Fig bars (aka my new favorite cookie ever)

I have always loved any kind of fig cookie (or “fruit and cake” if you remember the commercial from the 80’s). A dear friend’s mother-in-law made homemade fig bars based on a Mark Bittman recipe, and I knew my life would never be the same. These are, hands-down, my new favorite cookie and will likely remain there for the foreseeable future.

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I love that they are less sweet than commercial brands, and you can add different dried fruits to the filling to mix it up. I’ve done cranberries + figs, and I want to try apricots next. The day they are baked, the pastry is crispy, almost pie-crust-like. As they age, the crust is more cake-like, and they are good for at least 4-5 days, unrefrigerated (as long as they’ve lasted in my house). I served them as part of a cheese plate, and they were amazing with a very stinky triple cream.

1 1/2 sticks butter, softened
3/4 cup brown sugar (can reduce if you’d like a less sweet cookie)
11/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 egg
3 tablespoons grated orange zest
2 cups flour (can use whole wheat or gluten free)
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
8 ounces dried figs, chopped
1 cup orange juice

Combine the butter and sugar in a large bowl and beat them together with an electric mixer until fluffy. Beat in 1 teaspoon of the vanilla and the egg until well blended, then add the zest.

Stir together the flour (I prefer whole wheat flour), baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Gradually mix the dry ingredients into the butter mixture until just combined. Shape the dough into a disk, wrap in plastic, and chill for about an hour. I found it helpful to divide the dough into quarters first and then chill individually so I could pull out one at at time to roll and fill.

Combine the figs (or other dried fruits) and orange juice in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Cook until the figs are soft and the juice is fully absorbed. Purée with the remaining 1/2 teaspoon vanilla and a pinch of salt.

Heat the oven to 375°F. On a lightly floured surface, roll 1/4 of the dough into a long rectangle about 4 inches wide. I ended up having to use parchment paper to help with transferring the rolled cookie log onto the baking sheet. I also had to flip the dough as I rolled, re-flouring to keep from sticking. Divide the fruit filling into 4 even portions and spoon evenly down the middle of each piece of dough and fold up the sides of the dough around it lengthwise; press gently to seal. Bake on ungreased baking sheets, seam side down, for about 15-20 minutes or until the logs are evenly golden (I always had to bake for 20 minutes to get the golden color). Cut into squares while they are still warm and store in an airtight container for up to 1 week.

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