Holiday Baking: Figgy Pudding Butter Cookies

Last year, I decided to try to incorporate fig into my holiday baking. It's one of those traditional holiday flavors, and many classic recipes can be found that feature dried fig. But, when it comes to incorporating figs into my annual holiday cookie basket, I've had little success. Last year I tried Anise Fig and Date pinwheels, a challenging recipe that I am not entirely sure ended up tasting the way it should. This year, I opted for what I hoped would result in a sweeter cookie with a more pronounced fig flavor - Figgy Pudding Butter Cookies from Food52.

First, a note on the level of difficulty, because the recipe appears to be simple enough. This recipe calls for powdered sugar, which means you will end up with a very different dough that what you get with granulated sugar. It will be stiff and tacky and unforgiving. If you are a seasonal baker like me, this is probably outside our weight class and should be either left to the uber bakers out there or tackled outside of the holiday baking marathon when there is quite frankly too much else going on to pull this off.

Still, I thought I could do this and tried to time it so that the dough had the requisite 2+ hours to chill and I wouldn't have to deal with it until immediately after lunch. This did not help. The recipe calls for rolling and cutting the dough into think circles that most likely bake into golden crisps. I couldn't get my dough to roll and ended up making drop cookies that I tried to flatten. This was a mistake. The dough does not want to flatten in this manner, and it didn't. I ended up with mis-shapen cookie blobs that also did not have the strong fig flavor I was seeking.

This recipe also calls for icing the cookies. You must do this. The flavor of the cookie was enhanced by a mild royal icing, although the recipe calls for an adult brandy-laced icing that I felt would be too strong. This might also have been a misstep, but I wasn't sure how the brandy icing would set.

So, here it is as it appeared on Food52 by member HelenTheNanny with some additional notes from my own experience. She notes that this her own creation and provides a photo with the recipe of what these should look like:

Serves 3 dozen small cookies

For the Cookies:

1 tablespoon orange zest (from one orange)
8-10 large dried Turkish or Caliymirna Figs (the light brown ones)
1 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup whole milk
1 1/2 cup All Purpose Flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt
3/4 cups (or 1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cups Confectioners sugar
1 large egg

For the Brandy-Sugar Glaze:

1 1/2 cup Confectioners sugar
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
2 tablespoons Brandy
1/2 teaspoon Vanilla Extract

1. Sift together flour, salt, nutmeg and cinnamon in a bowl and set it aside.

2. Dice figs into small chunks and put them in a saucepan with the milk. Heat on low, stirring occasionally for
about 15 minutes. When I did this, I didn't pay attention and I let my milk boil. The figs and the milk kind of homogeonized into a thick sauce. I don't think this is what HelenTheNanny intended. This might also explain the trouble I had working with this dough.

3. Put 1 1/2 sicks of softened butter in the bowl of the electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix
on med-high until the butter is fluffy, about two minutes.

4. Sift 3/4 cup of confectioners sugar into the fluffy butter and mix until smooth.

5. Add in one egg and reduce speed to low.

6. Add in flour mixture and mix until just combined.

7. Strain the figs from the milk. When I did this, I only got about a tablespoon of liquid. I feel I must note again that I don't think this is right. Add them, along with the orange zest, to the dough. Fold in until the
ingredients are evenly distributed. Wrap the dough in plastic and refrigerate for 2 hours.

8. After the dough has cooled, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. On a well-floured surface, roll out the
dough until it is 1/8 inch thick. Using a 2 inch round cookie cutter, cut out the cookies and place them on a
parchment lined cookie sheet, spaced one inch apart. Bake for 10-12 minutes or until the edges are
golden brown.

9. While the cookies are baking, combine all the ingredients for the Brandy-Sugar Glaze in a saucepan on
med-low heat, and stir often, until the sauce comes together. After the cookies have cooled, use a fork to
drizzle the warm glaze on them. I used the traditional royal icing but probably should have just made Helen's glaze.

So, if any readers try this out at home, try not to deviate the way I did. I may try this one again as written when I can focus on it. If it works out for me, I'll let you know.