This is particularly good timing: our fig tree is currently being generous with its fruit and the technical challenge for Episode 2 of The Great British Bake Off is that classic crowd-dividing biscuit: the fig roll.
I love figs, and fig rolls are very much a taste of my childhood. They are not biscuits I make often, and they are certainly not the prettiest of biscuits, but they are gorgeous to eat. So with fig rolls popping up on GBBO it was a good excuse to re-visit them.
A slightly stale Bake Off?
I still very much enjoy Bake Off, but so far this series is somewhat “off” for me and it’s almost going through the motions.
Maybe for me it’s the continued presence of the insufferably pompous Paul Hollywood who, if it were not for Prue, Sandi and Noel, almost sucks the joy out of proceedings!
However, despite my wavering views on Bake Off, the bakers are the real heart of the show: their personalities are now staring to shine, there are characters to root for and there have been some exciting bakes so far.
Fig rolls: a blast from the past
The pastry is soft, yet crumbly, and slightly sweet: almost like shortbread. The filling has a hint of rose and honey, with a kick of lemon that cuts through the sweetness.
This is one of the many recipes which was passed down to me many decades ago and which I have adapted slightly over the years.
The pastry can be made a day or two ahead, as can the fig filling, so make either when you are ready so that it is merely a matter of assembling and baking.
The fig filling
This is a wonderful compote. You can use a mixture of both fresh and dried figs, or use all of one type. It is then simply a matter of boiling the ingredients until it becomes a gorgeously sticky pulp. You can then flavour it further if you want: here I added a little rose water and some crushed pistachios.
The fig filling also makes a great condiment in its own right: used instead of jam to be served with scones, for example, or mixed with whipped cream as a filling for a cake.
The shaping and the cutting!
You essentially make 2 long sausage rolls with the pastry and the filling and then it is up to you how you shape.
For fig rolls that resemble the commercial ones (but taste much nicer!), you pat down the rolls to flatten them slightly – as in the photo below. Or just leave them as they are.
Contrary to what I do with sausage rolls, however, I prefer to bake the 2 long “sausages” first and then cut them into individual biscuits. As opposed to cutting them into individual biscuits before baking – but this is merely a personal preference.
Recipe: fig rolls – makes about 14
- 170g plain flour
- 60g plain wholemeal flour
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 30g caster sugar
- generous pinch of salt
- 140g chilled unsalted butter, diced
- 2 egg yolks (you can freeze the whites for meringues or macarons!)
- about 50ml cold milk
Fig compote filling
- 300g figs of choice, fairly well chopped (dried “ready to eat” figs, fresh figs or a combination)
- juice and finely grated zest of 1 small lemon
- 80ml water
- 60g light demerara sugar (or any sugar)
- 2 tablespoons runny honey
- 1/2 teaspoon sweet cinnamon (or mixed spice)
- a few drops of rose water to taste – but go sparingly
- a couple of tablespoons of crushed pistachios, optional
- icing sugar for dusting
MAKING THE FILLING:
(1) Put the filling ingredients, apart from the rose water and the pistachios, into a pan and bring to a simmer.
(2) Put a lid on and cook over a medium heat until soft, removing the lid after about 10 minutes so the excess moisture can evaporate and give a soft, sticky mass of figgy gorgeousness: stir from time to time to prevent it burning. About 10 more minutes should do it.
(3) Add a little rose water (half a teaspoon first) and taste to check it is subtle enough but present. Add more if you think it needs it – but go sparingly. Mix in the pistachios and leave to cool fully.
Making the pastry :
(1) Put the flours, baking powder, sugar and salt into the bowl of a food processor and give it a quick whizz. Add the butter and pulse just until you have a mixture resembling fine breadcrumbs: as with shortcrust pastry.
(2) Add the egg yolks and just enough milk to bring it together into a soft but not sticky dough. Stop as soon as the mixture starts to form a ball in the food processor.
(3) Wrap the dough in clingfilm or greaseproof and pat into a rough rectangle. Chill for about 30 minutes or so.
Assemble and bake:
(1) Heat the oven to 160C(fan) and place a sheet of greaseproof on a large baking tray.
(2) Remove the pastry from the fridge and turn it onto a lightly floured surface roll it out to a rectangle about 35cm by 20cm: don’t worry if it is not a perfect rectangle. Because the dough was flattened out when it went into the fridge, there is very little rolling out to do: which makes life easier with this enriched dough.
(3) Cut the pastry lengthwise down the middle to give 2 strips of dough, each about 35cm by 10cm.
(4) With the long edge of the dough strips facing you, spoon or pipe the filling down the centre of each, right along the length. Brush water lightly down one of the long edges of each.
(5) Lift the pastry over the filling to meet on the top and press firmly enough to seal. Gently turn the logs over so the seal is underneath.
(6) Transfer the logs to the baking sheet and either leave them as they are or press the back of a fork along the top to make an indent and slightly flatten. Bake for about 20 minutes or until the pastry shows no damp patches: you want to keep the pastry as pale as possible so don’t let it take on too much colour.
(7) Remove to a cooling rack and after about 10 minutes, while they are still a little warm, use a serrated bread knife to cut them into individual biscuits: 4-5 cm or so long. Dust with icing sugar.