from the oven and allow to cool on a rack. Place fig bars in an airtight container and let sit until the next day to soften.