Last week’s Nutrigrain Bar post has inspired a series! My next 9 posts will be remixed, remade childhood favorites – 10 posts jam packed with childish, nostalgic goodness. This week is number two: the fig newton. This cookie, by this name, has been around since the late 1800’s. But even in the 1700’s, physicians recommended daily biscuit and fruit consumption to ward off illness, making this cookie-jam combo very popular, very early.
Charles Roser was the first to find an efficient way to bring the fruit and the biscuit together. This smart Pennsylvanian baker invented and patented a machine that injects fig jam into thick pastry dough. The Massachusetts-based Kennedy Baking Company bought Roser’s recipe and started mass producing the cookie in 1891, naming it the Fig Newton after Newton, Massachusetts.
While the history of this figgy treat is interesting, my history with it is a little less exciting. I really only had them at after school programs where they were handed out during snack time, or left at the bottom of the community snack bucket. I remember that they always tasted like they were many months old, and that the chewy “cookie” part got stuck in every single one of my teeth, and, of course, the bright yellow box.
Well, as you may have guessed, the version I am about to share with you is better. It comes out of my still-favorite “Flour” cookbook, by Joanne Chang. The shortbread dough is buttery and crumbly and the fig jam is absolutely delicious. Quick Hint: save some of the jam from this recipe and put it on a grilled cheese sandwich with caramelized onions, you will be in heaven.
Real Fig Newtons
- 2 pints, about 30, fresh figs, very ripe (I used brown figs)
- 1 orange, peeled and finely chopped
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 1 lemon’s worth of zest
- pinch of salt
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 cup (two sticks) butter, softened
- 6 Tbsp sugar
- 2 Tbsp powdered sugar
- 1 egg yolk
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 2 cups AP flour
- 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp salt
First make the jam by quartering the figs and putting everything into a medium sauce pot except the vanilla extract.
Cook this mixture on medium-low heat for about 40 minutes, uncovered. All the ingredients should break down to a smooth-ish jam like consistency, but if you still have chunks of fruit after 40 minutes feel free to cheat and put it in a blender after it has cooled.
Please notice: my giant, beautiful, 32 oz. bottle of vanilla bean paste… thank you amazon, this may be one of the best things I have ever owned.
Beat the butter and sugars on medium-high until fluffy, then scrape down the bowl and add the vanilla and egg yolk. Beat this mixture at medium speed for 2-3 minutes, then slowly begin to incorporate your dry ingredients.
Form the dough into a disk, wrap it in plastic wrap and let it chill in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.
When the dough has chilled, cut out a large piece of parchment and flour it liberally. Place the dough on top of the parchment and roll it out into a rectangle* that is about 16×9 inches and 1/4″ thick. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
*rectangle is a very loose term here… actually it is always a loose term for me. People that roll round disks of dough into perfect rectangles scare me.
Create a figgy stripe down the middle of your dough, make sure it is parallel to the long side of your “rectangle.” Then fold each side over the jam, using the parchment to lift the dough for you, then pulling away the parchment after the fold. Gently pinch together the two flaps and the ends.
Then flip the whole thing over and transfer it, parchment and all, to a cookie sheet. Bake 65-70 minutes until the shortbread is golden brown. Then allow it to cool completely and cut into bars.
Or for an after nap snack…