After living twenty-two years of not having any figs (or figs that didn't stand out to me), I think I've made up for that in the past year and in particular, the past few weeks.
My first memorable fig experience was last summer, when I made these toasts. I will admit, I wasn't completely enamored with figs. I liked them, ate them that one time and that was it until a few weeks ago.
This summer, the first nudge into fig season started with some Mission figs leftover from a work photo shoot. Those figs were quite sad so I took them home, debated between jam and other things and ended up sticking them in an upside-down fig cake which drastically improved their taste and texture.
It wasn't until I received a pint of freshly picked Mission figs, that I actually learned how juicy figs can actually be. And then, there were multiple excursions to a secret green fig tree with incredibly sticky sap and itchy leaves but with so many sweet and ripe green figs that it took about six separate excursions to raid the branches of all of its delicious fruit.
So of course, when hundreds of figs are picked, many, many fig-related dishes will result from that like Fig Galettes, Fig Frangipane Tarts from Alana, Fig, Ricotta and Prosciutto Crostini, dehydrated figs and these Homemade Fig Newtons.
Fig Newtons fall into the category of foods that sound really good after I haven't had them in a while. Others that fall in this category are oatmeal, cream of wheat and banana chips.
But these homemade ones are a hundred times better than the perfectly shaped ones that you can find in a package. The taste of figs stands out in the filling without an overpowering taste of sweetness. That filling is wrapped in a buttery cookie making these have much more oomph than you would have thought from a regular boring ol' Fig Newton.
You can also prep the filling and cookie dough ahead of time and assemble them as needed. The key to the filling is to stir it every few minutes to make sure it doesn't burn! Don't be like me and think you can let a vat of hot sugar, figs and water reduce to a nice jam by itself without stirring. If you do, the following things might happen:
a) You'll smell burned sugar and realize that the bottom of the figs have blackened.
b) You'll wonder if you can save it but realize that your wooden spoon has cooled so that the outside is the hardness of a candy apple.
c) You'll burn your index finger because you were foolish enough to think that the filling was cool but in fact it is basically the temperature of molten hot candy lava.
d) You'll pour out the dreaded filling onto a piece of foil only to find out it has solidified into a brick.
e) You'll just start over again, this time watching the filling and stirring it as needed.
So, take this as a warning and don't burn your fig filling like I did.
You should end up with a nice brown/pink (depending on the type of figs you use) jam-like filling with the figs falling apart. Once that cools, blend it in a food processor. This can be then refrigerated until ready to use. The cookie dough is similar to a short bread or sugar cookie dough. Ideally, it should be chilled before rolling out so its preparation can also be made ahead of time.
I may or may not want to see another fig again until next year.
Homemade Fig Newtons
Recipe adapted from here.
Yields: about 16-20 2-inch x 2-inch cookies
1 pint fresh figs
½ cup brown sugar
½ cup white sugar
1 cup water
1 cinnamon stick
1½ cups flour
¼ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
1 stick butter, at room temperature
⅓ cup white sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons lemon juice
Remove stems from the figs and cut them in quarters. Bring quartered figs, the cinnamon stick, sugars and water to a boil. Reduce to a simmer for about 45 minutes stirring every few minutes to ensure your figs don't burn. The filling is cooked down when the figs are soft and falling apart and the rest of the filling is thick and jam-like. Set aside to cool completely.
Puree fig filling in food processor until a thick paste forms (if too thick or thin to spread evenly, add a little water or flour until spreadable consistency is reached).
Combine flour, baking powder and salt together and set aside.
Cream butter and sugar in a mixing bowl. Add egg, vanilla and lemon juice. Then add combined dry ingredients and mix until a dough forms. Chill dough for 1 hour or up to 3 days.
Preheat oven to 350ºF.
Roll dough out on a floured surface into a 8” x 14” rectangle about ¼” thick. Cut rectangle in half lengthwise.
Spread fig paste in the middle each rectangle, lengthwise (about 1½-inch thickness) .
Fold both edges of the dough inwards. Repeat with the second half. Cut each log in half and transfer, seam-side down onto a baking sheet covered in parchment paper or a non-stick baking sheet.
Bake 25 minutes or until crust begins to brown. Slice into about 2-inch segments and cool.