Homemade Fig Bars

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There are lots of new takes on “newtons” out there. Our vintage version riffs on Ann Pillsbury’s classic ’50s recipe for Fig-Filled Bars, featured in her beloved Butter Cookie Cookbook pamphlet, but uses the fresh fig preserves recipe we’ve featured from Belinda Hulin (of  fig-cake awesomeness.) While it takes a little practice to get the knack of folding the pastry around the fig filling, the result is worth it. And making your own fig preserves yields a much fruitier/more flavorful filling. One thing you should know: Fresh baked, the pastry is crisp–it tenders up the day after you bake these, into the “cakey” cloak you expect.

Makes 4 dozen fig bars

Pastry Ingredients

  • 2 1/2 cups flour, sifted
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup (one stick) butter
  • 1/2 cup white cane sugar
  • 1/2 cup firmly-packed light brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2  tsp vanilla

Fig Filling Ingredients

  • 6 cups fresh, whole figs
  • 2 Tbsp baking soda
  • 3 cups water
  • 3 cups sugar
  • 1 sliced fresh lemon, seeds removed (NOTE: if you don’t like the flavor of marmalade, remove the skins. Otherwise, just leave on)

Instructions

  1. Make fig preserves: Snip stem ends from figs and discard. Rinse trimmed figs in colander. Mix baking soda into ½ gallon cold water in a large pot. Place figs in the pot and swirl around to rinse well. Drain figs in colander and rinse with fresh water. Combine figs, sugar, water and lemon slices (Or, if you don’t like the flavor of marmalade, just the lemon flesh) in tall soup pot. Cook, stirring often, over medium-low heat. Cook until fig mixture reaches desired thickness—about 2 ½ to 3 hours. NOTE: I used a hand-held immersion blender to blend most of the figs for a less-chunky preserve.
  2. Make pastry for bars: Cream butter and gradually add both sugars. Add eggs and vanilla. Stir in the dry in ingredients. Shape into a ball of dough; split in half. Shape each half into a flat rectangle. Wrap with plastic and chill for an hour.
  3. Assemble bars: Preheat oven to 350. Cover a cookie sheet with parchment paper. Then, spread a double-layer of parchment paper over work surface. Roll out one of the dough pieces to a 9 x 15-inch rectangle on the work surface.  Cut this rectangle into three, 15 x 3-inch strips. NOTE: at this point, I split each of the pastry strips apart pulling them away from each other by cutting through the top layer of parchment paper. Then, I lifted one parchment-backed pastry strip onto the cookie sheet. Spread a line of fig preserves down the center of the pastry. Using a knife or spatula, lift the sides of the pastry to fold over the preserves to make a long, fig-filled log. Then, pick up the edge of the narrow parchment strip holding the log and using the parchment to help, roll the log seam-side down on to the cookie sheet. Repeat with the other two 15 x 3 inch strips.
  4. Bake the three logs at 350 for 15 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove from oven. Allow to cool slightly. Using a very sharp knife, cut each log into 2-inch cookie slices. Repeat this whole process with the other pastry ball and more filling.

2 thoughts on “Homemade Fig Bars

  1. These from-scratch fig newtons are the best “man cookie” ever! They have displaced the venerable oatmeal raisin for my husband’s favorite cookie, and the same has happened for the two families whom we gave a gift box of these newtons. The recipe is not as much work as it first seems; I doubled the pastry recipe to make sure I had enough, and that made for a quite sturdy conveyance for the filling.

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