Does anybody else remember when Fig Newtons were considered a healthy snack, probably because they contained dried fruit? I remember not liking that my mom bought them instead of Oreo cookies, at least until I tasted them — and then I was converted. Here's my homemade version with a sunny apricot-and-orange filling, all enveloped in a soft cookie dough.
The dough for these cookies starts with a blend of all-purpose and whole-wheat flour since I love the nuttiness the whole-wheat adds. Brown sugar, vanilla extract, and freshly grated orange zest flavor the dough, which is quite easy to work with after it chills.
I don't like filling that's too sweet, so I simmer dried apricots with fresh orange juice and just a little honey to soften them up before blitzing the mixture into a smooth paste in the food processor. You can use standard sulphured apricots, which retain their vivid color, or go with unsulphured, which have the same flavor but are darker in color. This filling can be made ahead of time if you want to break the cookie-making into two sessions.
Forming the cookie bars isn't hard, but a bench scraper is a tool that makes the job much easier, as it helps to form and shape the dough into nice, straight edges. These homemade apricot Newtons actually get softer the next day if you're like me and can't resist a soft, cakey cookie!
Homemade Apricot Newtons
For the dough:
1 cup all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
3/4 cup whole-wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon fine salt
10 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2/3 cup packed light brown sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 medium orange
For the filling:
8 ounces dried apricots
1/4 cup water
1 tablespoon honey
For the dough: Whisk the flours, baking powder, and salt together in a medium bowl.
Beat the butter and brown sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Stop the mixer and add the egg and vanilla. Using a Microplane, finely grate the zest of the orange into the bowl (save the zested orange for the filling). Beat on medium speed until incorporated. Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl and the paddle with a rubber spatula.
Return the mixer to low speed, gradually add the flour, and mix until just combined (the dough will be very soft and sticky). Scrape the dough onto a sheet of plastic wrap and press into a disk about 1-inch thick. Wrap the disk tightly in the plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm, but still pliable, about 2 hours. Meanwhile, make the filling.
For the filling: Place the apricots in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the blade attachment and process until finely chopped, about 30 seconds. Transfer the mixture to a small saucepan. (No need to wash out the food processor; you will use it again.)
Juice the zested orange and add 2 tablespoons of the juice to the pan. Add the water and honey. Heat the mixture over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the apricots plump up and all the liquid is absorbed, about 4 minutes.
Transfer the mixture back to the food processor and process into a smooth paste, about 1 minute. Let the mixture cool completely.
To assemble: Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside. Transfer the cooled apricot mixture to a piping bag or resealable plastic bag.
Dust a work surface generously with flour. Unwrap the disk of dough and cut it into 3 equal pieces (about 6 1/2 ounces each). Place one piece on the work surface, rewrap the other 2 pieces back in plastic wrap, and refrigerate those 2 pieces.
Reshape the remaining piece of dough into a log about 2 inches wide and 4 inches long. Place the log with the short side facing you, generously dust the top with flour, and roll into a 1/2-inch-thick rectangle about 4 inches wide and 12 inches long.
Using kitchen shears, snip off a bottom corner of the plastic bag or piping bag. Pipe enough filling down the center of the piece of dough so that it is 1-inch wide and 1/4-inch thick.
Using a bench scraper, scrape up the right side of the dough and gently fold it over the center so it reaches the middle of the filling. Repeat with the left side of the dough. Gently pat the top of the dough down with your hands, pinching it together as needed, so that it completely covers the filling and flattens slightly. (It should now be in a Fig Newton shape.)
Cut the filled dough in half crosswise. Using the bench scraper, carefully flip each piece over and transfer to the baking sheet so that it is seam-side down. Repeat with the rolling and filling of the remaining 2 pieces of dough, using flour as needed to prevent the dough from sticking. You will end up with 6 filled and shaped pieces of dough on the baking sheet, so space them in 2 rows of 3 each, about 2 inches apart.
Chill the logs for at least 30 minutes or up to 1 hour. Meanwhile, arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat to 350°F.
Bake until just lightly browned around the edges, 15 to 17 minutes. Cut each bar crosswise into 4 pieces and let cool completely. Store in an airtight container for up to 5 days.
- Make ahead: The filling can be made ahead and stored in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.