Sometimes, that is. We'd probably bless them more at a Toto concert. Or down in Africa. Because we lived under the deluge this week. And while we didn't get it as bad as Florida or even New York City, we were soaked, drenched, and darn near drowned.
People talk about loving the patter of the rain on the roof. How about a pounding?
Which brings us to a complaint. (We're fifty-comethings. We have to. It lessens the chance of stroke.) We've had some of the worst stretches of weather this year in New England. Bad snows. Bone-aching chill. Gray skies. Rains this month for days. And a very bashful spring. We moved up here for the politics. (Gay marriage for everyone!) But after this winter, maybe a little social repression wouldn't be so bad. Not Faulknerian small-town Mississippi repression. Just some run-of-the-mill Midwestern "tolerance" (i. e, shut up).
The one thing we can say about the weather is that it inspires us to cook. (And to eat what we cook--but that's another story.) So the other day, as it poured from buckets, we set about making some of our favorite cookies, these fig-filled wonders, a homemade version of that famous branded cookie (shhh, no names)--but much better. With whole wheat pastry flour, for one thing. And more fruit per bite. Years ago, these cookies found their way into our 900-recipe tome (click here for more about it). Now they're here.
- 16 ounces dried figs, preferably Turkish figs
- 8 ounces raisins
- 1 cup packed light brown sugar, divided
- 1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
- 1/3 cup water
- 3 tablespoons brandy or orange juice
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 2 cups whole wheat pastry flour (do not use standard whole wheat flour)
- 1 cup all-purpose flour, plus additional for dusting
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 3/4 cup granulated white sugar
- 1/2 cup solid vegetable shortening, preferably expeller-pressed, non-hydrogenated
- 3 large eggs, at room temperature
1. Place the figs and raisins in a large food processor. Process until finely chopped, then pulse a few more times to form a sticky ball. Scrape it into a medium saucepan set over medium heat. Stir in 3/4 cup packed brown sugar, the lemon juice, water, brandy or orange juice, and cinnamon. Cook, stirring almost constantly, until the brown sugar dissolves and the mixture begins to bubble, 4 - 5 minutes. Remove from the heat, scrape into a bowl, and cool to room temperature, about 1 hour.
2. Position the rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 400F. Line a large, lipped baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat. Whisk both flours, the baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl. Set aside.
3. Beat the granulated sugar, shortening, and the remaining 1/4 cup packed brown sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer at medium speed until creamy and smooth, 4 - 5 minutes. Scrape down the inside of the bowl, then beat in the eggs one at a time, adding the next only after the one before is thoroughly incorporated. Turn off the beaters, add the flour mixture, and beat at very low speed until a smooth dough starts to form. Remove the beaters and divide the dough into thirds.
4. Sprinkle a few drops of water on your work surface, then lay a sheet of wax paper on top. Dust the wax paper lightly with flour, then place one of the dough mounds on it. Press down gently to flatten, dust lightly with flour, and lay a second sheet of wax paper on top. Roll out the dough into a 12 x 5-inch rectangle. Peel off the top sheet of wax paper.
5. Spread a third of the fig mixture the long way down the middle of the rectangle. Leave a 1/2-inch border at each end and an inch border down the long sides. Fold one long side over onto the other so you create a tight tube around the filling. Seal the long sides together (well!), then crimp the short ends tightly closed. Transfer to the prepared baking sheet and repeat this process (steps 4 and 5) with the other two dough clumps. Space the filled tubes about 2 inches apart on the baking sheet.
6. Bake until lightly browned, about 15 minutes. Leave the logs on the baking sheets for 10 minutes, then transfer them to a wire rack to cool completely. (Use large spatulas to keep them from breaking.) Cool for 1 hour, then slice into 1-inch thick cookies. Enjoy or store in a sealed container at room temperature for up to 3 days.
- The less flour you use while rolling out the cookies, the more tender they'll be.
- The filling needs to be room temperature--fully!--so it doesn't melt the fat in the dough. Stir it a few times to make sure.
And then there's this, because credit where credit is due (sort of). Did we ever have hair like that? Did we ever have hair?