Day 2: Fig and Date Swirls

I first saw this recipe over on The Kitchn, where Faith Durand claimed it was her favorite cookie. I tend to like the recipes that Faith recommends, so I took this cookie seriously. She didn’t let me down, they are great. The Fig Newton-lovers of the world will be very pleased with these grown-up versions of those iconic treats.

Unlike the originals, these have contrasting textures that make them a little more sophisticated. The cream cheese dough is soft, but the sugar-coated edges gives them crunch. The inclusion of anise in the dough makes these particularly fragrant and your house smells amazing when they are baking. Also, they are really pretty. I would recommend freezing the dough before cutting so you end up with perfect little swirls. These would make a dramatic entrance to any cookie swap you might be attending.

Fig and Date Swirls (recipe from Gourmet)

  • 1 cup packed soft dried figs (8 oz), stemmed and coarsely chopped
  • 1 cup packed pitted dates (7 oz), trimmed and coarsely chopped
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons anise seeds, ground
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt (I did 1/2 teaspoon of kosher salt)
  • 1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, softened
  • 4 oz cream cheese at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1/4 cup granulated raw sugar such as turbinado or Demerara

Purée figs and dates with water and 2 tablespoons granulated sugar in a blender or food processor until almost smooth.

Whisk together flour, anise, baking powder and soda, and salt in a bowl. Beat together butter, cream cheese, and remaining 1/2 cup granulated sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer at moderate speed until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Beat in vanilla and yolk until combined well. Add flour mixture and mix at low speed until just combined.

Halve dough and form each half into a rectangle. Chill, wrapped in plastic wrap, until firm, about 1 hour.

Roll out 1 piece of dough between 2 sheets of wax paper into a 9- by 7-inch rectangle, about 1/3 inch thick. Remove top sheet of wax paper and drop half of fig mixture by spoonfuls onto dough, then gently spread in an even layer, leaving a 1/4-inch border around edges. Starting with a long side and using wax paper as an aid, roll up dough jelly-roll style into a log. Roll log in raw sugar to coat completely. Make another log in same manner. Chill logs, wrapped in wax paper, until firm, at least 4 hours. (I froze mine until fairly solid. It made them easier to cut.)

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Cut logs crosswise into 1/3-inch-thick slices and arrange slices about 2 inches apart on parchment baking sheets. Bake in batches in middle of oven until pale golden, 15 to 17 minutes, then transfer to racks to cool.

Makes about 3 dozen cookies. The cookies keep well for about a week.

Previously, on THE 12 DAYS OF COOKIES:

Day 1: Maple Pecan Cookies


30 comments to “Day 2: Fig and Date Swirls”

  1. Oh my god! I love figs and I love dates and here you go swirling them all together. This is definitely on my to-do list.

  2. Yep, So making these. So delicious sounding and so pretty!

  3. These look beautiful, wonder if you think they would turn out if I only used figs. (2 Cups)? So happy you are doing the cookie posts, they are my favorite. Thanks for such a great blog!!!!

  4. Yours are so much nicer than the photo from Gourmet. I made these about ten years ago and had forgotten all about them. Thanks for the tip on freezing the rolls. I’m definitely including them in my gift boxes this year.

  5. These are gorgeous! A serious upgrade from the Fig Newton. My husband would love these. Bookmarking for my next cookie-making spree.

  6. How divine! And a nice, light alternative to many Christmas cookies! What types of figs and dates did you use? I love medjool dates, but have some deglets that I need to use, so I’m hoping they will taste okay.

  7. Hi Emily! I think you could use any fig or date you liked the taste of. I used medjool dates and mission figs. I would also guess other dried fruit could work in here.

  8. Fancy! I baked fig bread this morning- just love the flavor + texture of fig puree. These cookies are great and I like the idea of anise for a more interesting flavor.

  9. Fantastic and skillful! These seem modern and rustic all at once. Looking forward to giving them a whirl.

  10. Yum! The fig + anise combination reminds me of the fig spread in Good to the Grain. I was skeptical because I’m not such a fan of licorice, but it turned out to be one of my favorite things so I’m sure I’ll love these.

  11. adore the sounds of this recipe…love figs & dates…i am with kartik!

  12. Your swirls are so cute.

  13. So beautiful! My grandma makes date pinwheels every year for Christmas; these look like a more sophisticated version of her homey favorites. I will definitely have to give these a whirl this year. Thanks for sharing!

  14. My Grandma, too, made these sans the anise seed which is ian inspired touch! I look forward to working some new treats into the repertoire, so thanks for all this inspiration, Tim!

  15. Tim, my Dad will love these. I cannot wait to try them out. I loved your 12 days of cookies last year and every year I too go a bit gaga with the cookie production. I think it was about that many, plus some fleur de sel caramels because I am just a sucker for yummy hard work. Each year I keep about 80% of my traditional cookies and audition new ones to see if they make the cut. This one is going to be auditioned tonight or tomorrow. Thanks!

  16. These are so pretty and I bet they taste even better than they look! My dad is the cookie monster of the family and is particularly fond of fig newtons — I might have to make these when I’m home for Christmas! Also: breakfast was so much fun the other day! I could get seriously used to a little whiskey in the morning-time : )

  17. I really loved your 12 days of cookies last year and am so glad you’re doing it again. I can’t wait! The Maple Pecan Cookies have already been added to my list of cookie giftbags for Christmas.

  18. Everywhere I move these cookies are staring right at me…I always wonder how artists do that…and I’m such a sucker for fair skin and piercing dark eyes! These summon an appetite even if mine was in the middle of a food coma nap. I will definitely be tuning in for the remainder of this cookie ride into Christmas!

  19. Fig rolls happen to be one of my favourite biscuits, now I can make them myself I shall be doing so on a regular basis……Great!!

  20. I love pulling out my old Gourmet holiday issues this time of year. Just today, I stumbled across this very recipe in the December 2001 Gourmet (originally published Sept. ’96). The fig swirls look, and sound, amazing. Really enjoying this cookie series, Tim! xo

  21. Made these with all figs (2 cups) and no anise (sorry — very finicky eaters in my house), They are awesome (and would be more sophisticated if I could put in the anise). They do require a bit of work — a fussy cookie as my mom would call it — but SOOOOO worth it. Totally a show stopper. Thank you!!! Yet another winning recipe, especially for my Irish relatives, who love their fig newtons.

  22. These are sooo good! I love anise–(a must in Italian homes, especially if you make pizelle!). Lebanese friends who came to my Christmas party said they were very similar to cookies they make and took a couple of extras home. These are definitely keepers.

  23. Tim! I am making a grocery list now so I can go to the store and spend the rest of the afternoon making cookies! And I’m going with THESE and also either the almond ones, or the poppy/honey ones! Thank you soooooo much for offering such tasteful, delicious cookies! You are a star and these recipes totally hit the spot for me!

    BUT I have a burning question. I don’t have an electric mixer. I usually never let that stop me and forge onward with any recipe, sure that my own arm can do the trick. But sometimes it can’t and I have a fail (see: buttercream). Do you think these cookies (and the others) would work without a mixer? Thanks, Tim!!

  24. Hi Mary Anne- Fun! I am excited you are making cookies. Yes, I think the Fig and Date you can manage without a mixer, as long as you have a blender or food processor for the fruit. The only one that might give you trouble is the almond cookies, but I am not sure. It might be a challenge incorporating the egg into the almond paste by hand. Everything else you can totally make by hand. Thanks for the nice message, i am glad you enjoyed the cookie posts. (and thanks for defending me from Ian!)

  25. Thanks, Tim! I just got back from Whole Foods and came to same conclusion as you. So, I’m going with the Fig/Date Swirls and the Honey/Poppy Seeds! Yumm! I’ll let you know how they turn out.

    I’m home in Chicago right now for the holidays! How about this warm weather?? So weird/awesome! Also, I am suuuuper jealous that you and Amelia are meeting up!!! That is sooooo RAD.

  26. Yes, it has been the warmest December I can remember. We’re all feeling very lucky.
    I am so excited to hang out with Amelia! Next time you are in Chicago, let me know and we can meet up at Floriole for some cookies and coffee. Enjoy your visit, and your cookie making.

  27. I sent my mom a link to this recipe and asked her to make them for me for Christmas. Because she’s awesome, the dough was ready to slice and bake last night. We rolled them in colored sugar crystals to be especially festive. They are awesome buttery delicious and I have gained about 3 lbs in cookie since I arrived home for the holidays. (48 hours ago. That’s a lot of cookie weight.) Thanks!

  28. Thanks for the freezer tip. Two days ago I finally baked a batch of these after forgetting about the recipe for ten years. They are truly delicious and shouldn’t just be a Christmas treat.

  29. These cookies are fantastic – not too sweet and perfectly tender. Based on some of the other comments I expected them to be a lot of work, but they were really simple to make. Freezing the rolled up and filled dough before slicing really helped keep the swirls pretty.

  30. Forgot to mention, I skipped the anise seed (didn’t have any) and used a little orange extract in the dough. Mmmm.

What do you think?