Gluten Free Fig Newton style cookies have an amazing cranberry fig filling and a soft and somewhat flaky cookie.
Growing up I rarely enjoyed home baked treats. While my mom was a great cook, she never really had an affinity for baking. She typically made homemade tassies once a year, but that’s where baking started and ended. My family did, however, enjoy store bought cookies. My mom always liked Vienna Fingers. My brother liked Chips Ahoy, and I always preferred Fig Newtons.
Since going gluten free I haven’t enjoyed anything that comes close to resembling a fig newton. The ones I’ve tried have either skimped on the filling or been so dry that they were a choking hazard. This holiday season I wanted to work on creating my own version of this classic cookie.
Making the fig filling for these cookies is super simple. Start with dried figs. Be sure to pull off the hard dry stem that is usually left on dried figs. You’ll seriously break a tooth if you leave them on. I then diced up the figs into small pieces. Since this is a holiday inspired cookie, I added sweetened, dried cranberries to the mix as well. I love cranberries, and I thought their tartness would help round out the sweetness of the figs. To the mix I also added some cinnamon, vanilla extract, and water.
I brought the mixture to a simmer, lowered the heat, and allowed the figs and cranberries to soften a bit for 5-7 minutes. You’ll need to stir frequently to prevent burning. Next, I added the fruit mixture into my food processor. Before giving it a whir, I added a teaspoon of Rodelle’s Vanilla Bean Paste. If you have never tried vanilla bean paste, I would highly recommend it. It adds an amazing vanilla flavor (and I love the smell of it, too). Once the vanilla bean paste has been added, process the mixture until it is smooth. Transfer to a bowl and cover with plastic wrap.
The cookie dough of a fig newton is truly unique. It’s really cake-like and not anything like your traditional cookies such as oatmeal or chocolate chip. But the dough is what makes or breaks these cookies. You’ll notice that there is far less sugar than other types of cookies and less flour is also used. The end result is a soft, cake-like interior with a slightly flaky outer layer. That was not my original intention, but I am really thrilled that is how this recipe evolved.
How to make Gluten Free Fig Newtons
I have always tried to create simple recipes that are not fussy. In all honesty: this recipe is a tad fussier than most of my other recipes. After allowing the dough to chill for about an hour, you’ll want to begin to roll out the dough. Scatter some flour on a hard surface and on a rolling pin. Roll one half of the dough into a long strip measuring 18″ long by 4″ wide. You want the shape to be pretty uniform. Next, you will split the fig filling in half. Place the fig filling into the center of the dough strip (about 1″ wide) covering the length in full.
Now you will fold the dough over. Fold one side over the fig part, then fold the next half over. There should be a small bit of overlap. Next I cut the roll in half to create two 9″ lengths. Transfer these to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Repeat the same process with the other half of the dough. In the end you will have four lengths of fig filled dough. Place the lengths about 2 inches apart from each other. I brushed the top of each length with a bit of heavy cream and baked them at 375 degrees for 20-22 minutes. The tops and sides should be golden brown but somewhat soft. You do not want these cookies to be crispy.
Allow the cookies to sit for 5 minutes. I then used a bench scraper to cut them into cookies about 1.5″ in width. Place on a cooling rack to cool completely. To be a bit festive, I dusted the cooled cookies with some powdered sugar.Variations
While the filling needs to have a fig base to it, there are many variations that would be amazing as well. You could opt to use almost any dried fruit: dates, raisins, apricots, pear, apples. I think a bit of orange zest in the mix would also be fantastic. Some people like to play around with textures, so you may want to add some chopped nuts such as walnuts or almonds. An easy way to add flavor is to replace the water with your favorite juice. Cranberry based juices or orange juice would work well. Really, there are so many possibilities.
Gluten Free Fig Newton Style Cookies:
yields about 32 cookies
8 oz. salted butter
1/3 cup light brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 cups gluten free flour blend, (I used King Arthur’s Measure for Measure) plus more for rolling
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2 cups diced, dried figs (stems discarded)
1 cup sweetened, dried cranberries
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/3 cup water (or juice)
1 teaspoon Rodelle’s Vanilla extract
1 teaspoon Rodelle’s Vanilla Bean Paste
2 tablespoons heavy whipping cream
Powdered Sugar for dusting
– Cream together the butter and sugars in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Add the flour and baking soda and mix together until well incorporated.
– Split the dough in half; wrap in plastic wrap and chill for one hour.
– While the dough is chilling, make the fig filling. Remove the stems from the dried figs. Cut the figs into small pieces to yield 2 cups. Add one cup of cranberries, 2 tablespoons sugar, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, and 1/3 cup water to a sauce pan. Bring to a simmer and allow to cook for 5-7 minutes. Be sure to stir frequently to prevent sticking or burning. Place the fruit mixture into the bowl of a food processor. Add in one teaspoon of vanilla paste. Pulse until smooth.
– Sprinkle a hard work surface and a rolling pin with flour. Roll out one half of the dough into an 18″ x 4″ rectangle. Trim off any rough edges. The shape should be uniform. Use half of the fig filling to fill the center of the dough strip.
– Take one side of the dough and cover the fig filling. Do the same with the other side. The sides will overlap a bit. Cut the length in half. Transfer each length to a baking sheet. Place the seam side down. Repeat the process with the remaining dough. The filled lengths should be 2 inches apart. Lightly brush the tops and sides with cream.
– Preheat the oven at 375 degrees.
– Bake for 20-22 minutes.
– Allow the cookies to sit on the cookie sheet for 5 minutes. Then use a bench scraper to cut into cookies (about 8 cookies per length). Place on a cooling rack.
– If desired dust with powdered sugar.