Cookies Day 10: Fig Swirls

I’m almost embarassed to post on these cookies. I should have known better than to try a recipe that involved jelly rolling. Usually I consider myself a pretty decent baker, nothing close to professionally trained but at least decent enough to do well on any recipe. When it comes to jelly rolls, however, my abilities completely fail me. A few Christmases ago I made a yule log, and I went through countless batches of cake dough before I finally got a roll that didn’t crack completely when I tried to form it.

Frustration follows me whenever I attempt this kind of recipe. In this case, I hit more than one snag. I could not roll out my dough evenly, and when I had finished rolling it out the edges were too thin. One of my logs started cracking when I began to roll it up, leaving me with sandwich-like cookies rather than jelly rolls. I also overcooked the first batch, which happened to contain the prettier of the cookies. Attempting to remove the cookies from the baking sheets generally resulting in some of the fig filling getting stuck or the cookies themselves cracking, and when I put the cookies on a rack to cool as instructed even more of the filling fell out or stuck to the rack.

Damn those gorgeous photos that come with the posted or printed recipes, they always make me feel inferior in my baking skills. I guess they aren’t all bad, just not one of my proudest moments. They aren’t very sweet either, more akin to fig newtons or breakfast-type cookies rather than the intensely-sacharine iced or powdered-sugar covered cookies you see this time of year, and are a nice change from the types of above-mentioned cookies I have been making. Once again, I am very thankful to have a loving husband who both eats and enjoys all of the cookies I have been cranking out of out kitchen recently, both successes and failures alike. I’ll just chalk this one up to a learning experience.

Fig Swirls
(original recipe Gourmet December 2005)

Ingredients
For pastry dough
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, softened
4 oz cream cheese at room temperature
1 large egg yolk
1 teaspoon vanilla

For filling
1 cup packed soft dried Mission figs (8 oz), hard tips discarded
3/4 cup mild honey
2 tablespoons fresh orange juice
2 teaspoons grated fresh orange zest
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Preparation
Make pastry dough:
Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a bowl.

Pulse butter, cream cheese, yolk, and vanilla in a food processor until smooth, then add flour mixture and pulse until dough just forms a ball.

Halve dough and form each half into a roughly 6- by 2-inch rectangle. Chill, wrapped in plastic wrap, until firm, about 1 1/2 hours.

Make filling:
Purée figs, honey, juice, zest, and cinnamon in cleaned food processor until almost smooth.

Make logs:
Roll out 1 piece of dough between 2 sheets of wax paper into a 10- by 8-inch rectangle (about 1/3 inch thick), long side facing you. Remove top sheet of wax paper and gently spread one fourth of fig mixture over bottom half of dough, leaving a 1/4-inch border. Using wax paper as an aid, roll dough, jelly-roll style, halfway, enclosing fig mixture. Flip dough, with wax paper. Remove paper. Spread with one third of remaining fig mixture and roll in same manner, to form an S-shaped log. Make another log. Chill logs, wrapped in wax paper, until firm, at least 4 hours.

Bake cookies:
Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 375°F.

Cut logs crosswise into 1/3-inch-thick slices and arrange slices about 2 inches apart on lightly buttered baking sheets. Bake until pastry is pale golden, 12 to 15 minutes. Transfer to racks to cool.

1 Response to “Cookies Day 10: Fig Swirls”


  1. 1 erinlancione December 16, 2009 at 10:04 am

    For what it’s worth, they do look pretty in the pictures!

    The recipe looks very similar to the one for cucidati, Sicily’s rustic version of the Fig Newton. My family makes cucidati every Christmas (and for weddings, funerals, family reunions…). Every relative has a slightly different recipe, and a select few have mastered the art of making them look attractive; I think the secret is a generous helping of lard, which seems to make the dough more pliable and less likely to tear. However, for the most part, the cookies come out lumpy, cracked, and with filling spilling out both ends. But you know what? Not a single one of them gets left uneaten, because they’re too damn tasty to waste. So as long as you and Jay enjoyed the fig swirls, who cares what they looked like?

    Keep the entries coming, Jenny — I’m enjoying reading them!


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