I’ve always liked fig squares. They usually consist of two layers of semi-flaky pastry with a sweet fig filling. Some have just a taste of fig and with others the stuff is oozing out. Either way, I can’t resist eating more of them than I should. When I was a kid we used to get them at Kennedy’s Bakery right at the top of our street. That’s when fresh doughnuts were 7 cents each and a half-dozen of iced cinnamon rolls were about 50 cents. My brother and I would hang out at the open back door of the bakery on summer mornings and just watch and smell as the baker performed his magic.
About 12 years ago I came across an after-Christmas bargain in my local grocery. They had trays of figs that were marked down to about $1 or less per package. A pack usually is about 9-15 ounces in weight. It consists of about 20 figs wrapped up in a tight circle. Well, I bought a bunch of them and delivered them to my dad who was retired and looking for something to do. He took those figs and changed them into fig squares and then delivered them to family members including me. They were great! He had learned how to make traditional flaky pastry crust that was perfectly tasty.
My dad has been gone about 9 years now and good fig squares are difficult to come by. The local grocery and bakeries sometimes have them but I really think the average $2 per square is a bit pricey. I decided to be on the lookout for some post-Christmas figs and luckily I found some for only $1.50 per bunch at my local Ocean State Job Lot store. I got the very vague recipe from my mom (now 92 years old) and tried my hand at making those delicious fig squares. The result was well worth the work. They are every bit as good as the store-bought ones. So far I have tried two batches. The first time my wife bought me some frozen flaky pastry. I was able to make about half a pan of very thick squares with that. I believe she paid about $4 for the pastry. For my next try I just made two regular pie crusts using the old Crisco recipe. The result was not as neat but tasted just as good. I did not try to make correct flaky pastry (cold butter chopped into pastry, etc.) because I wanted to do something easy. Cooking is not a hobby with me. It is a means to an end.
I have presented here my recipe (based on dad’s). The primary options are what you use for the pastry. I prefer the pie crust. It’s easy and inexpensive.
Quick and Easy Fig squares
Prepare the Filling
Cut off and discard stems of figs from two circular bunches of figs.
Place figs in small pan and cover with water.
Add 1 half cup of sugar for each 9-14 oz bunch / package of figs that you use. So, one cup of sugar for two bunches.
Boil for 12 minutes then put figs through
a grinder (reserve liquid in pan).
To the water that is left in pan, add two
tablespoons of corn starch and heat.
Remove from heat when it boils.
Mix with figs.
Prepare the Pastry
Make two ordinary pie crusts, one for the top and one for the bottom. The Crisco© recipe works well. Another recipe that looks great is the All Butter Pie Crust by Jen Miller. Her recipe is a version of flaky crust that looks pretty easy to make. The illustrated instructions are very well done.
Roll the pie crusts as thin as possible. You may have to patch together rectangular pieces to cover the pan.
These will easily cover a 15” x 10” baking sheet.
(Alternate Methods: purchase a frozen pastry or make flaky pastry from scratch)
Line the baking sheet with the pastry (pie crust)
Spoon on the filling. Use the amount you want. If you spread it a little thin you will get at least two full baking sheets. If you put it on very thick you may get one sheet.
Cover the filling with the top crust and seal the edges.
Bake at 350° for 25-30 minutes. Check often. Remove early if necessary. A very light brown color indicates doneness.
Cut into squares of the size you like best.
Here are a few photographs of the process:
If you try these let me know how they came out. If you have suggestions or comments you can use the form that follows this blog to submit them.
Two last items: I lined the baking tray with parchment paper for the first batch. I did not use the paper or any lard for the second batch. Neither stuck to the pan. That could be because I used too much Crisco in my recipe. Also, I recommend you refrigerate the squares for several hours before eating. They are much better when fully cooled.