Lauren Groveman a recipe for delicious living

Chubby Fig Newtons

(January 24, 2008)
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Kathe asked Lauren:

Dear 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!

Lauren says...

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 Dried 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!

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Chubby Fig Newtons

Yield: about 35 cookies

fig newtons

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.

    SpeciaL Equipment:

  • 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 cool thoroughly.

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:

  • Lauren LogoThe 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.

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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 Amazon.com.

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 www.laurengroveman.com

Lauren is a Larchmont resident. She is happily married and blessed with three wonderful children.