Friday, September 7, 2012

Fig Bar Cookies

Many of us enjoy the comforting flavor and inimitable texture of fig bar cookies.  The ones sold in those yellow packets at supermarkets across the country are among this nation's favorite cookies.  They're very good!  Truth be told, I adore those sweet nibbles to no end, because they're such tender cookies.  Now that I'm older and bake from scratch, I rely on my favorite recipes to satisfy this craving whenever I have it.  Throughout the years I've tried several from various cookbook authors, most of which have met with my approval.  For The Monthly Cookie, however, I had to come up with a good recipe in order to make this cookie my own.

Before I started testing recipes, I bought a packet of these "Newton" cookies to jog my memory.  What I immediately noticed was how exceedingly soft the cookies were.  The all-too-familiar filling itself, had strong hints of orange and/or candied orange peel underneath the sweet flavor of pureed figs.  I kept these things in mind as I began testing.

The cookie dough had to be tender and not too sweet; I didn't want it competing with the full flavor of those black mission figs.  For the fig filling I absolutely had to keep things as simple as possible.  There really was no need to complicate the ingredients and mask the flavor of one of my favorite fruits.  Simmered in water until plump, the figs were pureed with some orange marmalade, peels & all, until completely smooth.  The bars were quickly assembled, chilled, glazed, cut and baked to perfection.

What I have come up with is a recipe that has just the right flavor & texture we all want from a Fig Bar Cookie.

The recipe is now yours!     


Fig Bar Cookies are perfect with some cold milk.  They're also good with a cup of tea.


Cookie Dough Ingredients
  • 2 1/4 cups {290 grams} all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon {5 ml.} baking powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon {.63 ml.} fine sea salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon {1.25 ml.} freshly grated nutmeg
  • 8 tablespoons or 1 stick {115 grams} unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1/3 cup {65 grams} granulated sugar 
  • 1/3 cup packed {75 grams} dark brown sugar
  • 1 large egg, room temperature
  • 1/2 teaspoon {2.5 ml.} pure vanilla extract 
Fig Filling Ingredients
  • 8 oz. or 1 1/2 cups {225 grams}dried black mission figs
  • 3/4 cup {200 ml.} water
  • 1/3 cup {100 grams} best-quality orange marmalade
Egg Glaze Ingredients
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1 teaspoon {5 ml.} milk 

Yield: 2 dozen cookies

In a medium-sized bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder, sea salt & freshly grated nutmeg; combine well & keep the ingredients nearby.  In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter for 30 seconds on medium speed, until it's malleable and creamy.  Add both sugars and beat on medium speed for 2-3 minutes or until the mixture is creamy.


Stop the machine and scrape down the bowl.  Make sure you reach all the way around it and around the bottom.  Scrape the mixer attachment as well.

Add the egg and beat on medium speed until it is emulsified into the sugar-butter mixture; this takes anywhere from 30 seconds to 1 minute.  Lower the speed to low and add the vanilla extract; beat this well.  Stop the machine and scrape down the bowl & paddle attachment.

On low speed, add the flour mixture and beat it until you form a cohesive dough.

This is what your dough should look like when it's done.  Stop the machine & remove the bowl & paddle.

Quickly divide the dough in two, between 2 separate pieces of plastic wrap.

Shape the dough into a flat brick as you gather it with the plastic wrap.  The two portions of dough must now chill for 1 to 2 hours.  If you're not going to bake the cookies that day, the dough will keep in the refrigerator until the following day.  You could also freeze this dough for up to one month (in this case place the bricks into a zip-top freezer bag to prevent freezer burn; thaw overnight in the refrigerator).

To make the fig filling, slice off the stems from every single fig; discard them.  Place the dried figs & water into a saucepan and simmer over medium heat for 5 minutes.  
After the 5 minutes are up, the figs will be plump, moistened, delicious & quite fragrant.  Place the figs with all of the cooking water into the bowl of a food processor.  Add the orange marmalade and process the ingredients until you have a smooth puree.  You may need to pulse it several times to break them up (make sure you scrape down the bowl at least once during this process). 
The fig puree is smooth as can be.  Let it cool completely before you proceed with the recipe.  The time it takes to chill the cookie dough is more than enough to have this mixture cool. 

Note: this makes a great fig jam for scones, toast or muffins.  Remember it.


You can roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface, but I find it much easier to do it on a silpat for this bar cookie.  Remove 1 of the dough bricks from the refrigerator and let it sit on the counter for about 5 minutes.  Unwrap the cookie dough and center it on a silpat.  Place the piece of plastic wrap over the entire dough.

Begin rolling out the dough lengthwise until you reach the inner red border of the half-sheet silpat.  You also want to roll it crosswise to approximately 5 inches (13 cm).  The entire dough should be 1/8 inch (3.1 mm) in thickness.

If you're rolling out the dough on a counter, make sure you flour the surface, the rolling pin and the top of the dough as you're doing this.  Add a minimum of flour, but do make sure the dough doesn't stick to anything.

With a bench scraper or metal spatula, trim the dough so that you have a 14"x5" rectangle {36cm x 13cm}.  If you find one end to be short of dough, trim some of the excess and place it where you need it.  Roll it out so that it's flush with the rest of the rectangle.

Take half of the cooled fig puree and drop it along the middle length of the dough.  Smooth it down evenly with a small offset spatula.

Square off the thick filling so that it's approximately 1 1/2 inches {3.8 cm} across the middle of the dough.

Using the same metal bench scraper, carefully begin to fold the exposed dough toward the center of the filling to cover.  If you find the dough to be too soft, place the silpat on a baking sheet and chill the dough for a few minutes before you continue.  You shouldn't have to chill this for more than 5 minutes.  Fold one side toward the center and fold the other side toward the center so that the edges meet.  If there is a slight overlap, that's OK.  
Tuck the dough together so that the filling is completely covered.  This is going to be the bottom of the cookie.  The entire log gets flipped over before baking.

Note: this dough does have a tendency to crack because it is very tender, but don't get upset by this.  Simply pinch together and smooth out any and all cracks with your fingertips.

Roll out, fill and fold the other piece of dough.  The logs must now chill for 30 minutes.

With racks centered, preheat the oven to 375° F (190° C)


Remove the logs from the refrigerator, flip them seam side down and slice each one in half.  Slice the halves into halves (you will have 4 sections).  Slice each quarter into thirds, for a total of 12 cookies.  Place each cookie back onto the silpat which should be on a rimmed cookie sheet by now.  

Note: I don't like using sharp knives on my silpats because this can ruin them.  I prefer to cut the logs on a long bread board. 
 Stagger 12 cookies on each cookie sheet.  I like to give them plenty of room so that they bake evenly.

Whisk the egg yolk & milk in a small bowl.  Brush the glaze over each cookie.  Quickly place the baking sheet in the preheated oven.

Bake for approximately 15-17 minutes; the tops should be golden. 

Don't let them burn!


Let the cookies sit on the cookie sheet for one minute.  Carefully transfer them to racks & cool completely.

The cookies will keep in an airtight container/cookie jar for up to 3 days.  They're better the next day!

  Highly delicious!



Although most cookies are great and at their best the day they are baked, I've found that these particular Fig Bar Cookies are perfect the following day.  It is then that the cookies begin to soften and take on the appealing texture of those "Newtons" we all love.  Keep them stored in an airtight container or cookie jar for up to 3 days and enjoy them with a glass of cold milk or cup of hot tea.  These can certainly be tucked into lunches for school or work if you happen to want a bit of sweet, wholesome goodness in the afternoon.  The first time you make these cookies I strongly recommend that you use a good quality marmalade.  Later, feel free to experiment with a different type of jam such as raspberry (I've made them this way!), apricot or even cherry.  When the last of the cookies are devoured and you wish you had another one to nibble on, start the next batch.  These exquisite bars are going to be loved by adults and kids, so make lots.  Enjoy every bite!

1 comment:

  1. A while back, I was searching for a good Fig Newton type recipe and was not impressed with any that I found. Yours is different. I will definitely try this recipe sometime.

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