Justin’s aunt and uncle, Rona and Shaya, live right down the block from us and we couldn’t be any happier about it. I know you think I’m being sarcastic, but we really do love having them nearby. We can always rely on them to help watch the kids, pick up packages while we are out of town or even just to lend a cup of sugar. After three weeks visiting my family in Seattle, I returned to my house in Woodmere to a welcomed visit from Rona, whom Zach calls “Bubba Rona”. That’s her grandma name. To my sheer delight, Rona did not come empty-handed but carried a brown paper bag of homegrown fruits and vegetables from her garden. We enjoyed the fresh eggplant and zucchini for dinner that night in a casserole and I saved the beautiful green figs for a special occasion. Well, it didn’t take long for those figs to make their way out of the fridge and in to a nostalgic recipe for Old-Fashioned Fig Newtons. Yum!
Old-Fashioned Fig Newtons
Adapted from several fig newton recipes on grouprecipes.com
3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 1/2 sticks margarine, room temperature, cut in to pieces
4 eggs, divided
1 cup fresh figs, chopped (can use dried)
1 cup date preserve (+ extra fresh dates, chopped)
1 cup orange juice
1 cup apple juice
4 Tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
Be sure to give yourself a few hours for this recipe since the dough needs to set for 2 hours. I began by combining the dry ingredients in a large bowl.
Using a fork (a pastry blender is recommended but I don’t have one), I cut the margarine pieces in to the flour mixture until the dough was sandy looking.
I whisked 3 eggs together, added to the dough and mixed to combine. I formed the dough in to a ball, wrapped in plastic and refrigerated for 2 hours.
In the meantime, I combined all of the beautiful and sweet filling ingredients in a saucepan. I cooked the mixture over medium heat until all the liquid was absorbed by the figs and the mixture was thick. This took about 45 minutes so I stuck around the kitchen and stirred occasionally. My house smelled of heavenly spices, figs and dates.
The end result was a beautiful preserve that I could just eat with a spoon or even jar and give as a gift. In fact, the mix of spices and fruits actually reminded me of Sarabeth’s Preserves but without the high price tag. I refrigerated until ready to bake.
Once the dough was ready, I preheated the oven to 375 degrees and made an egg wash with 1 egg and 2 tsp of water. I divided the dough in to three equal parts and rolled each portion out in to an 1/8 inch thick rectangle on a lightly floured surface.
Working with one portion of dough at a time, I first trimmed the dough to create a clean rectangle then cut the dough in to three strips, at least 2 1/2 inches wide each. I painted the edges of the strips with egg wash and spooned the fig and date filling down the center.
I folded the dough over to enclose the filling, creating a tube, and pressed down on the edges. This part can be a bit tricky since some of the filling might pour out so just be careful. It’s okay to make a mess since the end result will still be delicious.
I placed the tubes, seam side down, on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. I pressed down lightly to flatten. I then repeated this process with the remaining dough and filling. I brushed the newtons with the remaining egg wash and baked until golden brown, around 15-20 minutes. I let them cool then cut with a sharp knife in to 1-inch pieces.
These homemade fig and date newtons were sweet and spicy with so much more flavor than the packaged variety. The dough was crunchy for the first day and reminded me of a hamentashen then softened to mimic what we think of as a familiar fig newton. I couldn’t stop eating this delectable dessert so I had to remove the newtons from my house and treat my friends to a Kitchen Tested snack. Now I miss them!