When my friend, Mary Beth, mentioned that she wanted to have a St. Joseph Altar in her home, all I had to hear was that it involved baking cookies. I baked hundreds of fig cookies in addition to 1,000 individual altar cookies of varying flavors. The time spent baking with Mary Beth and her 92-year-old grandmother was priceless. I watched her grandmother's skilled hands delicately create cookies all day long. Her invaluable tips have been incorporated into my recipe. As we shared baking tips, they were surprised to discover that I add a touch of black pepper and a splash of red wine to my fig filling. Even more shocking was that I occasionally use pre-packaged refrigerated pie crust for my pastry dough. The pie crust creates a thin layer of dough around the fig filling. Traditional fig cookies have thicker dough with less filling. Give me more filling, please!
I've had plenty of practice making these delicate treats with my home made pastry dough and with pre-packaged pie crust. The amount of time I have to make these cookies usually dictates which pastry crust I'll use. It's nice to know that I get good results with pre-packaged pie crust when I am limited on time, but you just can't beat home made pastry dough.
Pastry dough is rolled into a rectangular shape and divided into three strips. Fig filling is then spread on each strip of dough.
The dough is folded over the filling and moistened with water to create a seal with the overlapping dough. Cut into bite size cookies and placed on a baking sheet.
Bake the odd shaped end pieces, too.
When the cookies are lightly brown on the bottom remove from the oven and place on cooling racks.
Drizzle the glaze onto the warm cookies and sprinkle with non pareiles.
makes 8 dozen bite size cookies
1 recipe fig filling
2 pastry crusts or 3 pre-packaged refrigerated pie crust
6 cups powdered sugar
3/4 cup water
flour for dusting the rolling surface
8 ounces nonpareiles
1. Prepare fig filling and pastry crust. (Alternately, let pre-packaged pie crust sit at room temperature for 15 minutes, or until it easily unrolls without cracking.)
2. Line baking sheets with parchment or silicone mats. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
3. In a small bowl, stir together the powdered sugar and water to make the glaze. Set aside.
4. Using a rolling pin on a floured surface, roll the pastry crusts into 12x18-inch rectangles. Cut into three long strips roughly 4x18-inches each. (Alternately roll pre-packaged pie crusts into a 12x14 inch rectangle. Cut into 3 long strips roughly 4x14 inches each).
5. Spread about 2/3 cup of fig filling down the center of each strip. (alternately for the pre-packacked pie crusts, 5 tablespoons of fig filling down the center of each strip). Starting with the first strip topped with filling, fold one of the long edges of dough inward toward the center to enclose the filling.
6. After the first fold, use water to moisten the top of the first folded side. Lift the remaining side of dough and fold onto the moistened dough to overlap. Press down to create a seal.
7. Turn the filled and sealed dough seam-side down and cut crosswise into 1 1/2-inch-long cookies. (for the pre-packed pie crust, you should be able to cut about 8-10 cookies from each strip of filled dough). Arrange 1/2-inch apart on the prepared baking sheets. Refrigerate for 20 minutes.
8. Working in small batches because the cookies need to be glazed while warm, bake in the preheated oven until the bottom of the cookies are golden brown, 18-23 minutes.
9. Transfer to wire racks while warm. Place the rack over a sink or on a rimmed baking sheet to catch the drips of glaze. Working quickly, use a spoon to drizzle the glaze on one cookie and immediately sprinkle with non pairelles. Continue glazing and sprinkling the rest of the batch. Let the glaze set and the cookies cool completely before storing in an airtight container.