Thursday, July 7, 2011

Yer darn tootin', I like Fig Newtons

When I was a little kid, we used to watch Saturday morning cartoons every week. With these cartoons came lots of commercials specifically geared to my young and impressionable consumer sensibilities. One of my favorites was for Fig Newtons: "A cookie is just a cookie, but a Newton is fruit and cake."

Even as a little kid, I thought Fig Newtons were neat. A bit pretentious, yes. But ultimately, the overly exaggerated fancy-pants British kid in knickers made me believe that Fig Newtons were downright pretty awesome.

Until my mom bought me the Flour cookbook, I never thought about making my own Fig Newtons. Sure they've been around since early Egyptians preserved figs by wrapping them in a flour based dough, but could I really make these fancy fruit and cake treats named after a town in Massachusetts? The answer is, yes.

Homemade Fig Newtons (from Flour by Joanne Chang)
Makes 12 Newtons

Fig Jam Filling
  • 2 pints (680 grams) ripe black mission figs (about 30 figs)
  • 1 orange, peeled, seeded, and finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup (110 grams) packed light brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest (about 1 lemon)
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Shortbread dough
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 6 tablespoons (75 grams) granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons confectioners' sugar
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup (140 grams) unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup (120 grams) cake flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt


To make the filling: Remove any stems on figs, then cut them into quarters, and place in a medium non-reactive saucepan. Add the orange, brown sugar, lemon zest, and salt. Place over medium heat and bring to a simmer. Reduce teh heat to medium-low and simmer uncovered, stirring occasionally for about 40 minutes, or until the figs have softened and lost their shape and the filling jam-like. Remove from the heat, stir in the vanilla, and let cool for 1-2 hours, or to room temperature (if the jam is too watery, drain a little excess liquid before using as filling). This can be made in advance up to three 3 days ahead.

To make the shortbread dough: Using a stand mixer fitted with a the paddle attachment, cream together the butter, granulated sugar, and confectioners' sugar on medium speed for about 5 minutes, or until the mixture is light and fluffy. Stop the mixer a few times and use a rubber spatula to scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl and the paddle to release any clinging butter or sugar. Beat in the egg yolk and vanilla on medium speed for 2-3 minutes, or until thoroughly combined. Scrape the bowl and paddle to make sure the egg is thoroughly incorporated.

In a small bowl, sift together the all-purpose flour, cake flour, baking powder and salt. On low speed, slowly add the flour mixture to the butter-sugar mixture and then mix for about 15 seconds, or until the flour mixture is totally incorporated and the dough is evenly mixed. Stop the mixer and scrape the bowl again to make sure all of the flour is thoroughly incorporated.

Scrape the dough onto a sheet of plastic wrap and wrap entirely, pressing down to form a disk about 6-inches in diameter and 1-inch thick. Refrigerate the dough for about 30  minutes, or until it has firmed up but is still somewhat pliable.

Position a rack in the center of the oven, heat to 350F.

Place the dough disk on a large sheet of parchment paper. Liberally flour the dough on all surfaces, then roll out into a rectangle about 16 x 9 inches and 1/4 inch thick. Don't let the dough stick to the parchment or the rolling pin by adding a little flour as you gently roll the dough out.

Position the rectangle with a long side facing you. Spoon the cooled filling lengthwise along the center of the rectangle. In a strip of about 2 1/2 inches wide. Lifting the edge of the parchment farthest from you, drape the top of the dough rectangle over the jam, covering the top half of it. Gently peel the parchment away from the dough. Repeat wit the bottom edge of the parchment, draping the bottom of the dough over the jam. The edges of the dough rectangle should meet in the middle. Gently pinch the edges of the dough together, and then turn the rectangle over, so it is facing seam-side-down. Using a pastry brush or your hands to brush any excess flour off the parchment.

Bake for 65-70 minutes, or until the short bread is entirely golden brown. A little fig juice make leak out the sides, but it's fine. Let cool on the baking sheet for at least 2 hours, or until completely cool. Using a chef's knife, cut on the diagonal into strips about 5 inches long and 1 inch wide.


  1. i was always iffy on fig newtons as a kid. they were just OK, but these look fantastic! I am sure my adult self would appreciate a fig newton of the homemade variety

  2. Awesome job! I've actually never made these... and think I will have to give it a try!

  3. Beautiful as usual!! I loved loved loved fig newtons as a kid, but I imagine these are 8 thousand times better, especially if they're a Johanne Chang recipe ;)