Everything old is new again, so of course fig newtons are coming back. And why shouldn’t they, they’re delicious! These one’s will have you reminiscing of your childhood, and without the guilt because they are made with real ingredients!
For the cookie:
10 tablespoons (140 grams or 5 ounces) unsalted butter, cold is fine, cut into small chunks
1/2 cup (110 grams or 4 ounces) light brown sugar, gently packed
1/2 plus 1/8 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
2 tablespoons (30 grams) honey or golden syrup
1 tablespoon orange or apple juice
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
2 1/4 cups (295 grams or 10 1/2 ounces) all-purpose flour
For the filling:
12 ounces (about 2 1/2 cups or 340 grams) plump, sticky dried mission figs, stems trimmed
1/3 cup (100 grams or 3 1/2 ounces) applesauce, any variety
2 tablespoons orange or apple juice
1/2 teaspoon orange zest
Make the dough in a stand mixer: Combine butter, brown sugar, baking soda, salt, and honey in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Beat until fluffy, which will take up to 5 minutes; scrape the bowl down a few times to help it along. Add orange juice, then add the egg and yolks, beating between them, and continue beating until smooth. Reduce the speed to low and sprinkle in the flour, mixing until well combined.
Or make the dough in a food processor: Combine butter, brown sugar, baking soda, salt, and honey in the bowl of a food processor. Blend until fluffy, which will take a minute or two; scrape the bowl down a few times to help it along. Add orange juice, then add the egg and yolks, blending between them, and continue blending until smooth. Reduce the speed to low and sprinkle in the flour, pulsing until well combined.
Both methods: Scrape dough onto a piece of plastic and wrap it in a flat disc. Chill for one hour.
Meanwhile, make the filling: Cut the figs in half (although I skipped this because mine were so soft and it wasn’t a problem). Pulse with applesauce, orange juice, and zest in a food processor until roughly chopped, then process to a thick, smooth paste. Scrape the bowl and blade with a flexible spatula, then process a minute more to ensure absolutely no chunks remain. Transfer to a sturdy piping bag fitted with a 1/2-inch plain round tip if you have one, or just a sturdy freezer bag with a 1/2-inch opening snipped from the end (both methods worked for me) and set aside until needed, up to 24 hours.
Assemble your cookies: Heat oven to 350°F (175°C). Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Roll your cool dough between two large pieces of parchment paper to about a 15-inch square, however, both times I made them, I couldn’t get mine this thin. What’s most important is that your dough is 15 inches wide; if it comes up a little short in the other direction, the cookies still work. If you dough has gotten too soft and wants to stick to the parchment, just slide it onto the back of a baking sheet and into the freezer for 2 to 3 minutes, after which it should be easy to peel off the top sheet. Cut dough into four 3 1/4-inch strips.
Holding the bag at a 90-degree angle just above the surface of the dough, pipe a just-shy-of-1-inch-wide tube of filling down the center of each portion. Use your bottom sheet of parchment as a sling to fold a long flap of dough over each strip, press it against the filling, then continue to use the parchment to roll the dough the rest of the way over. Dough will overlap a little.
This part will be terrifying no matter what, but take your time to loosen, slide a spatula underneath, and lift this log onto your prepared baking sheet. Did yours break? One of mine did and I found if I pressed the broken parts back together, it “healed” pretty well in the oven. Gently press logs just a tiny bit to begin to flatten them into the traditional fig newton shape. Repeat with remaining strips of dough and filling. All four bars should fit on a single sheet.
Bake: Until the bars are puffed and firm, without any significant browning, about 15 minutes. Immediately cut into 1-inch pieces with a sharp or serrated knife. Let them fully cool on tray, then transfer them to an airtight container overnight to achieve the uniquely cakey texture. (If you eat them right away, they’ll seem a little dry.) Store for up to 1 week at room temperature or up to a month in the fridge. I found after the initial softening, my cookies did best at room temperature when the lid was ajar, or else they got too soft.
Do ahead: The dough can chilled for up to one week. If it chills for more than an hour, you should soften it at room temperature for 30 minutes before using it. The preserves can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 3 weeks; bring to room temperature before using.
Notes from Smitten Kitchen:
- I made them both in a stand mixer and a food processor; I preferred the food processor for the dough, but of course I always do. I found you could skip softening the butter, regardless of method, but you need to really and truly beat it until it is fluffy, which will take a minute or two longer.
- The first time I made them, I rolled them out, as directed, on a floured counter, but I found it easier (and less sticking- and crack-prone) the second time, when I rolled out between two sheets of parchment paper without flour. The resulting cookies are much more smooth, and bent more easily over the filling without cracking.
- Psst, Trader Joe’s sells these figs in exactly a 12-ounce container.