Sonya Jones is the owner of Sweet Auburn Bread Company and the author of Sweet Auburn Desserts: Atlanta’s Little Bakery That Could.
Even while running a now-long-gone cafe called Cat’s Corner next to their home in southwest Atlanta, Jones’s mother, Catherine Johnson, fed daily meals to her family of ten using the abundance from her garden. Desserts were always in the house, and Jones often had a hand in baking peach and blackberry cobblers or apple pie. Come late summer, fresh figs—Jones’s favorite—came into season. With memories of the family fig tree and her mother’s pie-making technique as her guide, Jones came up with this versatile recipe: individual handheld pastries filled with fresh or dried figs, honey, a dab of cream cheese, and a touch of spice—similar to fried pies, only baked. Using plump, in-season figs yields turnoverlike treats perfumed with summery sweetness. Dried figs produce morsels akin to Fig Newtons, though with a much more sophisticated taste if you steep the fruit in bourbon.
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 ounces (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter
1 large egg
1/4 cup water
Fresh or dried fig filling:
3 cups diced fresh figs, or 12 ounces dried figs, diced
1/2 cup bourbon, orange juice, or water if using dried figs
3 tablespoons granulated sugar (plus additional for sprinkling)
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon grated fresh lemon zest
Fresh squeezed juice of 1/2 lemon
2 tablespoons honey
3 ounces cream cheese, cut in 12 slices
1. Make the crust: Combine flour and salt. Add butter and cut into flour mixture with a pastry blender or knives until mixture resembles coarse cornmeal. In a small bowl, beat the egg with the water. Sprinkle egg mixture over flour mixture.
Stir gently with a fork until mixture is evenly moistened; shape into a ball. Wrap and chill about 1 hour.
2. Make the filling: If using dried figs, place in a small saucepan with the bourbon, juice, or water. Bring to a simmer, turn off heat, and let stand at least 30 minutes, until liquid is absorbed. In a medium bowl, toss fresh or dried figs with sugar, flour, cinnamon, and lemon zest. Stir in lemon juice and honey.
3. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. On a floured surface, roll out half the pastry dough with a floured rolling pin to about 1/4-inch thickness. Cut out 6 rounds using a large (about 4-inch) cookie cutter or lid. Spoon filling onto half of the dough, leaving a 1/4- to 1/2-inch border. Top filling with a slice of cream cheese. Fold other side of dough over the filling to form a half moon; crimp edges together. Gently lift the pastries with a spatula onto a baking sheet. Repeat with other half of dough to make 12 pastries total. Sprinkle each with granulated sugar. Bake for 18 to 20 minutes, until lightly browned.
Photograph by Patrick Heagney
>> GALLERY: Watch Jones prepare the recipe