11 April 2010

Light As Air Cherry Fig Not-ins

From April 2010 photos
As I've said many times, one of my favorite cookbooks is Vegan with a Vengeance by Isa Chandra Moskowitz. My copy is well worn, especially on pages I've used to make Altered Plates versions of dishes. I've also started to write my alterations on the pages because the slips of paper with my notes sometimes slip out or I make additional changes later.

In the photo above, you can see the outcome of my tinkering with Isa's Fig Not-ins. In my youth, I ate my share of Fig Newtons. These were quite different from the dense cookie of my past. My agave-nectar sweetened cookies were light and fluffy, more cakey than cookie, but lovely.

From April 2010 photos

Because my version uses agave nectar, I was very careful about not letting them brown too much. I'm going to continue to noodle with these a bit because I read on Isa's blog that you could use the dough to make Hamantaschen. My dough was way too wet for that, and I'd like to use coconut oil instead of the shortening to achieve a more butter-like result (however coconutty it may taste).

The cookies have a definite vanilla flavor, but the filling is king. The cherries add a great fruity flavor, while the figs and dates pull it down to earth. These cookies make an excellent light dessert for a big meal or a nice snack on their own.

From April 2010 photos

The upskirt view (can you use that on other descriptions than pizza?) shows how light and cakey this bar cookie is.

From April 2010 photos

Here's a really nice shot of the filling. I used organic Turkish figs and organic Medjool dates from the co-op combined with my favorite dark sweet cherries from Trader Joe's, and omitted the lemon zest. I also used considerably less sweetener overall because the fruit was sweet enough. The most important step here is the blending. I added this because the filling was way too chunky otherwise. As you can see from the photo, I didn't quite divide my dough evenly between the top and bottom, so you might want to do this better than I did (although it didn't affect how tasty these were at all).

Another cookie I used to enjoy as a kid was raisin bars. My mom would by these flat packages of cellophane wrapped bars with a wavy score between each cookie (making them about 3 in. long once separated from their brothers). I'd like to try to replicate those, and will work on that over the summer.

Here is the recipe as I made it, greatly inspired by the Fig Not-ins recipe on page 202 of Vegan with a Vengeance.

Cherry Fig Not-ins
Yield: 24 big cookies or 36 small cookies

1/2 cup dried sweet cherries (unsweetened), chopped
1/2 cup Medjool dates, pitted and chopped
3/4 cup dried Turkish figs, chopped
1 cup filtered water
2 tablespoons agave nectar

1/4 cup non-hydrogenated margarine
1/4 cup non-hydrogenated shortening
1/2 cup agave nectar
2 tablespoons arrowroot powder
1/4 cup almond milk
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 cups all-purpose or whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt

1. Combine the first 5 ingredients in a medium saucepan and stir while you heat it to medium.
2. When it starts to bubble, turn off the heat and either use an immersion blender (my choice, but be careful!) or a regular blender to blend all the big chunks out of the mixture. Set the filling aside to cool.
3. With a mixer in a large bowl, whip the fats with the agave nectar for at least 3 minutes, until they are well combined.
4. Mix in the arrowroot, almond milk, and vanilla until well combined. It will look a bit curdle-y, but that's alright.
5. In a separate bowl or a large measuring cup, combine the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt until all are incorporated.
6. Add the dry ingredients to wet mixture to form a light dough.
7. With well-floured hands on a well-floured surface, form the dough into a ball and split it into two. Wrap each dough ball in plastic and let it rest and chill in the fridge for at least an hour.
8. When the dough has cooled, take it out of the fridge and its wrapping, and flour a large piece of parchment paper, your hands, and your rolling pin. Take one of the dough halves and roll it until it is about 9 x 15 inches. You can leave this on the parchment paper because it will be your bottom layer. Place this layer on a cookie sheet (I used a pan with 1 in. sides just in case the filling oozed, which it didn't). Roll out your top layer the same way, but set it aside for a moment.
9. Spread the filling thickly, but evenly on top of the bottom layer in the pan.
10. Here's the tricky part, take your top layer, still on the parchment paper, and turn it paper side up on top of the filling layer. Then, gently peel the paper off the top layer.
11. With a pizza cutter, or a sharp, long knife, cut the cookies into the size bars you wish. Do not separate them now. It just makes them super-easy to cut once they are baked.
12. Preheat your oven to 325 degrees F. When the oven is at temperature, bake the cookies for approximately 20 minutes or until lightly browned.
13. Let them cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then using the edges of the parchment paper, lift the entire batch out of the pan and onto a wire rack to cool for an hour before cutting along the same lines you made earlier. Separate the cookies, then let them cool completely.
14. Enjoy!

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