For the third film in this year’s 12 Days of Oscar, I selected the 2011 film Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close. I’ll warn you now, I’m not sure a brief synopsis can do this movie justice. In flashback, we see Oskar Schell and his father Thomas playing a scavenger hunt that requires the pair to travel throughout New York and often for socially awkward Oskar to communicate with others. When Oskar is sent home from school early on September 11, 2001 there are five messages on the answering machine from his father, Thomas, saying he is in the World Trade Center. When the phone rings, Thomas is too scared to answer it and collapses to the floor, knowing his father’s fate. A year later, Thomas finds an envelope containing a key. Deciding that his father meant for him to find this, and that it will lead him to a person who knew his father, Oskar decides to go out and find out what the key fits. Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close was nominated for two Oscars (Max von Sydow for Best Supporting Actor in his role as The Renter, and Best Picture which it lost to The Artist).
When Oskar packs his backpack his tambourine, a gas mask, binoculars, journal, camera, Fig Newtons, cell phone, and the key. Considering that Fig Newtons (now they’re just called Newtons) were a comfort treat for me as a kid, it amused me that as he searches New York clue by clue, Oskar would choose them as his form of sustenance. The homemade version is leaps and bounds more flavorful than the packaged variety. They’re really best described as homemade fig preserves wrapped in a buttery dough with a hint of orange. The level of difficulty is nowhere near as high as that description makes it sound, but the preserves and the dough do require a lot of time to chill so plan ahead.
Homemade Fig Newtons
for the filling:
- 1 generous cup of dried figs (I used mission figs)
- 1 1/2 C. water
- 1 C. apple juice
- 1/4 C. sugar
- zest of 1/2 grated orange
for the dough:
- 4 oz. (8 Tbsp, or 1 stick) softened butter
- 1/2 C. granulated sugar
- zest of 1/2 grated orange
- 1 egg white, at room temperature
- 1 tsp. vanilla extract
- 1 1/2 C. all-purpose flour
To make the dough, beat together the butter and 1/2 cup of sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or a large mixing bowl using a hand mixer, on medium speed for 2 minutes until light and fluffy.
Beat in the egg white, grated zest of half an orange, and vanilla extract and beat the mixture until it is smooth.
Scrape down the sides of the bowl and the beater.
Add the flour and mix on low speed until no streaks of flour remain and everything is mixed together. When finished, the dough should be soft and resemble sugar cookie dough.
Wrap the dough tightly in plastic wrap until it’s firm enough to roll, at least 2 hours.
While the dough chills, make the fig preserves.
Chop the dried figs into small pieces.
Combine the chopped figs, water, apple juice, and 1/4 C. of sugar in a medium saucepan and bring the mixture to a boil over medium-high heat.
When the mixture starts to boil reduce the heat to low and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the figs are soft and practically dissolving and most of the liquid has cooked off. This may take anywhere from 90 minutes to 2 hours.
Transfer the fig mixture to a food processor and add the zest of 1/2 an orange and process until you have a smooth paste.
When the dough and filling are ready, heat the oven to 350 degrees.
Place the dough on a lightly floured surface and using a floured rolling pin, roll it out into a rectangle approximately 16 inches long by 12 inches wide.
Cut the dough along the longer edge into approximately 4 inch strips so that you have 4 strips that are 4 inches wide and 12 inches long.
Spread about 1/4 of the fig mixture down the center of each of the strips of dough.
Fold one side of the dough over the fig mixture, and then fold the other side of the dough over that, so you have a long tube of dough encasing the filling. Repeat until all of the dough is filled and folded.
Carefully transfer the strips of dough to a parchment lined baking sheet.
Cut each log of filled dough into approximately 2 inch cookies (so you have 6 cookies per log, 24 cookies in total).
Bake for 12-15 minutes until they’re puffed and golden brown around the edges.
Makes 24 cookies.
Source: adapted from Oh Nuts