Something about these cookies intrigued me. The photo I saw of them was fetching, the technique for making them was interesting, and I don’t think I’d ever seen cookies like these before. I came across them in Baking with Julia, and the recipe was contributed by Nick Malgieri. They’re like a Sicilian homemade Fig Newton except for the shape of course. A fig filling, and let me tell you that was one amazing fig filling, was wrapped in dough, rolled into a long cylinder, and cut into pieces which were sliced on the ends and pulled into an X. This was a little bit of a project compared to simpler drop cookies, but I thought the process was fun since it worked exactly as described with no problems. Regarding that filling, it was a grown-up kind of fig filling full of aromatic and delicious things mixed with dried figs like almonds, apricot preserves, golden raisins, candied orange peel, chocolate, dark rum, and cinnamon. I tasted the filling just after it was pureed and realized it could have been served in bowls for dessert all by itself. There’s only a small amount of chocolate, so it doesn’t taste like a chocolate Fig Newton, but the chocolate with all the other filling ingredients makes it a sophisticated mix of flavors. And, the shape is an X which is appropriate for Valentine’s Day even though I didn’t make any O’s, right?
The pastry and the filling were both made in a food processor, and cleaning between steps wasn’t even necessary. The pastry, or pasta frolla, was made by pulsing flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in the food processor before adding chopped, cold butter. The butter was cut into the flour by pulsing, and then eggs were added and mixed to form a dough. The dough was kneaded briefly, formed into a log, and covered and set aside. The bowl of the food processor was set back in place, and the filling was made in it next. That was a pureed mix of chopped dried figs, toasted and chopped almonds, apricot preserves, golden raisins, candied orange peel, and yes I was thrilled to use my own candied orange peel again, chopped semisweet chocolate, dark rum, and cinnamon. There are great tips in the recipe such as reminding you that the dried fruit will not become softer or moister after baking. Therefore, if your dried fruits are too dry, they should be plumped in water and drained before using. Although I was tempted to stop there and just eat the filling with a spoon or maybe save a little to plop on top of yogurt for breakfast the next morning, I did continue with the recipe by forming the filling into a log and cutting that into 12 pieces. The pastry was also cut into 12 pieces. Working with one piece of pastry at a time, it was rolled against the countertop into a rope 15 inches long. Then, it was flattened into a three inch wide rectangle. Don’t even bother with a rolling pin. The dough is very easy to press and flatten into the rectangular shape. Just have some flour nearby to sprinkle on the counter to prevent sticking. Next, one piece of filling was rolled into a 15 inch long rope and set on the pastry. The pastry was rolled around the filling and pressed to seal. That filled rope shape was cut into three inch long pieces. Each piece was cut on each end so the ends could be pulled out to form an X shape. It’s really more complicated to write this than it was to do it. The cookies were baked, cooled, and then topped with confectioners’ sugar.
Even though these cookies involved a pastry dough and rolling and shaping, they were far easier than I expected. The dough behaved perfectly, and making the X shapes was quick and painless. The recipe makes a lot of cookies, five dozen in fact, and they keep well for about a week at room temperature. I stashed several of them in the freezer since even we couldn’t get through that many in one week. Whether it was the shape, the fun of making them, or that incredible filling, these have found a place on my favorites list.