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Homemade Fig Newtons

Guess what? An improved, updated version of this recipe can be found in my cookbook Classic Snacks Made from Scratch: 70 Homemade Versions of Your Favorite Brand-Name Treats. Buy it now on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or your local indie bookstore!

Ramona, her face shining with happiness, looked at her friends sharing the applesauce. “Those cookies are filled with worms. Chopped-up worms!” she gleefully told everyone.

“Why, Ramona!” Beezus was shocked. “They aren’t either. They’re filled with ground-up figs. You know that.” Ramona did not answer. Her mouth was full of fig Newtons.

—Beezus and Ramona, by Beverly Cleary

Oh, Ramona. Despite being typecast as Beezus due to my older-sister status, I’ve always felt a kinship with you and your strong opinions on Fig Newtons.

homemade fig newtons

But then ReadyMade asked me to create a homemade version and taste-test it against the store-bought kind for the next Taste Off installment.

So I put all thoughts of minced wrigglers aside to develop a cookie combining the nostalgic lunchbox memories of the Newton and an adult appreciation of the savory, seasonal fig.

Luckily, the group of brainy ladies I recruited for the blind taste test are all Newtons aficionados.

(Maybe that’s where I went wrong? Eat Fig Newtons, develop super brain powers, and make the world a better, more beautiful place? Sigh.)

Pulling no punches in the name of truly objective reporting, the group came to some earth-shattering conclusions.

Whole grain and so-called “healthy” versions of Newtons are the crunchy camp counselors of the cookie world.

While they earnestly broadcast their good intentions and virtuous ingredients with whole-grain crusts and actual seeds in the fig filling, the testing panel would rather hang out with the cool kids.

The satisfyingly old-school original Newtons took everyone right back to lunchboxes in the all-purpose room and after-school snack time. (No word on whether said snack time also included friends who were as gleefully bossy as Ramona Quimby.)

And the homemade version, while sticking out from the bunch like a sticky thumb with their (slightly) unevenly spread filling, was a religious experience for a bunch of the tasters, giving them flashbacks to Hamantaschen and cakey Linzer-style Christmas cookies.

But what really sold the OG Newtons and the homemade cookies were the right balance between filling and crust—not too moist, not too dry, with a clearly defined textural contrast.

Click the image below for a full-size PDF of our Taste Off.

ReadyMade Fig Newtons Taste Off
homemade fig newtons

Homemade Fig Newtons

Yield: 4 dozen cookies
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour
Additional Time: 1 hour
Total Time: 2 hours 20 minutes

Homemade Fig Newtons, made with a slightly tart, real fig filling, are cakey and moist enough to keep kids and adults happy.

Ingredients

Dough

  • 1 cup (113 grams) whole wheat flour
  • 2 cups (120 grams) all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 cup (50 grams) granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup (53 grams) light brown sugar
  • 12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 3 large eggs

Filling

  • 8 ounces (1/2 pound) dried Mission figs, tough stems removed, quartered
  • 2 cups fresh orange juice (from about 6 oranges)
  • 1/4 cup (50 grams) granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

Instructions

  1. Sift the flours, salt, and baking powder together in a bowl.
  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the sugars and butter together until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.
  3. Add the eggs, one at a time, then the dry ingredients to make a stiff dough.
  4. Pat the dough into a disk, wrap tightly with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 1 hour.
  5. While the dough is chilling, stir the figs, juice, sugar, and ginger together in a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan.
  6. Bring to a boil, then simmer until figs are soft and the liquid is reduced to a jamlike consistency, about 30 minutes.
  7. Transfer the fig filling to a mini food processor and pulse until pureed. Cool the fig filling to room temperature.
  8. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone liners.
  9. On a well-floured work surface, divide the dough into four equal pieces.
  10. Roll one of the pieces into an 8x10-inch rectangle approximately 1/4-inch thick.
  11. Trim the edges with a pastry scraper, then cut into 2 inch-wide strips.
  12. Spread half the strip with 1 to 1 1/2 tbsp of filling using your fingers or an offset spatula, then fold the uncovered half over to make a sandwich. You should average about 4 strips per quarter of dough and 3 filled cookies per strip.
  13. Use the pastry scraper to cut the strip into cookies approximately 1 1/2 inches wide and transfer to the baking sheet.
  14. Repeat with the remaining three pieces.
  15. Bake for 20 minutes, or until the cookies are golden brown. Cool on racks before serving.

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Nutrition Information:
Yield: 24 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 139Total Fat: 7gSaturated Fat: 4gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 2gCholesterol: 39mgSodium: 120mgCarbohydrates: 18gFiber: 1gSugar: 5gProtein: 3g

The nutritional information above is computer-generated and only an estimate.

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20 Comments

  1. I heart GFS!! Yeah, homemade fig newtons, what a fabulous idea. Any suggestions on subbing raspberry filling for the figs? I love these homemade recipes that you’re doing based on grocery store finds. You should write a cookbook!!

  2. You’re too funny, MKES. Raspberry filling would be super easy – do you ever make homemade raspberry jam?

  3. Love it, great story! And great to see that there is whole wheat flour in the homemade version. I am salivating just thinking about these…YUM.

  4. I like to freeze my Fig Newtons then gnaw at them — will have to try the homemade version and see if they stand up to the frozen fig newton gnawing test…

    1. Spoon And Chair, I’m a little nervous for the state of your incisors… don’t harm yourself testing these!

  5. Oh, my! Homemade Fig Newtons. This is the first time I have ever seen a recipe. I loved being reminded of the worms passage and look forward to making these wormless treats.

  6. I’m a big fig newton fan and the only problem is that I’m the only one in the family. So buy a pack–eat a pack. Guess I should try the freeze and gnaw technique.

    I inherited from my mother an old fashioned hand-crank food grinder. When stuff comes out of the opening, it definitely looks like worms!

  7. Wow. I’m going to try this. The one thing I never liked about the originals is sometimes you would get a hard bit of fig. I think in the homemade version you can control that. Thanks for sharing!

  8. This is AWESOME! Love the idea of home-made fig newtons. And the Ramona and Beezus reference? Super awesome.

  9. Perhaps you need to market your recipe with RAMONA on the box? Meanwhile, kudos to your for an entertaining and enlightening piece on one of my favorite sweets. I have purchased homemade fig newtons at the Pittsburgh Public Market that were scrumptious, much as you described in your last paragraph. Need to work up the courage to make my own batch.

  10. I can’t tell you how much I LOVE RAMONA (so much that I wanted to name our latest arrival Ramona. The other kids and the hub vetoed the idea but I think Ramona is the Best. Name. Ever.) Sorry, we are talking fig newtons. Not my favorite cookie (please develop a recipe for HEALTHY HOMEMADE POPTARTS, ok?) but I am totally going to try making these!

    1. Oh, how I wish there were more girls named Ramona out there. (Poor Beezus; she was the naggy older sister AND she had the less-cool name.) Jennifer, we shared a recipe for Joanne Chang’s somewhat healthy homemade Pop-Tarts – there’s still butter involved, but the dough is real and you can use any jam or filling you desire. I’ve even done a savory version with caramelized onion and fig jam – still just as decadent!

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