Ummm… I know what you’re thinking. “Brandi: It’s November, Thanksgiving time. For crying out loud, it’s SNOWING in Seattle today, and you’re talking about figs.” It’s true, I’m terribly not of the season today. But you see, these figs — albeit from California — they were THERE. Left over from a fantastic dessert we were running at Delancey a few weeks ago, they were all lonely in the fridge, obviously uncomfortable sitting next to the pears and Meyer lemons, knowing their time was over. So I took them home to show them some respect. And by respect I mean I made fig newtons.
Maybe I’m in the minority here, but I went bonkers for fig newtons as a kid. The Nabisco kind were regular visitors in my lunch box and I was loyal to the fig flavor, even though I didn’t know what a fig was. As my palette grew up, the fig newtons were left behind. I tried them again a few years ago and had one of those “Have these gotten worse, or am I a complete food snob now” moments. I figured their time was finished and moved on. Until this summer when Pastry Studio (my pastry blog hero) wrote about them on her blog. I bookmarked it for a later date and promptly forgot. Until those lonely little figs called out to me.
First I made a food processor dough with some whole wheat flour in the mix, as well as some milk.
I let the dough chill while I got to work chopping up those figs.
I cooked the figs into a jam flavored with vanilla bean, honey and lemon.
Then several days later I finally got back around to assembling the little guys. I rolled out the dough into a long rectangle and smeared on some of the jam.
I folded in the edges to enclose the jam.
And sliced it into little newtons.
I baked them with a little sugar on top until they were nice and golden.
And then I stacked them up and took pretty pictures with Molly’s camera (thanks Molly!), because I accidentally left mine in San Francisco. Her lens is much better than mine and I now have camera envy. But back to the fig newtons. Oh. My. They were perfect. And that dough! Pastry studio, you just rocked my dough world.
FIG NEWTONS RECIPE, inspired by Pastry Studio:
Yield: 24 cookies
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup AP flour
1/3 cup sugar
2 TBSP brown sugar
1/2 tsp salt
6oz cold butter
1/4 cup whole milk
1 lb 2 oz figs
3 TBSP water
1/4 cup honey
3 TBSP sugar
1/4 vanilla bean
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp lemon zest
1 tsp lemon juice
- Place the flours, sugars and salt in a food processor and process to combine. Cut the cold butter into small cubes and add to the dry ingredients. Pulse the mixture until the butter is in very small pieces. Add the milk and pulse until the mixture begins to look more like dough and less like sand.
- Shape the dough into a rectangle and wrap tightly in plastic wrap. Refrigerate until thoroughly chilled, at least an hour.
- Slice open the vanilla bean and rub the seeds into the sugar. Cut the stems off the figs and chop into small chunks. Place them in a saucepan with the water, honey, vanilla sugar, vanilla bean pod, salt and lemon zest. Cook on medium heat until the mixture comes to a simmer. Lower the heat and cook the fruit slowly and gently for about 15-20 minutes or until the fruit is jammy, stirring every few minutes and adding a bit more water if necessary to prevent scorching. Remove from the heat and add the lemon juice. Remove the vanilla bean pods and use an immersion blender to pulse a few times to smooth out large pieces of fig. Store in the refrigerator until completely chilled.
- When everything is chilled, remove the dough from the refrigerator and place on a lightly floured board. Slice lengthwise into 3 strips. Rewrap 2 of the strips and place back in the fridge. Dust the top of the dough lightly with flour and roll out to a rectangle measuring 12” x 4”. Work quickly, running an offset spatula under the dough to make sure it isn’t sticking to the board and dusting lightly with flour whenever necessary. When you have the finished rectangle, place the dough onto a parchment lined baking tray in the fridge. Repeat with the other 2 pieces of dough. Chill the rolled dough in the fridge for another 10 minutes.
- Remove one rectangle from the fridge and lay back on the floured board. Spread some of the fig jam lengthwise along the center of the dough. Gently lift the dough sides over the fruit. Cinch the edges together to completely seal the jam. Use your hands to press down slightly on the dough to smooth out the jam within. It’s ok if some oozes out the ends. Cut into slices and place on a parchment lines sheet pan. Chill in the fridge while you repeat with the other 2 strips of dough. Once finished, chill for another 30 minutes.
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Sprinkle the bars with sugar and bake for about 10 minutes. Lower the oven temperature to 350 and bake until nicely browned, about 20 more minutes.
- Remove from the oven and cool completely.
First, an announcement.
I’m starting a business! And not just any business, I’m starting my DREAM business! I’m teaming up with Brandon Pettit, owner of Delancey (were I am the pastry chef) and the super talented Olaiya Land, who runs Olaiya Land Catering and teaches classes in Delancey on closed nights to open up a community kitchen called “The Pantry at Delancey.” We’re blowing out the wall behind Delancey and building an awesome kitchen. Think rustic. Yet urban. Think 16′-long farm table. Jars of pickles and jams lining the walls. The idea is to get people around the table, cooking, learning, and talking. We’ll host family-style dinners, teach hands-on cooking classes with an emphasis on craft, provide locally sourced catering, host community events and begin making the cheese and curing the meats for Delancey. It’s just too much good stuff. I would send you to a website, except it isn’t finished yet. Until it is, you can find us on facebook. So know that while I have slowed down a bit on my blogging, it is only because things are HAPPENING!
Now, about these nuts. They are my new favorite wintertime crack. I developed the recipe for Delancey over the summer, when we were opening a patio and tinkering with the idea of bar snacks. They were quite a hit until the weather turned warm, when their dark spiciness started to look silly next to a fresh tomato salad. So we pulled them for the duration of the warm weather and just this week brought them back. I. love. them. So much that I want to share.
You start with a good mix of nuts. I like almonds, cashews, pistachios and pecans, but you can try any mix you like. Except the pecans are a must. They have a density that fits this kind of candying like peanut butter to jelly. I usually throw in some extra of those, to make up for the ones I end up snacking on.
I made a syrup out of water and sugar and brought that to a boil. I then added the nuts, along with the spice bomb and let them simmer away for a bit.
Then I strained the nuts out of the syrup and roasted them.
Until they were nice and deeply caramelized.
Then began the fun, candying some bacon to throw in the mix. Because what’s the point of spiced nuts without some pork?
I coated bacon with brown sugar and roasted it until the sugar was dark and caramelized.
I tore the bacon into chunks and tossed it with the nuts. And I’ve been munching away since…
SPICED NUTS WITH CANDIED BACON RECIPE:
2 TBSP vegetable oil
3½ cups sugar
3 cups water
4 cups raw nuts
1 TBSP + 1 tsp salt
2 tsp garam masala
1 tsp cumin
⅛ tsp cinnamon
⅛ tsp allspice
1½ tsp cayenne
12oz sliced bacon
1½ cups brown sugar
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
- Coat a baking sheet with the vegetable oil. Set aside.
- Combine the sugar and water in a large pot and bring to a boil. Lower heat to medium high and add the nuts, salt and spices. Bring up to simmer and cook for 8 minutes.
- With a slotted spoon, remove nuts from pot, shaking off excess liquid. Spread onto the oiled baking sheet. Reserve the liquid for future batches of nuts.
- Roast in the oven until browned, about 15 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool completely.
- Lower oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with a silicon mat. Sprinkle half of the brown sugar onto the silicone mat. Place the bacon onto brown sugar and sprinkle on the remaining brown sugar.
- Roast for about 25 minutes, flipping bacon 3-4 times, every 7-8 minutes. The bacon should look caramelized. Remove from oven and use tongs to lift the bacon onto a clean tray. Cool completely.
- Chop bacon and toss with nuts.
- Taste for salt adjustment.