I love fig newtons, don’t you? They taste so different from other cookies. The dough is more like cake than cookie dough and is amazingly soft surrounding a fig paste that is flavored with a hint of orange. My opinion is that homemade newtons are more flavorful and aromatic than store bought. You can make the dough and fig paste ahead of time and refrigerate up to a week. This was a huge help to me as I didn’t have all day to make cookies. When I was ready, I just set the dough and paste out for about half an hour to soften at room temperature. The dough was cool but pliable and easy to work with and roll out. The fig paste was thick and sticky and I wasn’t sure how I was going to spread the paste onto the dough without making a mess. I dropped the paste onto a long sheet of plastic wrap and shaped it so that it was somewhat round and long like a rope. The paste didn’t stick to the plastic wrap and I was able to set the long strand of paste onto the dough and peel back the plastic. It made wrapping the dough around the fig paste quite easy. They baked perfectly in 18 minutes, golden and soft to the touch. And they look and taste just as good if not better than any you could buy at the store.
My little secret ingredient is lavender honey. Los Poblanos farms is the home of lavender fields and lush gardens located in the Rio Grande River Valley in Albuquerque. On the farm there is a historic Inn and restaurant plus a farm shop where they sell their lavender products. It’s a great place to visit if you are ever in Albuquerque.
Refrigerate dough for an hour or up to 1 week. If the dough is refrigerated longer than one hour set the dough out on the counter for 30 minutes allowing it to soften and become pliable enough to shape and roll out.
Sprinkle your work surface with flour. Let the dough sit out at room temperature for 30 minutes. It’s still cool but pliable and easy to work with. Roll the dough into a 15 x 15 inch square. I think in hindsight if I had shaped the dough into a square before refrigerating it would have been a bit easier than trying to shape it after. Next time I’m going to try that!
When you have all 4 rolls made, set on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Take a pastry brush and brush off any excess flour from the dough. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and bake for 18 minutes.
2 1/4 cups Flour
1 1/4 sticks Unsalted Butter, soft but cool
1/2 cup Packed Brown Sugar
1/2 plus 1/8 teaspoon Baking Soda
1/4 teaspoon Kosher Salt
1/4 teaspoon Cinnamon
2 tablespoons Honey (I used Lavender Honey)
1 teaspoon Orange Zest
1 tablespoon Orange Juice
3 large Egg Yolks, cold
2 1/2 cups Mission Figs, trimmed and cut in half
1/3 cup Unsweetened Applesauce (or an individual cup measures 1/3 cup)
2 tablespoons Orange Juice
Combine the butter, brown sugar, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, honey and orange zest in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Mix on low just until the ingredients are blended. Increase to medium speed and cream until light and fluffy. Add orange juice, and the egg yolks one at a time beating after each addition until mixture is smooth and creamy. Begin adding the flour a little at a time mixing after each addition until all the flour has been incorporated.
Scrape the bowl and knead the dough into a round ball. Flatten into the shape of a square and place in the refrigerator for 1 hour or up to 1 week. If not using immediately let dough sit at room temperature for 30 minutes to soften and become pliable enough to shape and roll.
To prepare the fig paste, place the cut figs into a food processor along with the applesauce and orange juice. Pulse to roughly chop the figs. Then process until they become a smooth thick paste. Scrape the sides of the bowl and process again to make sure any remaining chunks are processed. If not using immediately, refrigerate up to 1 week.
To assemble the cookies, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Adjust the cookie rack to the center rack. Dust your work surface with flour. Place the dough onto the work surface and roll into a 15 x 15 inch square turning and sprinkling with flour as you rotate. Use a pastry cutter and straight edge to cut the dough into 4 strips each being 3 1/4 inches wide. Trim off the edges so that the strips are straight and clean cut.
To shape the fig paste into a long rope like strip, first tear off 4 long strips of plastic wrap. Divide the paste into 4 equal parts. Place one fourth of the paste onto a sheet of plastic wrap. Use an icing spatula to shape the paste into a long continuous smear. Wrap the plastic around the paste and squeeze and shape it into a long rope like strip no larger than 3/4 inch in diameter. Lay the fig paste down the center of the dough strip and begin to peel away the plastic wrap.
Fold one flap of the dough over the fig paste. Fold over the other side and pinch together. Turn the bar over seam side down and brush off any excess flour with a pastry brush.
Fill and fold over the rest of the rolls and set on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
Bake for 18 minutes. The rolls should be puffed and firm with a golden brown crust. Cut into 1 1/2 inch bars with a bench scraper, then transfer to an airtight container separating each layer of bars with paper towels to keep moist. Store up to 1 week at room temperature or 3 weeks refrigerated.
Makes approximately 36 bars