That was my initial response when I saw the theme for this month’s Sugar High Friday. Not necessarily because it was a bad topic, but because up until now, my only experience with figs had been the glorious Fig Newton (it’s fruit and cake!) that I ate as a kid. Once I came to terms with submitting a recipe that I was not at all familiar with, I jumped head first into the world of figs. I combed through recipe after recipe until I found one that sounded perfect for my first foray into fig cookery: Fig-Raspberry Crisp with Lavender-Honey Sour Cream. YUM. So I took off to our local foodie grocery store (Central Market) and found that figs are currently in season (whew!). I scooped up 2 1/2 lbs (aka $12.28) worth of them and went home to let them ripen up.
Fast forward two weekend days when the Hubby and I were out of town, and I come back to a bag full of moldy mess. $12.28 of moldy mess, even. This is when I discover that my frugal, energy saving husband had cranked the AC up to 85 degrees. This may not sound too bad, but in humid central Texas where the daily highs are around 90-95 degrees this time of year, it is a serious problem for fresh figs left near a western-facing window. As I tossed out my expensive mess, I couldn’t help but (silently) wonder if we saved enough energy to cover my lost figs.
So, that’s the long way of saying, my original, fancy pants recipe had to be scrapped. I just didn’t have enough time to get back to Central Market for more and let the figs get “very, very ripe” like the recipe instructed. And though I am sorely disappointed that I didn’t get to use fresh figs, I am not all together displeased with the recipe I ended up going with.
I found this recipe ages ago in an issue of Cooking Light, and it reminded me of those days so long ago when a Fig Newton was fruit and cake for me. But it wasn’t inspiring enough to propel me off the couch, into the car and 10 miles down the road to get dried figs. So it got shoved into one of the back corners of my mental recipe box under the category “try out one day when I’m bored.” Luckily it wasn’t too heavily buried, for when I realized the delightful sounding fig-berry crisp wasn’t coming to pass, this recipe immediately sprung to mind.
I only have one caveat about this recipe. While this is a very yummy, very rich dessert, it is sort of a PITA to make. Almost to the point that it makes me want to send the recipe back to the archives. If you are a lover of Fig Newtons, give this one a try. It’s like a grown-up version of the old cookie and I’m sure it will bring back lots of memories from pickier, less refined times.
1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour (about 6 ounces)
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons chilled butter, cut into small pieces
2 cups dried figs, stems removed
1 cup water
1/2 cup granulated sugar, divided
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
3/4 cup (6 ounces) 1/3-less-fat cream cheese, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 large egg
2 teaspoons powdered sugar
Preheat oven to 350°.Lightly spoon flour into a dry measuring cup; level with a knife. Combine flour, brown sugar, and salt, stirring well with a whisk. Cut in butter with a pastry blender or 2 knives until mixture resembles coarse meal. Press mixture firmly into a 13 x 9-inch baking dish coated with cooking spray.
Combine figs, water, and 1/4 cup granulated sugar in a medium saucepan; bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Cook 5 minutes or until figs are tender and sugar dissolves. Cool slightly. Place fig mixture and juice in a blender; process until smooth. Gently spread fig mixture over prepared crust.
Place remaining 1/4 cup granulated sugar, cheese, vanilla, and egg in a medium bowl; beat with a mixer at medium speed until smooth. Pour over fig mixture; spread to edges. Bake at 350° for 30 minutes or until set and lightly browned. Cool in pan on a wire rack; sprinkle with powdered sugar.
*I ended up doubling the amount of cream cheese, vanilla, eggs and granulated sugar called for in the last step. I tried it with the original amounts and it just didn’t seem like it was enough–I had bits of fig peeking through the cream cheese, and in my mind this was supposed to be a bar with three clear layers. The doubled amount ended up looking and tasting great.