Ancient Egypt Inspired Fig and Date Swirl Cookies

With the holiday season in full swing and various book events and work projects on the table, I haven’t had a chance to do my Bonanza Cookie Baking Spree I do annually this time of year (I did barely manage to find time to make some Spritz Christmas cookies with my son, and some Turtle Brownies and Hidden Surprise Cookies that I make every year but that’s about it).

My son’s 2nd grade class had their Holiday Sing and holiday party last week, and winter break is here already!

His class has been studying Ancient Egypt all fall so the end of term potluck party theme was “Food Ancient Egyptians Might Have Eaten” (honey, pomegranites, figs, dates, etc.)  So with this in mind, I brought Fig and Date Swirl Cookies.

The recipe is based on a 2005 Gourmet recipe for Fig Swirls.  The original shape was an “S”, but the last time I made these, I found them to be too big and too delicate. So this time, I made mini swirls, which encourages people at a potluck (who also have glazed Dunkin’ Doughnut holes  as options!) to eat them, since they are bite sized!

I substituted a mixture of figs, dates, prunes, dried cranberries, and golden raisins instead of just all figs because that’s what I had on hand.  The resulting flavor was great and more complex than the fig only version.  So that was a happy surprise.  Another substitution I made was to use mascarpone cheese instead of cream cheese, because I didn’t have any cream cheese (can you see a theme here?)  I had heard it is possible to substitute these cheeses with each other in some cases.  It produced a rich buttery dough in this cookie.

Making these cookies reminded me of sushi.  You roll out the dough into two 10″ x 4″ ( because I wasn’t making “S” shapes) rectangles.  Cover each rectangle with fruit filling, leaving a border at the top.

The orange zest and cinnamon in the fruit filling is a wonderful addition!

Then you roll up the logs starting from the long side closest to you just like sushi.  You can wrap them in saran,  put them in a freezer bag, and freeze them at this point if you like.  I cut the rolls in half for easy storage.  When you are ready to bake them, just cut into slices and bake!

They are a perfect holiday cookie since you can make a batch in advance and make fresh batches as needed throughout the holiday season. 🙂

Fig and Date Swirl Cookies

Adapted from Gourmet 2005 (Fig Swirl Cookies)

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour

1/4 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, softened

4 oz cream cheese (or mascarpone cheese) at room temperature

1 large egg yolk

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 cup packed soft dried Mission figs or combination of figs and dates and other fruits (8 oz), hard tips discarded

3/4 cup mild honey

2 tablespoons fresh orange juice

2 teaspoons grated fresh orange zest

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Make dough:
Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a bowl. Set aside.

Pulse butter, cheese, yolk, and vanilla in a food processor until smooth, then add flour mixture and pulse until dough just forms a ball.

Halve dough and form each half into a roughly 6- by 2-inch rectangle. Chill, wrapped in plastic wrap, until firm, about 1 1/2 hours.

Make filling:
Purée figs and other dried fruit, honey, juice, zest, and cinnamon in cleaned food processor until almost smooth.

Make logs:
Roll out 1 piece of dough between 2 sheets of wax paper into a 10- by 4-inch rectangle (about 1/3 inch thick), long side facing you. Remove top sheet of wax paper and gently spread one half of fig mixture over bottom half of dough, leaving a 1/4-inch border. Using wax paper as an aid, roll dough, jelly-roll style enclosing fig mixture. Make another log. Chill logs, wrapped in wax paper, until firm, at least 4 hours.  I cut my logs in half so they would fit in the freezer at this point.

Bake cookies:
Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 375°F.

Cut logs crosswise into 1/3-inch-thick slices and arrange slices about 2 inches apart on parchment paper (don’t use Silpat!  My first batch stuck to it – perhaps I need a new mat… ). Bake until pastry is pale golden, 12 minutes. Transfer to racks to cool.


Filed under Children, Cookies, Desserts

19 responses to “Ancient Egypt Inspired Fig and Date Swirl Cookies

  1. “Yu,,y” is generally all I have to ay to you now, my friend! 🙂

  2. Thanks! I hope that is “yummy”, Bubba!

  3. Amy

    These sound amazing and they are so pretty! Figs and dates are two of my favorite sweet things that don’t need a lot of “sweetening” ;)! I love that you have substituted mascarpone in the recipe as well!

  4. so good, and a healthier holiday cookie option. i’m posting on sugar plums tomorrow, which is along the same lines!

  5. these look awesome! forget fig newtowns!

  6. These are beautiful. I have some leftover dried figs in the house…

  7. Karen

    Those look so good, that I copied the recipe and instructions. Thanks.

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  9. I would absolutely adore these – we always serve stuffed figs and dates on our cookie platter, but these treats are pretty on top! Great recipe.

  10. can I use fresh figs ?

    • I’ve never tried it, but I suspect that it would be too watery. It may work if you cook the figs first to reduce the water content. I would also add sugar, because the dried ones are so sweet. Let me know if you try it how it goes!

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  13. Barbara Breslin

    I’m looking forward to making these. My friend brought some home from Egypt. They’re lovely mass produced. I’m sure they’re amazing home made.

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