Saturday, January 8, 2011

Fig Einsteins - It's Fruit and Cookie!

A new year, a new start. A time to resolve oneself for the year to come. The difficulty of this past year, and the inevitable difficulty of this new year to come, is part of the reason for my month-long absence from posting. Reflecting back, it was truly the worst year of my life, and at the same time, in some ways, one of the best. I’ve grown and learned so much about myself. I’ve become a different person, a better person, and most importantly, more like the person I want to be. I try to focus on that and have faith that the rest will work itself out for the best. I resolve to keep growing and learning this year, to keep finding the bright sides and silver linings, and to continue to be thankful for all the great things in my life - my friends, my family, and my amazing husband. And also, to never go so long without posting again! Inexcusable.

You might think I’m done with the sappy bits, but I’m feeling very sentimental. Bare with me for another paragraph or two...

I asked my friend on January 1st if she had any New Year’s resolutions, and she responded something along the lines that she had been done with those years ago. I know it’s a bit like asking a husband if he’s buying flowers for his wife on Valentine’s Day. We feel like we should do it because society tells us to, but we grumble and curse the commercial holiday (with gym memberships being sold in place of flowers). While I think the traditional approach to New Year’s resolutions is tired and completely unmotivated, the original idea shouldn’t be sloughed aside. How often do we plan to start something and then put it off until later? We all have a little Scarlett O’Hara in us. A new year is nothing more than an excuse, a reason to finally convince yourself that later is here, and it’s time to start. It’s that push out the door that we need sometimes.

And I’m not talking about “the resolutioners”. The people who make a vague, empty promise to themselves because they feel like they have to. They resolve to “eat better”, and buy a stock of celery that goes untouched in the vegetable bin until the rot can no longer be tolerated. They resolve to “exercise more”, and go stand around their gym a time or two, mostly just taking up space on equipment other people are waiting to use. Don’t be a resolutioner! Make a real promise to yourself that you intend to keep. It doesn’t have to be big, or even related to your health. You could give your house that big scrub down you’ve been meaning to do since last spring, or even just one room. You could go through your DVR season pass list and clean out the shows that are no longer on the air (man, I need to do that). And yes, I supposed you could eat better and exercise more. But how will you eat better? When will you exercise more? Baby steps, people.  Husband has started to change how he eats for breakfast, hoping that eating more food, higher in protein, he’ll eat healthier and feel better throughout the day. I’ve seen spouses out walking their dog together, rather than just one or the other. Do something small, and when you feel great about doing it, do something else. Not because it’s New Years, but because there’s never a better time than now.  Today could be the day I finally frame my ketubah!

That's a Jewish marriage contract.
It's been sitting unframed on my mantle in a plastic protector since I got married.
I've been married 4 years now.
It's sitting upside down.
I'm not really going to frame it today.

Ok, enough of this nonsense. Let’s talk food.  Now I know this is the time of year everyone dawns their halo and posts the uber-healthy meals.  I know I should be giving you a recipe for kale chips (which are amazing, by the way, and so flipping healthy), and telling you twelve easy steps for staying motivated at the gym (I really only have one trick - constantly telling myself "suck it up, pansy!").  But you know what?  That just ain't my style.  Plus, there's an entire year for that.  Next week when everyone is back to posting their recipes for brownies and fried chicken, I'll be posting a light and satisfying soup.  This week, I want to tell you about these cookies.

I may not have been posting the last few weeks, but I’ve certainly been eating. As anyone who reads my posts on Facebook can attest. I made these fig cookies awhile ago. I remember the day I made the first batch because it was the day that I discovered Urge Gastropub. A joint truly after my own heart. I went there for dinner with some very good friends, and I brought some of these cookies along to give to them. It’s always good to feed the ones who encourage you in the kitchen, right? I kept calling them Fig Newtons, but was dissatisfied with the name because, while anyone who watched ample tv in the late 80s/early 90s, as I did, can attest, Fig Newtons are fruit and cake. My cookies were most definitely fruit and cookie. My friend dubbed them Fig Einsteins, and so they have been called since.

A very fitting name, in my opinion, because these cookies are genius!  And so delicious - soft and chewy. The flavor was buttery and had a density from the whole wheat flour, yet the texture was still light and fluffy. They were so good that I made a second batch just a few days later. Because, like a good cookie should be, these were super fast to throw together. Minus making the jam of course. But the jam was so worth the effort.  It had the deep, rich, sweetness of figs, with a beautiful balance from the lemon.  Though the real hit for me was the brandy.  It lent a nice background flavor, and somehow worked its magic breaking down the figs to really bring out their sweetness.  I actually reduced the sugar in the recipe by at least half because the natural sugars brought out were so powerful.  A jam worthy of its own cookie, for sure.

If you aren't a fan of figs, or just can't find them, no worries.  These cookies are versatile!  Any jam would work, really. Even store-bought, if you must. But the deep sweetness from the figs works especially well with the richer flavor of the cookie. I could see blueberry jam also working quite well.  You'll just want to make sure it's a thick jam, otherwise it'll just run out of the cookie while it bakes.  If you're worried, you could always reduce it on the stove for a few minutes.

When people scoff at you for eating cookies, you can inform them that you're just fulfilling your New Years' resolution to eat more whole grains.  It's all about eating right, right?

Fig Einsteins
adapted from Cate’s World Kitchen

Makes about 2 dozen cookies

½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
½ cup sugar
1 TB buttermilk (or substitute milk)
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 TB bourbon (optional)
½ tsp salt
½ tsp baking soda
2 cups white whole wheat flour
2/3 cup fig jam* (recipe below)
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 F 
  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream together the butter and sugar on medium speed until the mixture is light and fluffy. Turn the speed down to low and beat in the egg, milk, vanilla, and bourbon until well combined. Add the flour, baking soda, and salt, and stir just until combined. Divide the dough into even quarters, it will be quite sticky. 
  3. Working on a well floured surface, roll one quarter of dough into a log about 12 inches long. Using your fingers, pat the dough out into a rectangle about ⅛ inch, and 2 inches wide. Spread half the jam down the center of the dough. Press out another portion of dough into a rectangle of the same size, and place it on top of the dough with the filling. Seal the long edges of the dough together by pressing the two sides together, then cut crosswise into 1 inch lengths, until you have 12 cookies. 
  4. Repeat step 3 with the remaining dough and jam. 
  5. Place the cookies on a cookie sheet and bake for 15 minutes, until they just begin to brown. 
*Or whatever jam tickles your fancy.

Fig Brandy Freezer Jam
jam adapted from Bon Appetit

Makes about 6 cups

2 lemons
4 pounds fresh figs, stemmed and cut into 1/2-inch pieces (about 8-9 cups)
2 cups sugar (or more to taste)
3/4 cup brandy
½ tsp kosher salt
  1. Using a vegetable peeler, remove strips of peel from the lemons, careful not to get any pith. Cut the strips into tiny matchsticks. 
  2. Combine the lemon peel, figs, sugar, brandy, and salt in a large heavy pot. Let the mixture stand at room temperature for 1 hour, stirring occasionally. 
  3. Bring the mixture to boil over medium-high heat, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Reduce the heat to medium and continue to simmer until the jam thickens and reduces to about 6 cups, about 30-35 minutes, occasionally mashing the mixture with a potato masher. Remove the pot from the heat. When the mixture cools down a bit mix in the juice from one of the lemons, then taste it. If it’s too sweet, add more lemon juice, if it’s not sweet enough, add more sugar. 
  4. Ladle the mixture into freezer jam jars (or any freezer-safe container that tickles your fancy), leaving at least half an inch of room from the top of the container, and move to the refrigerator to set up overnight. The next day, move any jam to the freezer that you’re not planning to eat in the next week or so. 
Note: Cate has a fig filling recipe using dried figs. If you can’t locate fresh figs, that would be a good option.


  1. I tasted my first fig this year and I think I'm in love!! My mom has always enjoyed the, but they looked... well... mushy. However! They were sweet and had me reaching for more! Glad to see you return, I still love visiting your site if only to see your lovely wallpaper. Nicely written about the resolutions!

  2. I hope 2011 is a great year for you, Julie!!!

    It's funny, I was just thinking of fig newtons and then you posted this! They look great :)