Wednesday, March 4, 2015


Joanie's Fig Newtons
In the1980s there was a popular machine-made cookie called the 'Fig Newton' made by Nabisco. This cookie dough was wrapped around a fig paste. Since this cookie, of course, would never reach the stature of the ceremonial cookie, the Hamantaschen, and since my poorly executed attempt at Hamantaschen didn't equal either one, my husband was amused and said, "Oh, good, here are some of "Joanie's Fig Newtons" -  And so here is the story . . .  

The photos I am including here are actually from Day 2 of this adventure. It is my second attempt at baking these famous, celebration cookies. None of our Alpha's seems to have made a dough as faulty and compromised as mine; in fact, I doubt if even Nabisco could duplicate it. Certainly after my first attempt at the Hamantaschen on the day before, Day 1, the batch I called "Ruins of Sablee", I had no idea I could possibly make the same mistakes on Day 2, especially having in the interim doggedly watched many YouTube films on making pate sucree, sablee, and others, and being 'tutorized' there by all sorts of French, Italian, American, British and wonderful old Jewish chefs. I surmised that none of them must have had more than the variety of butter-peas that I did not know how to regulate, and of course if they had they knew what to do with it. Myself, I still didn't know whether to go forward or backward with the flour pulsing 8-10 times in the Cuisinart to obtain the desired result because if I went the wrong way in either direction I was done for.

The first attempt to create this recipe on Day 1, was the one where I had the fall of a member of the dusty Hamantaschen Cookiedom. That dough was a beautiful sablee-colored dough. It was so crusty that it cracked like ruins, would not roll out at all, let alone be formed into anything but a questionable doily. I took a picture with one little shape of a droll Hamantaschen on the cutting board as this dough slid sadly into the trash can. I sent the photo to Monica, who responded that she thought I might be late for my post.

But all was not lost because I still had eggs, cream, filling made, flour, strained preserves, sugar and strained egg glaze. Therefore, on the morning of Day 2 the baking began again.

I knew I needed Patricia's tutorial because it would show me a large picture of butter not larger than a small pea to keep the dough perfectly malleable with its flour. But neither Patricia nor Stormy were to be found and Echo was busy here studying the Baking Bible and had no time for me.

Per Rose: Softening sugars. In a container of hard sugar, add a small piece of foil, shaped to receive a lightly moistened half paper towel without touching sugar. Place the top on the container and leave it. It will soften. I use this method and leave it overnight. It works, including the Turbinado shown here. I store mine in a plastic rectangular box.

This whole process of creating the Hamantaschen isn't time consuming, as we all know. So once again my lovely softened Turbinado was placed into the Cuisinart and pulsed. I did all I was told. Until - yep - I hit the brick wall again. I really scrutinized the mixture this time so I wouldn't go beyond the size of a small butter pea. As I peered into the feed tube once again I knew I had to pulse more, or less, and I knew the parameters. I felt like I had more moisture this time and I took the dough out. 

 I began to follow more directions again, since after all it was Day 2. I emptied the dough into a plastic bag, kneaded, and made a ball, cut in half 210 g., made discs, refrigerated them in plastic. And then again the problems began once more:

I thawed a disc a bit after 30 minutes, floured and rolled it out on a floured mat, into a rectangle. Okay. Rotating, not okay. Sticking and crumbling, not okay. Lots of flour top and under, questionable because contributing to consistency? The dough is not happy dough. Nevertheless, the time has come to:

The cut out 3" circles that were so crumbly I could barely lift one even with a small spatula, and usually it was necessary to cut around edges and shore them up. I managed to egg-wash half-inch around, barely.

Finally, I added 2 tsp. filling (delicious) into the center. I only managed 8 partial circles. There were lots of scraps. The circles were so crumbly that I couldn't compose the corners, with water or anything else, to fold the corners together. I pressed and dabbed them with apricot wash and baked them just to see what would happen. Well, even after baking they were so ugly I was about to pitch them when I had to decide if I wanted you to think we hadn't at least tried. I decided it could go either way. So, with that in mind, I decided not to throw them away and just put them on a drying stand to figure what to do with them, aside from glaring at them, because their failure to even reach Fig-Newtonville was, of course, all their fault. They knew I knew better.

So, we are finally at the end of this novelette . . .  I was thirsty last night. At midnight I went to the kitchen and got some orange juice. I passed by Joanie's Fig Newtons, and just for no reason picked up one and took a bite. My eyes flew open. Another bite. And then I ate two more. They were more dense than tender, and not flaky, but I have had worse, i.e. Fig Newtons themselves, and the filling was awesome with that slight hint of the lemon zest  throughout. So I must say, if I had seen Patricia's tutorial it would have undoubtedly shown me butter-no-larger-than-a-small-pea-perfect. Yet, even though not tender, shapely, or flaky, these tasted 'perty darned good' and were deemed worthy to escape an early demise, except they have strangely disappeared, those Joanie's Fig Newtons. 

This all leads me closer to the Hamantaschen creation once more: Day 3. 

Mercurius Sublimatus - 'Curi'

Thanks for listening. Again.
We'll be over to learn the consistency, Patricia.


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  2. Oh Joan, you're a scream! I'm so sorry to have failed you this week. I was traveling out of town and didn't plan to make the hamantaschen at all, but I did end up making them when I got home and posted them last night. Not sure why you had so much trouble with the dough. I misread the directions and instead of processing the sugar and flour together before adding the flour and salt, I processed them all together at the same time. Didn't seem to harm anything. I wish I would have thought to fill mine with fig. I would have liked fig much better than the prune or apricot lekvars that I made (they weren't bad, but not fabulous). If you get a chance, I'd love it if you stop by to see my post.

    Patricia @ ButterYum

  3. Dear Joan: I guess I know now how old you are. Fig Newtons from the 1980's???? Try the 1960's, when I was born, and I'm willing to bet long before that!!! Your post is hilarious! I do love the idea of a fig filling for these cookies. Don't give up, they are delicious! Besides, you keep me laughing!

  4. Oh Patricia, on Day 1, the first downfall, I did not pulse the turbinado to make it 'fine', and so you would have been amused at me trying to remove molecules from the top of the flour -with tweezers. I had just thrown all the dry things in together---
    On Day 2 , I did process the sugar til fine. I do think my problem is the consistency of the dough. When is it right to take out and work with it. I probably need to watch somebody, in your tutorial that is, show me what "butter in the dough should be no larger than a small pea" that the dough should be, per Rose. I will hop over to see you later tonight. Egads tomorrow: I have never made bread dough so will be over to see you for that for sure. lol

  5. Michele, I love your things. Such talent. There is a 'hot red raspberry' jam that I use on a cream cheese disc ,with pistachios sprinkled on, as an appetizer and it is reeeeally good. I think it would be fun as a filling for these cookies.
    All I really remember about the fig newtons was eating them at the movies on Saturday afternoon - when kids did that. I won't share the movies I recall. . . Heading in your direction tonight ; )

  6. and all it matter that they tasted 'perty darned good...great post!!

    1. Thanks- such nice support from all you excellent bakers is so strengthening and keeps us novices wanting do well by your beautiful examples. Thank you for coming by.

  7. ב''ה

    Very fun post. I bet they tasted great!

  8. What a stunning cat! Was your butter super cold? Also, the grade evidently matters. I never knew that before. It was a bit tricky doing that kneading bit to make sure there were no more butter bits. I can just imagine these filled with a fig filling. I love Paul Newman Fig Newtons.