One of my favorite and most used baking books is Baking with Julia. I grew up watching Julia Child cook on PBS in the 1970’s and 80’s and was thrilled to meet her on what must have been her last book tour, at Draeger’s in Menlo Park California shortly after the book was published in 1996. She bubbled with enthusiasm for baking and for each one of us spellbound by her presence.
I developed a taste for the less sweet, citrus rind and bittersweet chocolate studded flavors of Italian pastry after assisting Nick’s baking classes at Draeger’s, a regular escape from my job in software development back in the 1990’s. Although a tad time consuming, they aren’t difficult to make, and they last for a week or more. The flavors will not disappoint—dried figs, toasted almonds, bittersweet chocolate, held together with a few spoonfuls of orange marmalade and a splash of Cognac, encased in a biscuit-like dough. Thank you to Nick Malgieri for the original recipe, pp. 318-320 in Baking with Julia.
makes 5 dozen cookies; adapted from Nick Malgieri's original in Baking with Julia
- 4 cups all-purpose flour Wheat Montana blue bag
- ⅔ cup granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon Kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 8 ounces unsalted butter, cold and cut into 12 pieces 2 sticks
- 4 large eggs 2 ounces each
- 12 ounces dried white figs Calimyrna figs available in the bins at the Bozeman Coop
- ½ cup almonds, skin on (unblanched), toasted and coarsely chopped 3 ounces; 350° until fragrant, 8–10 minutes
- ½ cup orange marmalade Bon Maman
- 2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped Guittard
- 4 tablespoons Cognac, Bourbon, or dark rum optional
- ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
Powdered sugar for dusting finished cookies
Put the flour, salt, baking powder, sugar, and butter in a food processor and pulse until butter is cut into the dry ingredients, about 40 times.
Add the eggs and pulse until the dough forms a ball on the blade. If the dough is dry, your eggs might have been on the small side, so mix another egg in a small bowl with a fork and dribble in additional egg bit by bit, pulse, just until the dough comes together on the blade.
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured counter and knead briefly until it forms a smooth dough. Shape the dough into a log, wrap it in plastic wrap, and set aside while you make the filling. (Don't wash the food processor, as you can use it for the filling.)
Cut off the stems from the figs and quarter the fruit. Add to food processor along with the almonds, orange marmalade, chocolate, liquor, and cinnamon. Pulse until finely chopped. Scrape the filling onto a lightly floured surface and shape it into a log. Divide into 12 pieces.
Forming the Cookies
Preheat oven to 350°F and line baking sheet with a sheet of parchment or Silpat.
Pat or roll each dough piece into an approximate 12-inch by 3-inch rectangle. Roll a piece of filling into an equally long rope and place it on the dough. Bring up each side of the dough and pinch to seal. Roll to smooth and slightly elongate each cylinder, to about 15-inches. Cut into 2.5- to 3-inch lengths. Slash from each end to just shy of the midpoint then spread the "legs" to make an X.
Continue with each piece dough and filling.
Bake for 15–20 minutes, until golden brown and exposed filling is beginning to caramelize. Transfer to rack to cool then dust with powdered sugar.