I believe there are a few foods adults eat that confuse the dickens out of each and every child: olives, oysters and Fig Newtons. I mean, c’mon. Dessert is supposed to be sweet, loaded with chocolate and sprinkles, and icing all over, right? For me, Fig Newtons were the loser cookie - the one I would only eat out of pure desperation if there was nothing else resembling dessert in sight. But oh, how I loathed them! What could be worse than mysterious, brown fruit goo wrapped up in flavourless, dry “cake”? Yea, right. That’s not a treat, it’s a healthy breakfast disguised as a cookie, and for that I resented them.
But funny how things change. If you were to put me in front of a dessert buffet full of overly sweet, cheesecakes, ice cream, and brownies nowadays, I might actually reach for the Newton. I mean, have you tasted these things?! They are delicious. Deep, dark, figgy jam filling and soft pastry. Not-too-sweet and so complimentary to afternoon tea. Kids, you are really missing out, but that is fine. More for us old people.
Inspired by the fabulous fig jam I made a couple years ago, I thought I would revisit the awesomeness and try to use it in a cookie form.
I realize that fresh figs are currently in season, but because I wanted to create a recipe that one could make all year round, I decided to use dried ones. I also made this choice because I wanted to add some liquid to the jam mix in the form of tea. Yes, you read that correctly. I am not so familiar with cooking or baking with tea and tea flavours, but I am on a rooibos kick these days and I thought that it would be a gorgeous compliment to the figs themselves. I was spot-on! With a little vanilla tossed in for added depth and lusciousness, this fruity filling makes an outstanding jam in its own right, so make extra if you want some to spread on your toast.
Rooibos (pronounced ROY-bos) tea hails from South Africa, where it is has been cultivated and consumed for generations, while it is gaining in popularity in North America and Europe for its unique taste and numerous health benefits. Sometimes referred to as red ted, bush tea, or redbush tea, rooibos’s dried leaves are needle-like and vary in colour from deep red to caramel to a paler brown. The flavour of its tea infusion is warm, somewhat fruity and tabacco-y. It is decaffeinated and a wonderful alternative for anyone seeking to lower their caffeine intake. For this reason, rooibos is a perfect tea for children to enjoy as well. If you cannot find it at your local grocery store, look for it sold loose at health food stores and teashops.
Figgin’ Good for You
Figs, whether fresh or dried, are an incredibly healthy treat.
It may surprise you to learn that eating just 3-4 dried figs per day, supplies the body with over 100mg of calcium. Calcium as we know is a necessary component in building and maintaining healthy bones, but it is also essential for supporting the functioning of muscles and nerves, and clotting the blood.
Figs are also high in fiber, both soluble and insoluble. Soluble fiber is the kind that slows down our digestion, keeping us feeling full for longer. It also helps control blood sugar, and lower cholesterol. Insoluble fiber keeps things running smoothly in the bowel department.
Figs also contain good levels of iron, potassium, manganese and vitamin B6.
When buying dried figs, look for organically grown varieties, and make sure that they are sulfite-free. Sulfites are often added to dried fruits to prolong their shelf life and appearance, but many people experience adverse effects form these chemicals, especially those with asthma.
Vanilla-Rooibos Fig Newtons Makes 10-12 cookies
1 cup / 150g dried figs (any variety will work)
1/2 cup strong-brewed rooisbos tea
1/2 vanilla bean, scraped
2 tsp. lemon juice
pinch sea salt
1 cup / 100 g rolled oats (gluten-free oats if you are gluten sensitive)
1/4 cup / 35 g coconut sugar
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/8 tsp. salt
1 tsp. of cinnamon
1 Tbsp. maple syrup
1 Tbsp. chia seeds
3 Tbsp. strong-brewed rooibos tea
5 tbsp. coconut oil
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1. Brew the tea. If using bags, use two to make the tea very strong. If using loose rooibos, use at least 1 tablespoon. Boil ¾ cup (175ml) and pour over the tea. Let steep for 15-20 minutes, then remove the bags or strain. Take out three tablespoons and stir in 1 tablespoon of chia seeds, set aside to gel.
2. To make the dough, blend 1 cup of rolled oats in a food processor to make a rough flour. Add coconut sugar, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon, and pulse to mix. Next add the coconut oil, chia-rooibos gel, and vanilla extract. Pulse to mix until the mixture forms a ball. Turn out onto a sheet of plastic wrap, cover tightly and place in the fridge to chill for at least one hour (this can be done a day ahead if desired).
3. To make filling, roughly chop figs and place them in a small saucepan with ½ cup brewed tea, lemon juice, salt and scraped vanilla seeds, including the pod. Cook over low-medium heat until the figs start to break down and the mixture thickens (about 10-15 minutes). Add more tea or water if necessary. Let cool slightly, remove vanilla pod, then blend in a food processor. You can make the filling as smooth or chunky as you like. The filling can also be made in advance, if desired.
4. Remove dough from fridge, place on a piece of parchment paper and lay another sheet on top. Using a rolling pin, roll dough out until the dough is a little larger than 4.5” x 11” (12 x 28 cm) To make a rectangle trim off any excess dough around the sides. Spoon fig filling along the center, then fold in both sides and press lightly to seal. Cut 10-12 pieces out and place each one, seam-side down on a parchment-lined baking sheet.
5. Bake cookies in a 350°F/175°C oven for about 20 minutes. Remove and let cool completely. Enjoy.