N is for (Fig) Newtons

N is for Newtons

And I’m back! I apologize for my month-long hiatus, there were a few early summer trips (family cruise to the Bahamas and Seattle wedding adventure with the boyfriend) mixed in with wrapping up the school-year at work. But I am happily back in the kitchen and I bring you one of my favorite cookies to bake for the letter N, (fig) newtons!

Do you love this store-bought treat? Yes?! Then you are going to be as obsessed as I am with this homemade goodie! This recipe is brought to you from one of my favorite cookbooks, Make the Bread, Buy the Butter by Jennifer Reese. She elevates this childhood cookie with a thick layer of fig jammy goodness in the middle and a just as soft cookie on the outside. While this recipe is a bit time-consuming as the dough needs to rest at least an hour to set, they are well worth the effort! I make these as gifts for people all of the time and they could definitely be added into your holiday cookie rotation. They go AMAZING with a cup of coffee and SHOULD be eaten for breakfast when you make a batch. It’s the right of the baker, go ahead, you deserve it 🙂

Newtons all in a row

Ingredients

Cookie

  • 2 cups of all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup of whole-wheat flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 8 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/4 to 1/3 cup whole milk

Filling

  • 1 pound dried brown or black figs, about 3 1/2 cups
    • I usually find that black figs are more readily available at your local grocery store.
  • 3/4 cup white sugar
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice, about 1 lemon

Special Equipment

  • Stand-up or hand-mixer
  • Food processor or blender
  • Rolling pin

Baking the Newtons

  • Whisk together the flours, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
  • In the large bowl of stand-up mixer, beat the butter with the white and brown sugars until light and fluffy. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.
    • A hand-mixer can be used for this as well.
  • Add the egg and continue to beat, scraping down the sides, until the mixture is fully combined and creamy.
  • On the lowest setting, slowly beat in the dry ingredients, taking care not to over mix.
  • Slowly add in the milk, starting with the smaller amount, and blend to form a soft workable dough.
    • Do not add all of the milk at once as the dough could become to moist to knead.
    • If the dough seems too dry, you can add additional milk, up to two tablespoons.
  • Once the dough has come together, put it onto the counter lined with parchment paper and knead a few times.
  • Shape the dough into a disk, wrap in plastic wrap tightly and refrigerate for at least one hour.
  • Thirty minutes before you are ready to pull out the dough, start to prepare the filling.
  • Cut the stems off of the figs.
    • I find that running the knife under hot water helps it to not stick as much.
  • In a medium saucepan, add the prepared figs, sugar, lemon juice and 1/2 cup water. Gently stir to combine.
  • Over medium heat, simmer the mixture for about 10 minutes until the figs have softened.
  • Carefully pour the figs and juices into a food processor and blend until you have a thick, jammy mixture.
    • Depending on the size of your food processor, this may need to be done in batches. If you do not have a food processor, a blender does work, but is harder to get all of the jam out of. The recipe book also suggests allowing the figs to cool slightly and chopping them with a knife to create the filling as an alternative to the food processor.
  • Cool the jammy mixture to room temperature so that it is easy to work with your hands, but you do not want to let it cool longer than thirty minutes as it will become stiff.
  • Preheat the oven to 375F when you are ready to assemble the cookies.
  • Split the dough in half and working on a lightly flour surface, roll out to roughly a 15 inch by 6 inch rectangle that is about 1/4 inch thick.
  • Trim the edges so that they are even, you can use a pastry cutter, pizza cutter, or a knife to do this.
    • Reserve the scraps to patch up any holes.
  • Mound half of the filling in the middle of the dough, stopping 1/2 inch from the top and bottom. The filling should be about two inches wide and one inch high.
  • Carefully lift one long side of the dough and fold it over the filling. It is easier to do this using a bench scraper or wide spatula.
  • Fold the other side of the dough overlapping by about a 1/4 inch and press gently to seal. Seal each end as well by pinching the edges.
  • Now comes the tricky part, carefully and quickly lift the dough using a spatula or bench scraper and put it onto a parchment-lined baking sheet. Roll the dough over so that the seam side is facing downward.
  • Using the dough scraps, patch any holes that might have formed when the dough was transferred to the baking sheet.
  • Repeat the above steps using the remaining dough and filling.
    • I can usually create two large cookies and one smaller one with the dough scraps and a bit of reserved filling.
  • Bake for 12-15 minutes until the dough has turned a golden brown and the top has firmed.
  • Cool the cookies on a cooling rack to prevent further baking.
  • Cut the cookies while they are still warm. If you let them cool throughout you will have a hard time cutting them without the cookie cracking.
  • Slice the cookie horizontally into 1-inch bars. I find that a serrated bread knife is the best tool to use for this, but really any knife will do in a pinch. I also keep a paper towel that has been run under warm water handy to wipe off any jammy filling as I cut to prevent the knife from sticking.
  • The cookies can be stored at room temperature in a sealed container for 5 days…I find they get eaten up by cookie monsters well before then though 🙂

*Recipe from Make the Bread, Buy the Butter by Jennifer Reese

Make the Bread, Buy the Butter

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Pizza Party Date Night

Tomato & Fig with Proscuitto Pizza

Pizza is one of my favorite foods. Yes, it may be a 7 year old’s standard answer to a classroom prompt, but in the spirit of embracing my inner child, I really do love pizza. It is a blank canvas like grilled cheese (admittedly another favorite) where you can go either savory or more on the sweeter side, and after adding a “healthy” portion of cheese, there really is no wrong way to top a pizza.

Starting with the base, pizza dough is actually pretty easy to make, you just need to allot enough time for the dough to have several sessions of rising. If you can plan ahead, I suggest making the dough a few days prior and freezing it. That way you have dough on hand whenever you feel like pizza and don’t have to wait two hours for dough prep (yes, at least two hours, I told you to plan ahead!). I have tried a few different dough recipes and my new favorite is the one found on Sally’s Baking Addiction. Sally has laid out step by step instructions with pictures for this fool-proof recipe. Her recipe makes two 12-inch pizza crusts so I suggest splitting the dough into 4 balls to create 6-inch pizza rounds. This creates the perfect size for one person and you can adjust the amount of pizzas you make depending on how many people are present. With the dough made ahead and frozen, there is no waste as well; a little planning goes a long way!

With your dough already prepped, all that’s left is to decide on the toppings. Since it was a date night, I made two pizzas, one in the classic margherita fashion and the second combining sweet and savory. I found a variety of heirloom tomatoes at the grocery store to add layers of color to the magherita pizza. For the second, I basically took all of my favorite items on a cheese plate and put them on the pizza, fig preserves, sliced apple, prosciutto and cheese; remember no wrong way to top a pizza!

Fight the temptation to order dominoes for your pizza party and embrace your creative inner foodie! Enjoy!

Pizza Start to Finish

Ingredients

Dough

  • 2 1/4 teaspoons dry active yeast or instant yeast (this is the amount in a standard packet, the dry active yeast will have a longer rise time)
  • 1 1/3 cups warm water
  • 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil plus more for greasing
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • fine ground cornmeal for dusting pans

Toppings

  • 2-3 Tablespoons sauce per pizza (featured: tomato sauce and fig preserves)
  • 1/2 – 1 cup cheese per pizza (featured: small fresh mozzarella balls, halved)
  • Veggies and protein of your choice! I went with heirloom tomatoes and basil for one pizza and thinly sliced apples and chopped prosciutto for the second.

Making Your Pizza

  • For the dough: Carefully follow the instructions laid out on Sally’s Baking Addiction. As with all recipes, read it over in its entirety before starting so you know the work and time involved. The majority of the time is spent on the dough resting so you are not actually working two hours straight in the kitchen. If you are short on time, some grocery stores sell premade pizza dough which will work as well, but please follow the cooking instructions on the bag if that is the route you take.
  • For the toppings: While your dough is in the final resting stage after you have formed the rounds, prep your toppings. If you are using raw meat like Italian sausage, make sure to cook it prior to adding it to the pizza. If you are using fresh mozzarella, I suggest cutting it to the desired thickness and letting it “rest” on a bed of paper towels to draw out some of the moisture so that you don’t end up with a soupy pizza.
  • Heat oven to 475F for at least 30 minutes so that it is heated evenly throughout and VERY hot to cook the pizzas quickly!
  • Add toppings to pizza and bake for 15 minutes or until crust is golden brown. Fight the urge to keep opening your oven door to check on it, every time you open the oven the temperature drops which will inevitably increase the cooking time.
  • Slice pizza and enjoy your hard work!

Dough recipe and preparation found on Sally’s Baking Addiction: http://sallysbakingaddiction.com/2013/11/20/homemade-pizza-crust-recipe/