People ask me all the time – how do you make money from blogging? It’s never an easy question to answer because there is no one method that works for everyone and some of us just write food blogs for the pure love of it. But with this post, I have an opportunity to show you one way that I can be compensated for my work and provide value to my readers and the brand I’m representing. And how did this partnership come about? Through Casey Benedict of KitchenPLAY who matches brands and bloggers to achieve effective marketing results.
One of the many benefits of my recent experience attending the PMA Fresh Summit Conference and Expo was the chance to support the fruit and vegetable industry and work directly with some of the brands. I was so happy to be asked to be a brand ambassador for Sun-Maid/Valley Fig Growers. The little Sun-Maid red boxes of raisins are a happy memory from my childhood and as a proponent of eating real food, I love that the ingredients are just sunshine and grapes.
As for figs – well you’ve heard me singing the praises of fresh figs on this blog and now we can discuss what to do with their dried counterpart. Like the dates I’ve been crowing about recently, dried figs pack a punch of sweetness along with many nutritional benefits. Did you know that figs are an excellent source of dietary fiber, potassium, iron and calcium, and are rich in healthy antioxidants and complex carbohydrates? AND, they taste great.
Luckily, dried figs boast versatility as an attribute as well. They are terrific right out of the package as a snack, but the possibilities for incorporating them into any meal of the day are endless. Be sure to check out Valley Fig’s extensive recipe collection on their website. Since holiday season is upon us, my mind wandered to entertaining and my one area of struggle – what to serve as an appetizer?
A couple of years ago I posted about an orange thyme cocktail cookie inspired by Dorie Greenspan. One of Dorie’s original flavor combinations was dried apricot and tarragon. So I started to think about dried figs instead of apricot and then considered what to match with them. My first attempt used sherry-soaked figs with lemon zest and rosemary. Surprisingly, lemon, sherry, and figs go quite nicely together. But the rosemary was a bit overpowering and there were not enough figs. For round 2, at the suggestion of my testers, I used orange zest instead of lemon, less rosemary, added some finely chopped pecans, and increased the figs. Bingo!
A little more about the recipe – It uses olive oil and butter for the fat. If you have an orange-infused olive oil that would be ideal but any mild flavored extra-virgin olive oil will do. Dorie Greenspan has a wonderful technique for infusing flavor in the dough by incorporating zests and herbs right into the sugar. It’s easy and ensures the flavors are well incorporated throughout the dough. I used scalloped edge cookie cutters to cut these out – it’s a nice touch but any cookie cutter will do. The recipe will yield more or less cookies depending on the size of your cutter. I experimented with bite size cookies this time – and liked that approach. Have fun with these and try many different sizes.
For serving – not only will these be a surprising offering with a glass of sherry, wine, or cocktail for holiday guests, but it turns out they work really well with a cup of tea! According to Annelies Zijderveld who is the author of a Spring 2015 cookbook called Steeped: Recipes Infused with Tea, they would work well with a Keemun black tea or a Yunnan – both are brisk black teas, the Yunnan has a bit of smoke to it.
I also reduced the sherry soaking liquid down to a syrup. Try a dab of that on your crisp. Or create a platter with a mild goat cheese or ricotta, the crisps, the sherry reduction, some more dried figs and roasted pecans. Or step it up another notch and try Valley Fig Growers new line of fig spreads. The orange fig spread would be particularly good with these.
And finally, since the holidays are hectic, make-ahead anything is always a good strategy. This dough can be made ahead, rolled out between wax or parchment paper, and frozen or refrigerated so all you have to do is cut out and bake the cookies for your big day. If you bake them the day before you plan to eat them, be sure to keep them in an air-tight container until needed.
Nov 1 – Nov 7, 2014 is National Fig Week! For even more holiday fig ideas, join Valley Fig and America’s Test Kitchen for a Twitter party on Wednesday, November 5 at 4 PM Eastern. Follow them at @valleyfig and @TestKitchen with the hashtag #DressUpTheBird.
And be sure to check out my fellow ambassadors’ posts about figs:
Roasted Sweet Potatoes with Dried Figs from Megan on the blog Stetted
Fig and Chocolate Oat Bars from Cristina on the blog TeenieCakes
- ⅔ cup finely chopped black mission or golden dried figs (I used golden)
- ½ cup dry sherry
- 1 ½ teaspoons finely chopped fresh rosemary leaves
- 1 tablespoon orange zest (zest of 1 medium orange)
- ½ cup sugar
- 1 stick unsalted butter, softened
- 1 large egg yolk
- ⅓ cup extra-virgin olive oil – orange-infused if you have it
- ¾ teaspoon sea salt
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- ⅓ cup finely chopped toasted pecans (will work without them but they are a nice addition)
- Place chopped figs and sherry in a microwaveable bowl or measuring cup and microwave for 1 minute. Let them cool and soak up the flavor while you prep everything else.
- In a small bowl, rub the rosemary and zest into the sugar until the sugar is moist and aromatic.
- In a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter with the orange rosemary sugar at low speed until creamy. Beat in the egg yolk until just combined, about 1 minute. Slowly drizzle in the olive oil and beat until smooth. Add the salt and flour and nuts and beat until just incorporated.
- Drain and pat the figs dry and sprinkle just a touch of flour on them, mixing it around. It helps soak up excess liquid and helps them incorporate into the flour. Fold them into the dough by hand.
- Turn the cookie dough out onto a work surface (I put it right on some parchment paper) and knead until it just comes together. Divide the dough in half and press each half into a disk. Roll out each disk between 2 sheets of wax or parchment paper to about ¼ inch thick. (if you make them thinner – you will need to adjust your cooking time downward accordingly) Slide the parchment paper–covered disks onto a baking sheet and freeze for at least 1 hour, until very firm or refrigerate for several hours or even a day or two.
- Preheat the oven to 350° and line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper. Working with one piece of cookie dough at a time, peel off the top sheet of parchment paper. Using a 1½-inch round cookie cutter or any size you choose, stamp out the cookies as close together as possible. Arrange the cookies 1 inch apart on the prepared baking sheets.
- Bake bite size cookies for about 15 minutes, larger versions closer to 20 -- until they are lightly golden; shifting the baking sheets from top to bottom and front to back halfway through. Let the cookies cool on the baking sheets for 3 minutes, then transfer them to a wire rack to cool completely.
- The baked cookies can be kept in an airtight container for up to 2 days.
Disclaimer: This post is part of my Team Fresh Summit ambassadorship. I received figs for the purposes of review and recipe development and was compensated for this post.