I can see the water from my seat at the dining room table. The windows on the eastern and southern sides of our house face the bay, which separates our little town from the white, windswept beaches of Shelter Island. Our street ends at a small cul-de-sac, which I love for two reasons. One, the street has no through traffic, but instead people walking their dogs or coming down to sit on the bench and hold hands or sip coffee at the water's edge. Two, there's a small dock that juts into the water, where I like to go and read my book in the summertime. It's peaceful and quiet in every season: the water lapping against the weathered wood of the pilings, boats entering and leaving the marina next door, and birds wheeling overhead.
Right now, the sun has just set and spilled streaks of pink and orange across the darkening sky. I can see the color turning, washing the sky with pastels, then more brilliant sunset tones with purpled cotton candy-like clouds here and there. I walk down the dock to watch the sky until my fingers feel numb from the cold. Coming back into the house, I shed my coat and stand in front of the fireplace, holding my hands near the warmth.
The house is glowing with light from the kitchen. There's pork sausage, spiced with nutmeg, from a nearby farm in the fridge. On the countertop is a pile of two tiny honeynut squash (which a local farmer friend gifted me yesterday in exchange for a box of salted chocolate chunk shortbread that I dropped off for him), a bell pepper, and some green beans. Despite the cold, he’ll grill it all outside: the halved squash, the beans drizzled with olive oil tossed in the grill basket, the sausage, the peppers. His plate will be a medley of it all, with maybe a dollop of grainy mustard and a sprinkle of flaky sea salt to finish.
There are two Cherokee biscuits (big golden square biscuits made with bacon drippings and thyme) for my plate, along with a bowl of chicken soup to stave off any winter cold.
I'll pour a glass of wine. Take a very hot shower. Put on pajamas and thick wool socks. Come downstairs and carry my plate over to watch the final episode of season 2 of The Crown.
Upstairs, my Kindle sits on the bedside table, with half of The Amber Spyglass left to read. I suspect that tonight I'll make it through only a few pages before falling asleep. The wine, the dark quiet night, and these cookies for dessert will all put me to sleep.
And these cookies! Guys, these cookies. They are so good! Almond meal gives the shortbread an excellent nutty and buttery flavor, and they're not very sweet. I was inspired by the idea of a Fig Newton when I made up the recipe, but these are much more sophisticated. You can use other fillings, like lemon curd or any jam you have on hand or chocolate ganache or Nutella. The cookies would also be really great on their own!
I've been playing around with baking with black garlic (also a gift from the same farmer), and it's such an interesting ingredient. I'll write up a full post about it soon, but if you aren't familiar with it, black garlic is regular garlic that has been aged and heated for weeks until it turns sticky and sweet. It smells like molasses and tastes a bit like a date or a raisin, but with a very subtle smoky, savory aftertaste.
I've added it to the filling of these cookies, but you can absolutely leave it out and just use a few more figs if you can't get your hands on black garlic, or if you're not feeling that adventurous! They'll be completely delicious without it.
Fig & Almond Shortbread Sandwich Cookies
For the dough
3/4 cup almond flour
1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
For the filling
1 cup dried figs (about 12 small figs, give or take)
zest of one orange
1/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup water
6 cloves black garlic (optional!)
To make the dough: Cream together the butter and sugar until very light and fluffy. Add the egg and beat until well-mixed.
Add the almond flour, all-purpose flour, whole wheat flour, and salt. Mix until the dough just comes together. Divide the dough in half and shape each half into a disc. Wrap each disc in plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm, at least one hour.
Note: The dough freezes really well, so you can make it far in advance.
To make the filling, place the figs, orange zest, sugar, and water in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and let cook until the figs are soft, about 20 minutes. Let the mixture cool for a bit, then add the black garlic (if using) and process in a food processor until smooth and jam-like in consistency. Set aside while you bake the cookies.
To bake the cookies, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Working with half of the dough at a time, roll the dough out to about 1/4" thickness on a lightly floured surface. Using a cookie cutter or biscuit cutter, cut out rounds of dough and place them on a parchment-lined baking sheet.
Bake for 12-15 minutes, or until lightly golden on the edges. Let the cookies cool fully, then spread half with the fig filling (or the filling of your choice) and top with the other half of the cookies.