EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

January 25, 2013

Two recipes for sun-dried figs

Pat's Kitchen
Patricia Altomare

---- — Figs! I know I like them, fresh or dried, but I have not had the occasion to eat them very often.

Years ago, fig squares were around more than they are now, and I would pick them up at a bakery once in a while; and in my childhood there always seemed to be Fig Newton cookies in the house; but that was about it.

In the last couple of years, I have begun to see fresh figs (in season late August through September), in more recipes in magazines and on TV, as well as on menus in restaurants, especially when used in appetizers and hors d’oeuvres.

Dried figs appear to be gaining popularity fairly recently, mostly in baked goods.

I easily found them in the produce section with other dried fruits, and also saw them alongside dates and raisins.

The recipes I have for you today came highly recommended, and there is a bit of a story behind it. In October 2010 I did a Taste of Times video for an appetizer recipe, “Gorgonzola-Stuffed Figs.” In doing some research into fresh figs, their availability, when in season, etc. I located a website that had plenty of information, even providing telephone numbers that I could call with questions, which I did. My call was returned by a home economist who was delighted in my interest, and we ended up talking for quite a while about figs and baking. She sent me some great recipes, two of which are the recipes for today. She specifically urged me to make the German chocolate cake, telling me that her 15-year-old son had a sports function to attend, and a food contribution was expected. She and her son made the cakes below and they were a big hit. I took her advice, thrilled to see that the recipe starts out with a boxed mix. I always love to see that in a recipe; what a great shortcut.

And the orange-fig muffins are quick to put together on a weekend and enjoy all week.

January and February are my favorite months to bake and cook. It’s nice to feel the warmth from your oven and smell something good cooking in this cold weather. I like it that I am not rushed, as during the holidays. For me, it is relaxing and enjoyable.

German Chocolate Cake with Fig, Coconut and Toasted Pecan Frosting

Makes 2 single-layer cakes (I froze one of the layers and halved the topping)

Ingredients:

Cake:

1 package (181/4-ounce) German Chocolate Cake mix

Water (check package label for amount)

3 large eggs

Vegetable oil (check package label for amount)

Fig-Coconut Topping:

1 cup chopped, sun-dried figs

1 cup packed light brown sugar

1/2 cup butter

6 tablespoons whipping cream

1 cup flaked coconut

1/2 cup chopped, toasted pecans

Directions

1. Follow package directions to heat oven, grease two 8-inch round cake pans and prepare cake batter with water, eggs and oil. Bake and cool as directed.

2. For frosting, in medium saucepan combine figs, sugar, butter and cream. Stir over medium heat until mixture comes to a simmer. Simmer 1 minute, stirring constantly. Stir in coconut and pecans.

3. Spread warm frosting on top of cake layers, dividing evenly.

4. Place one layer at a time on a baking sheet or heatproof pan. Broil 4 to 5 inches from heat for 15 to 30 seconds, or until frosting bubbles, watching constantly. Remove from oven. Repeat with second layer. Cool.

5. Transfer cake layers to serving plates to serve.

Orange-Fig Muffins

Makes one dozen

Ingredients:

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup butter, softened

1 cup sugar

2 eggs

1 cup chopped, sun-dried figs

Zest of one orange

1 cup plain yogurt

In large bowl stir together flour, baking soda and salt. In large mixer bowl cream butter and sugar. Add eggs and beat until fluffy. Place figs and orange zest in food processor fitted with metal blade. Process until mixture forms a paste. Or, you can use a fork to mash and blend chopped figs and orange zest. Blend fig paste into creamed butter mixture; stir in yogurt. Add fig mixture all at once to dry ingredients and stir just until moistened. Divide batter among 12 large greased muffin cups.

Bake in 400 degree oven 15 to 17 minutes or until done.

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Patricia Altomare invites feedback. Email her at patakitchen@yahoo.com.

 

 

Fascinating Fig Facts

Fig trees have no blossoms on their branches.The blossom is inside of the fruit! Many tiny flowers produce the crunchy little edible seeds that give figs their unique texture.

Figs are fully ripened and partially dried on the tree.

Figs naturally help hold in moisture in baked items, keeping them fresher.

Fig puree can be used as a substitute for butter or shortening in baked items.

The two most commonly grown types of figs are the golden, slightly nutty-flavored calimyrna, and the dark purple, sweet mission.

The state of California produces 100 percent of the nation's dried figs and 98 percent of the fresh figs.

The priests at Mission San Diego originally planted figs in California in 1769. This is how the dark purple fig became known as "mission."

Early Olympic athletes used figs as a training food.

Figs were also presented as laurels to the winners, becoming the first Olympic "medal."

Figs made their first product appearance with the 1892 introduction of Fig Newton cookies.

The fig tree is a symbol of abundance, fertility and sweetness. Eating a half cup of figs has as much calcium as drinking a half cup of milk.