Homemade Fig Newton Bars

Are you a big fan of Fig Newton Bars?

I am!

My grandmother always loved them and I've loved the soft, sweet and chewy gooey fig paste filled cookie bars for as long as I can remember.

I don't remember exactly, but I have the feeling that I got my first taste of a Fig Newton with my grandmother.

These special fig-filled cookies have been around for centuries and are currently Kraft Foods third best-selling product under the Nabisco brand, just behind Oreo and Chips Ahoy!

East coast cookie baker, Charles Roser, is credited with creating the Fig Newton, orginially called just "Newton" and named for the Boston suburb of Newton, Massachusetts.

The Kennedy Biscuit Works (which later became Nabisco) began mass production of Fig Newtons in 1891, when they purchased a machine that could produce an endless length of the thick fig jam filled cookie dough, which was then cut into smaller bars.

Even if you're a huge Fig Newton fan, there's a really good chance that you've never had a homemade fig bar.

I certainly never had until recently, when I decided to try making them at home to celebrate National Fig Newton Day, which falls on January 16th.

This is a half-batch recipe for homemade fig bars from The Fanny Farmer Baking Book, one of my favorite baking resources.

These fruity cookie bars were a little tricky to make and I didn't follow the directions as closely as I might have, so mine didn't turn out as thick as they should have.

But, oh my gosh, it didn't matter.

These cookies are delicious and so much better than the store bought version.

Sorry Nabisco!

Nobody in my family can stay away from these yummy fig filled bars!

Homemade Fig Newton Bars

Homemade Fig Newton Bars

Homemade Fig Newton Bars Recipe

Just like the fig bars you buy, only better!. This cookie dough needs to chill at least 2 hours before rolling and baking. And be warned that this is not the easiest dough to work with because it is a bit crumbly, but just pat it and patch it with your fingers as necessary. The results are delicious - and worth the effort!

Cookie Dough:

  • 1/4 cup shortening (I used Spectrum Vegetable Shortening)
  • 1/4 cup (4 tablespoons) butter, softened
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda

Fig Filling:

  • 1 cup (1/2 pound) finely cut up dried brown figs
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup orange juice
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  1. Prepare the cookie dough:
    In a mixing bowl, beat together the shortening and butter with an electric mixer on medium speed until creamy, gradually adding the granulated sugar and brown sugar.
  2. Add the eggs and vanilla and beat until the mixture is light and fluffy.
  3. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, baking powder and baking soda until well blended.
  4. Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture and beat until completely mixed.
  5. Scrape the dough out onto a large piece of plastic wrap. Flatten it out into a thick cake and wrap it in the plastic wrap. Chill for at least 2 hours or overnight.
  6. Prepare the fig filling:
    In a small heavy-bottomed saucepan, combine the figs, brown sugar, orange juice, lemon juice, water and salt. Cook over medium heat, stirring often, until the mixture thickens and comes to a boil, about 10 minutes. Set the mixture aside to cool completely before using it.
  7. When you are ready to make your fig bars, position an oven rack in the center and heat your oven to 375 degrees. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.
  8. If the dough has been chilled for longer than 2 hours, leave it out at room temperature, until it becomes malleable. This dough is not the easiest to roll out because it crumbles, so pat and patch it with your fingers as necessary.
  9. On a well-floured surface, roll out the dough into a 15-inch long by 7-inch wide rectangle that is about 1/4-inch thick.
  10. Cut the dough in half lengthwise and crosswise.
  11. Spoon 1/4th of the fig filling evenly down each strip to one side of the center, stopping about 1/2 inch from the narrow ends and leaving a 1-inch margin on the filled side.
  12. Using a long metal spatula, carefully flip the long side of the dough over the filling to the other side. Seal the edges by pressing lightly all around with your fingertips.
  13. Using a spatula or spatulas, lift the rolls and transfer them to the parchment lined cookie sheets, seam side down. Press down to flatten. They should be about 1-1/2 inches wide.
  14. Repeat with the other 3 strips of cookie dough.
  15. Bake the fig bar strips for 15 minutes, or until delicately golden brown. Remove from the oven and let cool on the cookie sheet for about 15 minutes, then carefully slide the cookies on the parchment paper onto a rack to cool completely.
  16. Slice each strip into 8 bars about 1-1/2 inches long by 2-1/2 inches wide.

This recipe makes about 32 Homemade Fig Newton Bars.

Nutrition and Cooking Notes
I flattened out my rolls/strips a little more than called for in the recipe, but they still turned out tasty and delicious.

I was able to fit all four rolls on my baking sheet, placing them a couple of inches apart from one another. If you can only fit one or two rolls on your sheet, set the other aside on another baking sheet or on foil, until you are ready to bake them.

Recipe Variation:
For Whole-Wheat Fig Bars: Substitute 1 1/3 cups whole wheat flour for the 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour in the cookie dough.

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