Vanilla-scented fig bars are wonderfully sweet homemade gifts, and the recipe is a worthy addition to any cookie repertoire.
Working with the dough can be tricky. Our recipe, adapted from "Desserts by the Yard" by Sherry Yard, recommends centering the dough on a piece of parchment paper and placing a sheet of plastic wrap on top to prevent the dough from sticking while it is rolled out.
Fig bars are just one way to get crafty this holiday season with homemade gifts from the kitchen. We've compiled 25 great ideas, ranging from quick and simple gifts (perfect if you're working with kids) to more intricate projects that call for a little extra time and patience.
Some gifts will last for weeks, perhaps more. Others are best eaten within a day or two.
Not only are homemade gifts a great way to save money during the holiday season, they're a thoughtful and creative way to show how much you care.
Total time: 1 hour, plus chilling time / Makes 40 (1-inch) cookies
Note: Adapted from "Desserts by the Yard." This recipe makes more fig purée than is needed for the cookies; the extra can be spread on toast or rolls and will keep for 1 week refrigerated.
1 cup (12 ounces) finely chopped dried Black
Mission figs, packed
1 cup apple juice
3/4 cup sugar, divided
1/8 plus 1/2 teaspoon grated orange zest, divided
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
1 large egg white
1/2 vanilla bean, scraped (seeds reserved)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups flour
1. In a medium saucepan, combine the chopped figs, 1 1/2 cups of water, apple juice and one-fourth cup of sugar and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and cook at a bare simmer for 1 to 2 hours, until the figs are so soft that they're spreadable. Transfer to a food processor fitted with the steel blade, add one-eighth teaspoon orange zest and process until smooth. Remove and allow to cool to room temperature.
2. While the figs are cooking, cream together the butter, remaining one-half cup sugar and one-half teaspoon orange zest in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or in a large bowl with a hand mixer) for 2 to 3 minutes on medium speed. Scrape down the bowl and paddle or beaters. Add the egg white, vanilla bean seeds and vanilla extract and beat in. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and the paddle. Add the flour and beat on low speed until the dough comes together. Shape the dough into a flat rectangle, wrap it in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2 hours.
3. Place racks in the middle and lower third of the oven and heat the oven to 350. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
4. Unwrap the dough and center it on a lightly floured piece of parchment paper measuring 12 inches by 16 inches. Lightly flour the surface of the dough and place a large piece of plastic wrap over the dough to prevent it from sticking while it is rolled out. Roll out the dough to the dimensions of the parchment; it will be less than one-eighth-inch thick.
5. Cut the dough lengthwise into four (12-by-4-inch) strips. Spoon a line of filling (just less than one-half-inch thick) down the center of each strip, leaving one-half-inch of room on either side. To roll the dough over the filling: Gently lift the long edge of the parchment under the first strip and roll it, along with the dough, over the filling, carefully peeling the parchment away as you go. You should have a sort of log-shaped roll. Because the dough is thin, it may crack; if this happens, allow the dough to sit so it warms a little, then try again, being gentle and using the parchment under the dough to force it to fold over. When the roll is complete, gently slide a flat cookie sheet under the log and transfer it to the parchment-lined cookie sheet. Pinch the ends of the log closed. Repeat with the three remaining strips, placing 2 logs lengthwise per cookie sheet.
6. Using a serrated knife, slice each log on the diagonal into 10 cookies. Bake, rotating the baking sheets from top to bottom and from front to back halfway through, for 20 to 25 minutes, until golden. Remove from the oven and allow to cool on a rack. The bars will keep, stored airtight, for 2 days.
Each cookie: 76 calories; 1 gram protein; 14 grams carbohydrates; 1 gram fiber; 2 grams fat; 1 gram saturated fat; 6 mg. cholesterol; 3 mg. sodium.
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