This is a light and elegant Baked Figs recipe from 1917. Historically, fig recipes were quite popular around the winter season and holidays. This is a perfect recipe to try this time of year. I found it in Mrs. Ida C. Bailey Allen’s cook book, Mrs. Allen’s Cook Book, published in 1917.
I haven’t found an easier baked figs recipe to truly enjoy all that figs have to offer, unless you eat them right out of the tree (which you can in California – California produces 100% of the domestic U.S. crop). The early brepa crop happens in the summer (from trees that sprouted the prior year) while the main harvest occurs September through October.
Fresh figs are fantastic; lusciously sweet with a pillowy, fruity texture and a hint of seedy crunch. The bland outside of figs completely misrepresents the goodness inside (never judge a book by it’s cover, right?). Figs are best when “super soft” ripe. It just so happens that fig season is wrapping up in SoCal and I’m on a fig kick.
When choosing figs, they should be soft to the touch. They may seem too soft to you if you haven’t harvested figs before. However, if they aren’t soft, they aren’t ripe yet. You don’t have to take off the skin, but do remove any spots that might look bad. You want very ripe figs but that means they are DAYS away from being too ripe. I used Brown Turkey figs harvested here in SoCal (Irwindale, CA, in Los Angeles county).
Wash and soak the figs in water overnight. This allows the figs to absorb water which keeps them moist while baking. I put mine in a baking dish which allows me to slide them into the oven the next day.
You can slice your figs, or leave them whole. If you slice them, don’t bake them as long as they will dry out more quickly. I like mine sliced because while they are baking, they do a better job of soaking up the kosher salt and orange zest, both of which enhance the flavor.
After soaking overnight, dash kosher salt and orange zest across the figs (I also added a dash of cloves, just for fun), then bake at a low temperature for 3 hours. My oven doesn’t go lower than 170 degrees F so I baked them for about 1 hour.
After removing them from the oven, sprinkle 1/2 cup of sugar across the tops and let the figs cool. Before serving, add fresh orange juice (about one orange’s worth). I skipped the whip cream.
I added fresh chopped orange to add interest, sweetness, and a bit more citrusy zing. They really did turn out lovely arranged on old Myott china from Staffordshire, England (the pattern is “Cleopatra”) and my house smelled fantastic. They should make a candle smell from this dish.
P.S. (isn’t p.s. so high school?)
I wanted to share a side comment, somewhat relevant, or irrelevant, depending on your point of view.
True story: Chimpanzees love figs. I know chimpanzees love figs because a long time ago, I was caretaker for a troupe of 13 chimpanzees (more on that another time). A chimpanzee diet includes lots of fresh produce and once in a great while, I ordered fresh figs. The chimps thought it was the BEST DAY EVER. It was a fig infused love fest. I totally get it.
- 8 very ripe figs
- ½ cup sugar
- 1 orange (juiced and zest)
- Dash of kosher salt
- ½ cup whipped cream (optional)
- Dash of clove (optional)
- Slice the figs in half.
- Soak the figs in water overnight.
- The next day, preheat the oven to 200 degrees F.
- Sprinkle the kosher salt and orange zest across the top of figs. Sprinkle cloves (if desired)
- Bake about 1 hour.
- Remove from oven and sprinkle on ½ cup of sugar and orange juice.
- Add chopped orange (optional).
- Add whipped cream across figs (optional).