Sunday, September 14, 2008

Getting it Right!

Sometimes, the sweet smell of success is really more than a metaphor!

Over a year ago, I tried to make Fig Newton-esque cookies for my grandpa with less than stellar results. I had used an Anna Olson recipe, following it to a T (against my better judgement, since I have had bad results from some of her other recipes. I love her show Sugar, though, and wanted to give the recipe the benefit of the doubt). Though my grandpa enjoyed the cookies well enough, I knew I would have to figure out a better way to make the "dough" part of the bar... the original was akin to a pie dough, and way too crumbly to properly "encase" the filling without falling apart. If that wasn't enough, it was also butter-based, which is okay with me for shortbreads, drop cookies and cakes but is really too finicky for me to use with refrigerator cookies (one of the reasons why you don't see a lot of fun checkerboard or pinwheel biscuits here). At the time, I was a newbie too busy with getting used to the whole blogging world to make another round of these, so away they went to the back of my mind and recipe binder.

Until now! Ironically, I decided to begin the (admittedly time-consuming) process of making these bars after a restless night of about two hours sleep (on the couch), while I had two batches of sourdough bread dough resting in various places in the kitchen and poor Andrew wondering what the hell this crazy girl was doing. I'm going to reason that I just kept on going yesterday to keep myself awake! My mom is having my grandparents and Andrew over tonight for an Italian porchetta roast supper too, and she asked me (after the fact, mind you) to whip up a dessert of some sort. Cookies it was!

The main difference between these cookies and the previous ones is in the cookie dough portion: whereas the original had butter, eggs, and a fair bit of leavening in it, this dough is vegan with shortening and a cornstarch "egg replacer" instead. It handles better and doesn't require chilling, though a stint in the fridge after shaping and cutting helps them stay in shape. The filling with these bars is different too, incorporating not only figs but cherries and ground ginger too! On it's own, the filling is a delicious spread on toast or English muffins - Andrew squeezed most of what was left over right into his mouth, and he doesn't even like figs (or ginger!)! If that isn't a victory, I don't know what is.

So, take a cookie and a cuppa, and enjoy your lazy Sunday afternoons!

Cherry-Fig Bars
Serves 30
4 oz dried figs, diced
1/4 cup water
1/3 cup thawed frozen cherries (with juice)
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp ground ginger

1 tsp cornstarch
3 tbsp water
1/2 cup shortening
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 tbsp vanilla
1 cup flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/4 tsp baking powder

  1. Combine all the ingredients (but lemon juice) in a small saucepot and bring up to a slow simmer.
  2. Cook 25 - 30 minutes, until all the liquid is absorbed and figs begin to "paste". Stir in lemon juice.
  3. Purée in a food processor to a thick puree.
  4. Cool completely, set aside.


  1. Combine cornstarch and water in a small dish, whisking smooth. Set aside.
  2. Cream shortening and sugar until light.
  3. Beat in cornstarch slurry and vanilla until well combined.
  4. By hand, gently but thoroughly beat in the flours and baking powder to form a very stiff dough.


  1. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment.
  2. Roll dough into a large, fairly thin (1/4" or so) rectangle on a well-floured board.
  3. Cut into four wide, equal strips.
  4. Place filling in a pastry bag with a large plain tip (or use a large Ziploc with a corner cut off).
  5. Pipe a line of filling down one side of each strip.
  6. Fold the dough over the filling, pinching the edges to seal well. Place on baking sheets.
  7. Chill 2-3 hours, or freeze up to 3 months.
  8. Preheat oven to 350F.
  9. Using a sharp, serrated knife, cut each log into ten equal cookies.
  10. Bake 12 minutes.
  11. Allow cookies to cool completely on sheets.
Amount Per Serving
Calories: 71.6
Total Fat: 3.6 g
Cholesterol: 2.0 mg
Sodium: 0.6 mg
Total Carbs: 9.3 g
Dietary Fiber: 0.8 g
Protein: 0.9 g


  1. I have not tried to make newtons yet, but I have had similar experiences towards Anna Olson's recipes. They don't quite work for me.
    You have inspired me to try newtons, they just seem so homey and inviting.

  2. hey my dad said the one you made him was awesome he loved it !!

  3. oh my, figs and cherries?!? yum...


Thanks for the feedback!