a recipe for delicious living
Chubby Fig Newtons
(January 24, 2008)
...submit your question to Lauren!
Kathe asked Lauren:
You had "the answer"! I have been on this journey of baking rugelach since
before Christmas as gifts to give out. Beside the cherry (dried cherries
and cherry preserves) chocolate chip (wonderful), I tried fig with chocolate
chips and got raves. But I also had the problem, as you mentioned, of
the fluids baking out of the pastries. I called my dad, who was a master
baker at one time, and he said to "make lekvar" (who ? me?)...And so I
went in search and there, you had it; the recipe for fig lekvar! I actually
found prune, apricot and rose flavored lekvar at Southern Seasons here
in Chapel Hill, NC, but my friends and family wanted the fig kind (mixed
with slightly grounded very dark chocolate chips). So, this note is to
thank you so very much. I keep baking and sending my rugelach into the
world (and I keep fast walking 4-7 miles a day!)...what fun!
For those who like to bake with fruity preserves, but have been challenged
by their resulting liquid-like texture when in the oven, you might to
take a peek at my recipe, from a back column, for
Fruit Butters, which are wonderfully thick and behave perfectly through
the baking process.
And, for you Kathe, here's another delicious recipe
where you can use the fig butter. It's for my homemade Chubby
Fig Newtons which are such a hoot to make and present to people!
Chubby Fig Newtons
Yield: about 35 cookies
I've always found it such fun to create homemade versions of American
classic foods that are usually store-bought. These pudgy, fig-filled cookies
illustrate perfectly how it's possible to magnify the voluptuous, enticing
quality of a favorite supermarket food that's commonly purchased, thus
making a good thing even better. For extra tender results, use bleached
all-purpose flour in this pastry. And do take advantage of the timing
strategy, given at the end of this recipe.
- Electric mixer
- Straight (not tapered) rolling pin
- Cushioned cookie sheets (2)
- Large pastry cloth and bootie
- Pastry brush (with soft bristles)
- 2 long wide turning spatulas
Ingredients for the fig cookies:
- 2 cups plus 2 tablespoons bleached all-purpose flour, plus more, as needed, for dusting
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- ¼ teaspoon baking soda
- ½ teaspoon cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 4 tablespoons (½ stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 4 ounces cream cheese (½ of an 8-ounce block), at room temperature
- ¾ cup (packed) light brown sugar
- 2 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
- 1 ½ teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- 1 recipe Fig Butter, completely chilled
- Powdered sugar, as needed, to prevent sticking and as an optional garnish
1) To make the pastry and freeze: Use a
whisk to combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and
salt. Sift this into another bowl. Using an electric mixer, cream together
the butter and cream cheese and, when homogenous, beat in the brown sugar
until thoroughly combined and light. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating
well after each addition. Add the vanilla and, when combined, use a large
rubber spatula to scrape down the sides and up from the bottom of the
bowl, releasing any clinging mixture. Beat briefly, then turn off the
machine and add the entire dry mixture. Starting on low and proceeding
to a moderate speed, mix until just combined. Use the spatula to scrape
down and underneath the dough to incorporate any wet pockets. At this
point, the mixture will be very soft and pasty but the batter should be
uniform in consistency.
Lay two large, slightly overlapping sheets of
plastic wrap on your counter and sprinkle the plastic lightly but evenly
with flour. Scrape the pastry batter directly onto the floured plastic
and sprinkle the top of the batter lightly, but evenly, with more flour.
Lay two additional, overlapping sheets of plastic on top of the batter
and, using your hand, pat it down, gently. Use a straight rolling pin
to gently roll the mixture out into a 10 x 13-inch rectangle that's about
¼-inch thick. Transfer the sheet of pastry to a large shallow baking
sheet and place it in the freezer for at least 4 hours, and up to one
week, before using. (If storing for more than 24 hours, further protect
the pastry by covering it with another sheet of plastic.)
2) To set up to bake: Position the rack on the center
shelf of the oven and preheat to 350°F. (Although it's preferable
to bake these cookies on the center shelf, if not working with a double
oven, place the racks on the upper and lower third shelves.) Line two
cushioned cookie sheets with parchment paper and place them next to your
work surface. Tear off four sheets of wax paper and stack them next to
your work surface. Lay a pastry cloth on your work surface and rub it
heavily and evenly with flour. (The surface should be white with flour,
and spread smoothly over the cloth). Remove the fig butter from the refrigerator.
Place a small bowl of powdered sugar next to your work surface. You'll
also need a soft pastry brush and a straight rolling pin.
3) To assemble the pastries: First remove the pastry
from the freezer and slide it off the baking sheet (still wrapped in plastic).
Turn the pastry so it sits horizontally in front of you. Lift off the
top sheet of plastic, only, and use the blade of a sharp knife to divide
the pastry into four sections (cut from top to bottom, not side to side).
Carefully lift one section of dough off the plastic and place it on the
prepared pastry cloth. (If, when attempting to lift the pastry, it seems
in danger of breaking, simply invert the pastry onto the cloth.) Cover
the remaining pastry with plastic wrap and freeze it, for now. Sprinkle
the top of the pastry strip evenly with some flour and place a piece of
wax paper on top. Roll the pastry out to widen it to about 5 inches in
width, and then lengthen it slightly, to about 14 inches long. Optimally,
the pastry should be about 1/8-inch thick all over.
Position the pastry
strip horizontally in front of you and carefully peel off the wax paper.
Brush off any exposed flour, using a soft pastry brush. Scoop out one
generous cup of the chilled fig filling and, while holding the filling
in your hands, elongate it into a log shape (if necessary, sprinkle your
hands with a little powdered sugar, to prevent the filling from sticking.)
Lay the filling in a straight line across the pastry, placed one-third
of the way up from the long edge closest to you and pat the filling down,
slightly, to "square" it a bit. Lift the bottom edge of the pastry cloth
and drape the bottom third of pastry over the top of the filling. Brush
any excess flour from the exposed pastry then continue to lift the cloth,
forcing the tender pastry to roll over the filling, enclosing it completely.
Pat the top of the roll down a bit to flatten it slightly, and use your
hands to straighten the sides. Brush off any more excess flour and carefully
lift and transfer the filled roll to the prepared cookie sheet. Correct
the shape, which should be long, low, and rectangular. Cover the pastry
with plastic wrap and refrigerate it while you shape another strip. (You'll
bake two logs on each sheet.)
Before placing another sheet of frozen pastry
on your cloth, rub in more flour and use a new piece of wax paper to cover
the dough, when thinning it. Continue to roll and fill the remaining strips
of pastry until all are placed on the baking sheets, chilling the filled
logs as you go.
4) To bake and cool: Uncover the baking sheets and place
them into the preheated oven until the pastry is light golden, 24 to 27
minutes. If baking both sheets in one oven, switch the shelf positions
half way through baking. Meanwhile, place 2 wire cooling racks on your
counter. When done, remove the sheets from the oven and, using two long,
wide metal spatulas, and carefully transfer the logs to wire racks to
5) To cut logs into square cookies: When cool, place
a baked log on a cutting board and, using a sharp serrated knife, trim
off any dark irregular ends. Cut the log into 1 ½-inch squares. (To
make uniform squares, cut off one square, and then place it on top of
the log, beginning at the cut end. Continue cutting, using the first square
as your model, until you reach the end. If planning to store (or give)
these cookies "stacked," always place the last square cut on top of the
remaining log, before cutting the next cookie. Line each cookie up, on
the rack, as they are cut.
6) To serve and store: Place the cooled cookies in a
single layer on a serving tray and, if desired, sift some powdered sugar
over the top, just before serving. Store extras in an air-tight tin, separated
by sheets of wax paper.
Time Management Tips:
- The filling can be up
to two weeks ahead and stored in the refrigerator, securely covered.
- The pastry can be assembled and stored in the freezer for up to one week before using.
- The unbaked cookies can be assembled one day ahead of baking and stored in the
refrigerator, covered with plastic wrap.
Questions for Lauren Groveman's Kitchen:
Lauren Groveman recipes have been featured
in many national magazines and local newspapers. Her books "The
I love to Cook Book: Rediscovering the Joy of Cooking for Family and Friends"
and "Lauren Groveman's Kitchen, Nurturing Food
for Family and Friends" are available through
For in depth information on Lauren Groveman as a writer, teacher, TV &
radio host, as well as her recipes and cooking tips visit her website at
Lauren is a Larchmont resident. She is happily married and
blessed with three wonderful children.