Do you twist Oreos apart and eat the filling by itself? Doing the same filling finagling maneuver with Fig Newtons is a lot messier but I can’t help it. The is-it-cake-or-is-it-cookie sawdust exterior merely gets in the way of fig enjoyment by jamming itself in between teeth and up roofs of mouth. It’s nothing more than a bland delivery device for the sweet interior if you ask me.
I only want the fig filling. This classic Spanish method for preserving and spicing figs satisfies that need and soundly beats anything an automatic fig extruder can produce.
Unlike Oreo filling, which is basically shortening creamed with sugar, figs and almonds are the main ingredients in pan de higo so it also has a lot going for it in the nutritional value department. Both are packed with nutrients — figs are rich in fiber and almonds supposedly keep you smart. Compare with the effects of eating massive amounts of sweetened semisolid fat: sugar high, crash, guilt, and depression, most likely in that order.
Think Spice… Think Anise Seed, Cinnamon, and Cloves
hosted by Sunita’s World
recipe adapted from The Gilded Fork
Pan de Higo
Spanish Fig Cake
makes 1 large loaf or 8 mini fig cakes
cinnamon, cloves, anise seeds, sesame seeds, and dried mission figs
1 pound dried figs, stemmed
1/2 cup almonds
2 tablespoons whole sesame seeds
1/2 teaspoon whole anise seeds
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
a pinch of ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon honey
brandy, as needed
- Almond meal is a good substitute for the 1/2 cup of whole almonds. Toast about 5 ounces of almond meal on a dry skillet briefly and use in place of the whole almonds.
- I only needed about 2-3 tablespoons of brandy to bring everything together. If my mom’s fruit cake making wisdom is accurate, the alcohol acts as a natural preservative.
Toast the almonds in a dry skillet and grind in a food processor or spice grinder. Pulse gently until roughly chopped, keeping the almonds from turning into a paste.
Using a food processor or two Chinese cleavers (guess which method I used), mince the stemmed figs until a rough paste is formed.
Mix the figs with the ground toasted almonds, sesame seeds, anise seeds, ground cloves, and ground cinnamon.
Add the honey and a few tablespoons of brandy to the fig mixture. Knead until a smooth and pliant ball is formed. The fig mixture will be crumbly but keep kneading until the ingredients are evenly incorporated. Add more brandy as needed.
Form the fig mixture into a loaf shape or use a muffin pan as a mold to form 8 single-serving fig cakes:
Let stand in a cool and dry place for 2-3 days before serving. The anise seeds, cinnamon, and cloves will mellow and meld together nicely, serving as a nice accent to the sweet figs and toasted almonds.
Serve with Manchego cheese or with any cheese platter. I prefer dipping pan de higo slices in honey and then in ground toasted almonds.