When Jennifer Reese lost her job, she was overcome by an impulse common among the recently unemployed: to economize by doing for herself what she had previously paid for. Reese began a series of kitchen-related experiments, taking into account the competing demands of everyday contemporary American family life as she answers some timely questions.
Despite the fact that they contain high-fructose corn syrup and partially hydrogenated oil, I’ve always loved Nabisco Fig Newtons. But these are a cut above, a substantial and healthy cookie-pastry that you can eat for breakfast. I started with Maida Heatter’s recipe for Big Newtons, and while I’ve made a lot of changes, these cookies are still big.
- 2 Cup all-purpose flour
- 1 Cup whole-wheat flour
- 1 Teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 Teaspoon baking soda
- 1 Teaspoon kosher salt
- 8 Tablespoon (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
- 1/2 Cup brown sugar (light or dark), firmly packed
- 1/2 Cup sugar
- 1 Large egg
- 1/3 Cup whole milk
- 1 Pound dried brown or black figs, about 3 1/2 cups
- 3/4 Cup sugar
- 2 Tablespoon lemon juice, about 1 lemon
To make the pastry
Sift together the flours, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Add whatever is left in the sifter to the sifted ingredients and whisk gently to blend.
In a large bowl, beat the butter with the sugars until light and fluffy. Add the egg and continue to beat, pausing to scrape down the sides of the bowl. When you have a creamy mixture, slowly beat in the dry ingredients. Add the milk, starting with a smaller amount, and blend to form a soft, workable dough. If the dough seems dry, add more milk, up to 2 tablespoons.
Turn the dough out onto the counter, knead a few times, and shape into a disk. Wrap tightly and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
To make the filling
Cut the tough stems from the figs and put the figs in a saucepan with the sugar, ½ cup water, and lemon juice. Simmer over medium heat for 10 minutes, until the figs are slightly softened.
Pour the figs and their juices into a food processor and grind until you have a thick, jammy mixture. (If you don’t have a food processor, let the figs cool a bit and then chop them on a big cutting board—damp and sticky work, but doable.) Cool to room temperature, but don’t let the figs sit for more than 30 minutes, lest they become too stiff to handle.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F and line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Working with half the dough at a time, on a floured surface, roll out the dough into an oblong about 15 inches long, 6 inches wide, and a scant 1/4 inch thick. Trim the edges evenly so you have a neat rectangle. (A rolling pizza cutter is good for this, though a knife will also work.) Reserve the scraps to roll out with the second portion or to use for patching any holes.
Mound half of the fig filling along the spine of the rectangle, stopping 1/2 inch from the top and bottom. You want a band of filling 1 inch deep and 2 inches wide. Using a bench scraper or a spatula, carefully lift one long end of the dough off the counter and fold it over the fig filling. Repeat with the other side of the dough rectangle, overlapping by 1/4 inch or so. Gently press to seal. Using the bench scraper or spatula, ease the dough off the counter and onto the parchment paper. Roll it over so the seam side faces down. Seal the short edges by pinching together. If there are any holes, patch them with the scraps.
Repeat with the remaining scraps, dough, and fig filling.
Bake for 15 minutes, or until golden and firm on top. Cool on a rack. Slice while still warm, horizontally into 1-inch bars. Store at room temperature in a cookie tin for 5 days.