I love to cook. I love to stand barefoot in the kitchen with a bit of tomato sauce on my cheek. I like when there’s a drink on the counter and bacon snapping away on the stove. I take comfort in knowing there’s a roast braising and broccoli waiting to be broiled.
Yet, as nice as it is being a hostess, somehow my drink always gets forgotten and bacon grease has a tendency to pop onto my arm. I’ve been known to slice my finger and splash dishwater on the floor. For me, creating a mess is inevitable. It’s like blinking.
So you can understand why as much as I love to cook, I also love the utter luxury of having dinner cooked for me. I like to find a kitchen perch, countertops and stools are nice, but I’m equally as happy to stand. Hand me a drink and I’ll keep you company. If you need the table set, I’ll be your gal. I’ll even wash a dish or two.
When given the opportunity, those were my jobs a few weekends ago. Gran and Gramps handled everything else. (This included the gimlets. If you missed them, check them out. They’re a pretty rock star cocktail to have on hand.)
They spoiled Garrett and me with roasts and strata, feijoada (a Brazilian braised meat) and baked eggs. We had homemade tapioca and mashed sweet potatoes. They bought big baguettes and served them with fresh butter. There was a constant supply of cut watermelon in the fridge. And on the counter, there was a Ziploc bag of freshly made fig cookies.
Fig cookies are as humble looking as their peasant origin. Formerly made on wooden countertops in the kitchens of old farmhouses, they look more like pucks of dough than prized treats.
The fact that they’re called Fig Cookies is kind of strange. They don’t contain figs. Maybe the earliest renditions did? Or perhaps figs were an expensive ingredient like they are today and so those wise cooks replicated the sweet flavor with prunes and raisins? Regardless of the reason, who really cares? These are amazing.
Inside the sweet and sour rounds there is a smooth date and raisin paste. Its flavor is reminiscent of port, sweet and aged. They made the cookies on Friday, the day after we arrived. Together they cleared the kitchen counter. They set out tri-colored raisins and a large container of dates. They pulled out a bin of flour and an old round cookie cutter. There was a large plastic mat made for rolling pastries and a good deal of teasing back and forth. (It’s nice to know after 42 years flirting isn’t just acceptable, it’s to be expected.)
And then they got to work. Gramps chopped and simmered. Gran rolled, cut, and filled. Then, we all waited while the cookies baked.
The four of us ate the cookies warm, right off cookie sheet. We ate them when they cooled with a slice of sharp cheddar cheese. We had them the next day from the plastic bag on the counter. And in the middle of the night, I snuck into the kitchen for another.
Like all good grandparents, they kept us well plied with sweets. Boise was delightful.
Fig Cookies from Gran and Gramps
Makes roughly 80 cookies
This makes a lot – I repeat A LOT – of dough. If you don’t need that many cookies, you can wrap the extra dough tightly in plastic wrap and freeze it.
9 – 10 cups flour
1 tsp salt
2 tsp baking soda
4 cups sugar
2 cups butter (or shortening)
2 tsp vanilla
2 cups sour cream
In a large bowl, whisk flour, salt and baking soda together. Set aside.
In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat butter and sugar until smooth and creamy.
Add eggs and vanilla, beating until just incorporated. With the mixer running, gradually add flour and sour cream in alternating intervals, scraping down the side of the bowl as needed.
Note: It’s totally reasonable to stop the mixer while adding the ingredients.
Let dough rest for at least an hour in the refrigerator.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Remove a large portion of the dough, roughly ¼. On a floured board, use a rolling pin to roll it until it’s ¼ inch thick. Cut 3-inch rounds with a floured cookie cutter.
Note: The opening of a wide lipped class will do in a pinch.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Arrange dough rounds evenly spaced on cookie sheet. Place 1 tsp filling in the center of each.
Note: A heaping tsp is always nice.
Then, place another round on top of the filling. Using your fingertips, press the edges together. Bake for roughly 27 – 29 minutes, until dough has risen slightly and is golden.
This makes a double batch. If there’s extra left over (there probably will be) it’s great stirred into yogurt or oatmeal. You can easily spread it on toast. Or, you might just eat it with a spoon.
2 cups raisins, ground in a food processor
2 cups dates, ground in a food processor
½ cup sugar
2 TBS flour
2 cups boiling water
Zest of ½ a lemon
Add all the ingredients to a large, heavy bottomed saucepot. Bring the pot to a simmer and stir frequently, until the mixture has thickened into a shiny paste.