Tis’ the season of figs in the snack stash!
Fig rolls is a classic British biscuit, much like munchies such as jammy dodgers (one of my favorites) and custard creams. Sipping on a delicious hot cuppa and biting into fig rolls make an afternoon snug. Although fig rolls are available all-year-round, I can’t imagine sinking my teeth into figs in summer and spring. Hence, I reserved my appetite for figs for autumn and winter!
Fig rolls are one of those foods that evoke either one of two different reactions: most people find them delicious, while others feel quite the opposite. I enjoy them now, but I do empathize with the latter group. That’s because I was one of them.
Growing up, I wasn’t very fond of figs. I didn’t strongly dislike them, neither was I ever going to reach for them in a snack bag of assorted dried fruit and nuts (where I often encountered figs’ presence). On a scale of 1 to 10, I’d probably rate it a ‘3’ or a ‘4’ back in the day. Fast forward to the present, its autumnal touch has been gracing my seasonal palate. My love-hate ‘frenemy’ relationship with figs has blossomed into a friendship. As the saying goes, “never say never”.
Figs evoke vibes of feeling as snug as a bug in a rug. Fig rolls basically comprise of a fig paste which is rolled in pastry. These rolls, which are relatively flat and wide lengthwise (supermarket versions like Tesco’s, at least), are then baked and sliced.
Fig rolls are members of the ‘biscuits’ family, and their star quality led to an appearance on last year’s season of The Great British Bake Off. Prepared by Paul Hollywood, Biscuit Week’s technical challenge was… you guessed it… fig rolls. Apparently, that very challenge sparked a debate in the British foodie cyber realm: are fig rolls ‘biscuits’, or are they ‘cakes’?
As a Bake Off fan, I was pondering on that million-dollar question. I feel like they are somewhere between the ‘biscuit’ and ‘cake’ worlds. I classify them as ‘biscuits’ because that’s how they have always been referred to, after all. And I feel like they seemingly match the ‘cookies’ realm as well (perhaps a distant English cousin of American-style cookies). They’re soft, but not as soft as traditional cakes, as the pastry that encases the fig filling is soft and somewhat cookie-like. On the flip side, each bite is far from the crunch of English-style biscuits and the pastry is thicker and denser than a cookie. There’s one thing that Team ‘Biscuit’ and Team ‘Cake’ do agree on: fig rolls are delicious.
Pastry, which wraps the fig paste as tightly as the biggest hug imaginable for cookies, is considered to be baked perfectly when its texture is soft, yet dense and a little bit crumbly. The best description I can think of is it’s a hybrid of a cake and a cookie! Traditional fig pastes take the sentence “sugar, spice and everything nice” quite literally. Sugar is added, and so are spices such as cinnamon and mixed spice. And you can’t have fig rolls without dried figs!
In Tesco’s version, the glistening, thick jam-like fig center is the star. Sugar is present without being too sweet, and the pastry balances that sweetness. I couldn’t detect any clues that led to spices, though. It seems to me that they’ve conjured a predominantly figgy paste. Later, I learnt that spices aren’t listed as an ingredient. As someone whose palate dislikes the taste of cinnamon more often than not, I don’t mind the exclusion of spices as it appeals to my palate more. It’s no wonder my taste buds were pleasantly acquainted with the biscuit’s taste relatively quickly! On the packaging, ‘32%’ is printed next to ‘fig’, which leads me to assume that figs account for 32% of each biscuit. The filling is smooth, with a bit of crunch from tiny fig seeds.
The pastry is baked well – it’s dense, neither too crumbly nor too soft. To me, the pastry-to-filling ratio is balanced as the figs aren’t too strong, but they aren’t hiding either. On the Goldilocks scale, it’s “just right”.
Overall, I reckon the fig rolls are nice biscuits to enjoy as a pick-me-up on an autumnal or wintery afternoon.