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Fig Rolls with Wholemeal Spelt Biscuit Pastry

Platter of homemade fig rolls with a half eaten one on a blue plate.

Biscuits, British | 10th September 2019 | By

Recipe for classic fig rolls (aka fig newtons), but made with wholemeal spelt flour. The fig paste is lightly spiced and gently sweetened and the pastry casing is delicious in its own right with subtle notes of lemon. These biscuits are easier to make than you might think.

Fig rolls are one of those biscuits that divide opinion. They have a Marmite, love them or hate them quality. Needless to say I’m in the appreciative camp. So, I was delighted that Paul Hollywood chose these childhood treats for the technical challenge on Great British Bake Off last week. I was surprised he chose such an easy challenge, but I’m not complaining. Finally, it gave me the oomph required to bake these delicious cookies. They have been on my must try list for years.

Great British Bake Off

Every year I try and make something from the current series of the Great British Bake Off. Last year I made a spinach and lemon cake for #CakeWeek. It was my super simple version of Le Gâteau Vert and most delicious it was too. Amongst other recipes, I’ve also made chocolate Viennese whirls, triple chocolate bread and Black Forest gâteau. This year it was the fig rolls in #BiscuitWeek that grabbed my attention.

But it’s #BreadWeek tonight, so who knows, I might be inspired all over again.

Fig Rolls

Fig rolls are a classic British biscuit – or so I thought. Turns out, they originated in ancient Egypt. The commercial variety that we know and sometimes love were first produced in 1891 by Charles Roser from Philadelphia in the United States. He patented the automated process which was almost immediately bought by the Kennedy Biscuit Company. Fig rolls are known as fig newtons in the States, so called as the factory that made them was in Newton, Massachusetts. I can’t find out when the fig roll came to the UK, but suffice to say, it’s been around for quite a long time.

There is some dispute as to whether fig rolls are a cake or a biscuit. I think this might be because fig newton casings are softer and more cake like, whilst ours are crumbly and more biscuit like. But in the UK, fig paste is encased in an enriched sweet pastry and chopped into small flattened rectangles. This makes it a biscuit in my book. Plus you’ll find them in the biscuit aisle in shops and supermarkets not the cake aisle.

I’ve made a figgy bread roll in the past, but had completely forgotten about it until I started writing this post. The filling for that is a bit more elaborate than for these fig rolls, but it’s another fun bake to make.

Fig rolls cooling on a wire rack.

Fig Roll Adventures

My mother was quite strict when it came to sweet treats. Well, apart from her famous puddings. She certainly didn’t believe in buying biscuits anyway. My introduction to fig rolls came when I first went to stay with a friend of my mother’s at the age of seven. She lived on a remote Cornish smallholding which you could only reach by tractor or by walking a mile down a steep and sometimes treacherous path. She didn’t have a tractor, so walking it was.

The house had no electricity and in those early days, no running water either. I used to love staying there, it always felt like a real adventure. Down to the well to collect water and to bed by candlelight. Anyway, once a week, a grocery van used to stop at the top of the aforementioned path just so she could catch up on supplies. And one of those supplies was always a packet of fig rolls.

Many’s the time we made that journey across the river and up the track. We had to cross an old rickety wooden bridge and I always wondered if I’d make it safely across before it collapsed into the turgid water below. But it was always worth it. Those fig rolls were such a treat.

Wholemeal Spelt Fig Rolls

I found lots of recipes for fig rolls, both online and in some of my baking books. But in the end I based mine on the Paul Hollywood recipe that the bakers used on #GBBO. His was simpler than most, used less sugar and seemed more like the “real” thing. Obviously I changed it somewhat. I added a few extra spices, changed the method to make it easier and used wholemeal spelt flour for my pastry casing. Oh, and I swapped Paul’s vanilla for lemon zest in the biscuit dough.

Baking tray of fig rolls just out of the oven.

Fig Paste Filling

The fig filling is really easy to make. It’s just a question of bunging all of the ingredients into a pan, then simmering them and blitzing. It’s best to do this bit first so the fig paste can cool and firm up whilst you’re getting on with making the pastry.

I didn’t have any stem ginger, so I used some crystallised ginger as I always have a jar of that to hand. Although I adore cinnamon, I thought the quantity Paul used might overpower the other flavours, so I used less of this and added a pinch of ground cloves and a grating of nutmeg instead.

Making the Biscuit Dough

Although the dough casing is more like pastry than a snappy biscuit, it’s made using the creaming method rather than the rubbing in one. It’s very straightforward. I just use a bowl and wooden spoon for this, but you can use a handheld or stand mixer if you prefer.

When it came to rolling the pastry out, I found I made a larger rectangle than the one Paul stipulated in his recipe. Perhaps this is why I made sixteen fig rolls rather than only twelve. In order to make a neat (ish) rectangle I cut ragged bits off the edges and pressed them into the sides which weren’t quite wide enough. The dough is quite malleable, so this wasn’t difficult. I wasn’t going to waste any of it, that’s for sure.

Filling the Fig Rolls

This was the bit, I felt, where it could all go hideously wrong. But it didn’t. It was all a lot easier than I was expecting. The wholemeal spelt pastry cracks quite easily, so don’t expect your fig rolls to look perfectly smooth. Mine certainly weren’t. But then I like a homemade look.

I baked mine for fifteen minutes as I wanted to ensure the biscuit dough was properly cooked. Plus I wanted them to look properly golden. But if you prefer a paler fig roll, try baking for twelve minutes instead.

Finished Fig Rolls

Once baked, the fig rolls just need to cool, then they can be eaten or stored in a tin until needed. They’ll last a few days, but the pastry gets steadily softer as the days go on. Having said that, this batch lasted five days and the biscuit dough held together just fine. I took one in to work with my packed lunch on day two and another on day four. They’re quite substantial, so I reckoned one was enough. As for the rest, CT and I polished the lot off at home.

Platter of fig rolls with a half eaten one on a blue plate.

I doubt Paul would have been impressed by the unevenness of my bakes, but I was delighted with the result. They tasted much as I remember them and CT thought so too. Only better, because they were homemade, healthier and bigger.

Other Classic Biscuit Recipes You Might Like

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Homemade Fig Rolls. PIN IT.

Platter of homemade fig rolls.

Platter of homemade fig rolls with a half eaten one on a blue plate.
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5 from 9 votes

Fig Rolls with Wholemeal Spelt Biscuit Pastry.

Recipe for classic fig rolls (aka fig newtons), but made with wholemeal spelt flour. The fig paste is lightly spiced and gently sweetened and the pastry casing is delicious in its own right with subtle notes of lemon.
Prep Time45 mins
Cook Time15 mins
Cooking Fig Paste10 mins
Total Time1 hr 10 mins
Course: Afternoon Tea, Snack
Cuisine: British
Keyword: biscuits, cinnamon, cookies, figs, ginger, pastry, wholemeal spelt flour
Servings: 16 biscuits

Ingredients

Fig Paste

  • 200 g dried soft figs Can use dried hard figs, but will need to cook them for longer.
  • 20 g crystalised ginger Can substitue for a large ball of stem ginger in syrup.
  • 20 g muscovado sugar I used dark muscovado.
  • ½ tsp ground cinnamon
  • pinch of ground cloves
  • grating of nutmeg

Biscuit Dough

  • 60 g unsalted butter - softened
  • 40 g light muscovado sugar
  • pinch of fine sea salt
  • ½ lemon - zested (optional)
  • 175 g wholemeal spelt flour
  • tsp baking powder
  • 1 medium egg

Instructions

Fig Paste

  • Place the figs in a small saucepan and add enough water to just cover them. Add the ginger and sugar.
  • Bring to the boil, then simmer, stirring occassionaly for about 8 minutes or until the figs are cooked through and the water has evaporated.
  • Add the dried spices and purée with a stick blender or mini food processor until you have a rough paste. Leave to cool and firm up.

Biscuit Dough

  • Cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Add the salt and lemon zest and cream some more.
  • Beat in the egg.
  • Sift in the flour and baking powder and mix until it's mostly incorporated. Bring it all together with your hands to form a soft dough. If it's really soft, you may want to cover it and place in the fridge for 30 minutes to firm up. But you shouldn't need to do this.
  • Heat the oven to 200℃ (400℉, Gas 6).
  • On a floured surgace, roll out the dough to a rectangle measuring 21cm by 27cm. It should be about 4mm thick. Cut lenghtways into two strips measuring 10 1/2 cm by 27cm.
  • Spoon half of the fig mixture down the middle of one strip and the rest down the middle of the other strip. Neaten it up with your fingers, if needed.
  • Bring the two sides of each strip of pastry up to join in the middle and roughly crimp with your fingers to seal.
  • Turn the rolls over so the seem is at the bottom and cut each one into eight equal sized pieces.
  • Line a baking sheet with baking paper (or silicone mat) and gently transfer the rolls, placing a little apart. With a fork, press each one gently down to flatten it slightly and to add a pattern on the top.
  • Bake for 12-15 minutes until golden. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

Notes

Can keep for up to a week in a sealed container, though the pastry will soften.

Sharing

I’m sharing my wholemeal spelt fig rolls with Jo’s Kitchen Larder and Apply to Face Blog for #BakingCrumbs. I’m also sending them to #CookBlogShare, which is hosted this week by Everyday Healthy Recipes.

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26 Comments

  1. angiesrecipes

    11th September 2019 at 5:16 am

    I need to make a HUGE batch too since we adore figs! Yours look incredibly delicious.

    Reply
    • Choclette

      11th September 2019 at 10:15 am

      Thanks Angie. They’re really good and as biscuits go, these aren’t too unhealthy.

      Reply
  2. Donna

    11th September 2019 at 2:09 pm

    They look great! I’m not sure I’ve ever eaten a fig roll? I’m going to try some!

    Reply
    • Choclette

      11th September 2019 at 2:50 pm

      Never eaten a fig roll? I am shocked Donna. They’re dead easy to find. Let me know what you think of them.

      Reply
  3. Lesley

    11th September 2019 at 4:18 pm

    I must give these a try as I loved these as a kid. I like anything contains figs! Thank you also for including our recipe in this great roundup.

    Reply
    • Choclette

      11th September 2019 at 7:23 pm

      It’s strange that I don’t buy them now. They seem very much a childhood treat somehow.

      Reply
  4. Janice

    12th September 2019 at 11:44 am

    These look just fantastic and are definitely on my list of bakes to try. I love fig rolls and have since childhood, but have never even thought of trying to make them. Thanks too for including a link to my Scottish Shortbread.

    Reply
    • Choclette

      13th September 2019 at 8:48 am

      Thanks Janice. They were easier than I was expecting and so good. Well worth the effort. And you can’t have a classic British biscuit post without Scottish shortbread.

      Reply
  5. GUNJAN C Dudani

    12th September 2019 at 8:09 pm

    We all love fig rolls in my family. I always get it from the store but I am glad to have found your recipe. I am definitely trying these at home.

    Reply
    • Choclette

      13th September 2019 at 8:50 am

      It’s a lot easier to buy a packet of fig rolls for sure, but there’s something very satisfying about baking your own.

      Reply
  6. Melissa

    12th September 2019 at 11:51 pm

    Ohh I love fig newtons, I never would’ve thought to try and make them myself but you make it look easy and delicious!

    Reply
    • Choclette

      13th September 2019 at 8:51 am

      Thanks Melissa. They’re really not difficult to make at all and they do taste good.

      Reply
  7. Jenny Walters

    13th September 2019 at 6:57 am

    I love these Choclette and I love your childhood story! What special memories. I have never made them but feeling very inspired by both your story and your photos! They would be great to make with the children to put in their lunch boxes. Fabulous recipe thank you for sharing it with #BakingCrumbs

    Reply
    • Choclette

      13th September 2019 at 8:54 am

      Thanks Jenny. I loved going to stay down by the river in those far off days. It’s hard to imagine anyone living like that now. And yes, homemade fig rolls are brilliant for lunch boxes.

      Reply
  8. Byron Thomas

    13th September 2019 at 12:29 pm

    I have to tell you, even though I’ve never been remotely close to England, and even though I’m of English, Irish, and Scottish descent, I’ve always considered myself to be a fig newton fan until now. You may call these fig rolls, but they look just like the fig newtons I’m used to eating, but these are so much better. These turned out perfectly and I’m not sure they will last until the end of the day. I keep eating them. Guess I’m skipping dinner tonight!

    Reply
    • Choclette

      14th September 2019 at 9:49 am

      Hahaha, however good figs are for you, I’m not sure fig rolls (newtons) are a good substitute for dinner. Glad you liked them though. With your ancestry, it sounds like a trip to the UK and Ireland is calling.

      Reply
  9. Nico @ yumsome

    13th September 2019 at 5:56 pm

    These look fab, Choclette, and that pastry looks so melt-in-your-mouth delicious, too. These are definitely going on my to-veganise list. Pinning for later! xx

    Reply
    • Choclette

      14th September 2019 at 9:47 am

      Thanks Nico. Yes, that pastry is super scrumptious but I bet you’ll come up with a very good alternative.

      Reply
  10. Jeannette (Jay Joy)

    14th September 2019 at 10:06 am

    Homemade fig newtons!? Awesome I moved to a new country and have not been able to find these fig snacks in any store. I would love to give these a try. My kids will love these.

    Reply
    • Choclette

      14th September 2019 at 12:36 pm

      It sounds like you definitely need to make some Jeannette. They are nicer than shop bought ones anyway.

      Reply
  11. Monika Dabrowski

    15th September 2019 at 7:34 pm

    These look lovely and the spiced filling sounds delicious. Thank you for bringing your recipe to #CookBlogShare.

    Reply
    • Choclette

      17th September 2019 at 8:26 am

      Thanks Monika. The filling is delicious and so is the pastry. If you like figs, they’re definitely worth making.

      Reply
  12. Jo Allison / Jo's Kitchen Larder

    17th September 2019 at 2:29 pm

    These are my youngest favourite biccies! I must admit he’s the only one who eats them in our house so I have never attempted to make my own but I do feel totally inspired now especially that your version is much healthier too. Thank you for sharing these with #BakingCrumbs 🙂

    Reply
    • Choclette

      17th September 2019 at 2:52 pm

      Thanks Jo. But now I’m wondering how your youngest ever got to know that fig rolls were his favourite if no-one else eats them?

      Reply
  13. Cat | Curly's Cooking

    17th September 2019 at 7:52 pm

    I love figs and these look so perfect.

    Reply
    • Choclette

      17th September 2019 at 7:57 pm

      Thanks Cat. I’m not sure about perfect, but they tasted really good.

      Reply

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