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Recipe and photos by Katie Olsen. Courtesy: Valley Fig Growers
FRESNO — Sumerian stone tablets dating back to 2500 B.C. record culinary use of figs, and remains of fig trees were found during excavations of Neolithic sites from 5000 B.C. Some historians consider it the first of the domesticated crops. Figs hold a position of symbolism in many world religions, including Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Judaism, and Buddhism, representing fertility, peace, and prosperity.
Valley Fig Growers, producer of Blue Ribbon Orchard Choice Figs, is the largest handler of figs in North America. Established in 1959, the cooperative has more than 50 grower members and is headquartered in the fig capital of the United States — Fresno, California. The fertile San Joaquin Valley is perfectly suited to grow figs. Resilient and hardy fig trees thrive in the hot, dry summers and rainy winters. Figs have been growing in California since the early 1500s and are now a sizable participant in the world of California agriculture. Figs sweetened all types of desserts before the widespread use of sugar, and still appear as the main ingredient in many popular holiday dishes and the commercially venerable Fig Newtons cookie since 1891.
The fig-grower-owned cooperative is one of the largest handlers of figs in North America. Whether you’re using their dried figs or fig products in a commercial kitchen or enjoying their dried figs at home, the benefits of dried figs are countless. You can find them in your favorite store or online, under the brands: Sun-Maid, Orchard Choice, and Blue Ribbon.
Figs are a whole food source of important nutrients and have no fat, cholesterol, or sodium, and they help you meet today’s Dietary Guidelines established by the US Department of Agriculture. A daily lifestyle that focuses on balancing calories, making informed food choices, and being physically active can help you attain and maintain a healthy weight, reduce your risk of chronic disease, and promote overall health. Figs, especially dried ones, are rich in antioxidants thanks to their high polyphenol content. Research shows figs’ polyphenol content is higher than both red wine and green tea.
California figs are GMO-Free, vegan friendly, and packed with nutrition. Whether you enjoy figs for their nutritional powerhouse reputation, their wonderful taste, or their reputed aphrodisiac qualities, California figs are an excellent food source and smart addition to any diet. Figs grow from June to late August and are allowed to fully ripen on the tree from August through September. The figs then fall to the carefully prepared ground where further drying and then harvesting occurs. The figs will be harvested several times during the season.
Once harvested, the figs are size graded, washed, processed, and sorted for use in various package types and product forms. During each step of processing, Valley Fig Growers ensure Blue Ribbon Orchard Choice Figs meet or exceed the rigorous standards of the independent Dried Fruit Association inspectors, as well as our own exacting criterion. Customers can be assured that figs purchased from Valley Fig Growers are of the highest possible quality.
Orchard Choice: Valley Fig Growers’ Blue Ribbon and Orchard Choice California Figs are part of California’s rich history of agriculture in the fertile San Joaquin Valley. Their grower-owned cooperative has been packing delicious, nutritious California Figs since 1959.
Sun-Maid: Sun-Maid, America’s Favorite Raisin, is also known for its full line of dried fruit products. They are proud of their Sun-Maid Mission and Golden California Figs, part of the line of high-quality products that makes “Sun-Maid The Brand You Can Trust.”
Fig and Honey Cream Cheese Breakfast Pastries
Go to: https://valleyfig.com/dried-fig-recipes/fig-and-honey-cream-cheese-breakfast-pastries/
What Kind of Dried Figs Should I Use in the Fig and Honey Cream Cheese Filling?
This is a matter of personal preference, as any Orchard Choice or Sun-Maid California Dried Figs will work in this recipe. The sweet, intense flavor of Mission figs, however, is a favorite as it pairs perfectly with the tangy cream cheese and delicate honey. The color contrast with the golden puff pastry and dark mission figs is also a selling point. If your figs are particularly dry and not able to be sliced, just soak in hot water for 10 minutes before slicing to rehydrate.
1 sheet frozen puff pastry, thawed but still cold
4 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
1 tablespoon honey (plus extra for drizzling)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Pinch of salt
9 Orchard Choice or Sun-Maid California Mission Figs (about 1 cup)
1 tablespoon heavy cream, half and half, or coconut cream
1 tablespoon coarse sugar, turbinado sugar, or granulated sugar
Preheat your oven to 400F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, and set it aside.
Cut thawed puff pastry (it should be cold to the touch, but workable) into 9 equal squares using a knife or pizza cutter. Arrange the squares evenly on the parchment-lined baking sheet.
In each square, cut an L shape 1/2-inch from the edge on the top right and bottom left corners (opposite corners). Fold the top right corner down to the inner L of the bottom left, then fold the bottom left corner over it and up to the top right corner. You are creating a diamond shape. NOTE: You can shape the pastry however you’d like; this is just a suggestion.
In a medium bowl, stir together cream cheese, honey, vanilla extract, and salt until evenly combined. Dollop 1-2 teaspoons of cream cheese mixture in the center of each pastry.
Slice each of the figs thinly, not quite slicing through the top so it’s still connected, then fan out the slices and arrange on top of cream cheese mixture (one fig per pastry). Brush exposed edges of the pastry with the heavy cream, half and half, or coconut cream. Sprinkle sugar evenly over the pastries, making sure it adheres to the edges.
Bake for 15-20 minutes or until pastry is golden brown and puffed. Drizzle with additional honey if desired, and serve warm. Makes 9 pastries.
Note: Pastries are best the day they’re made, but will last in the fridge for up to 5 days. To reheat, gently warm in a 300F oven for 5-10 minutes.
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For recipes: https://valleyfig.com/dried-fig-recipes/
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Free brochure: https://valleyfig.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/07/Brochue-IndProd-English.pdf
Fig Focus Newsletter: https://valleyfig.com/category/blog/fig-focus-newsletter/
Health and Nutrition: https://valleyfig.com/health-nutrition/
Where to buy: https://valleyfig.com/buy-figs/
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