We start on how to make homemade Fig Newtons by combining the brown sugar, butter, baking soda, cinnamon, salt, orange zest, and honey in a bowl. You can mix this using a hand mixer with a paddle attachment. Start on a low speed to moisten the mixture and move up to a medium speed and cream the mixture until it is fluffy. This should take about five minutes of mixing.
Add in your egg yolks and orange juice and beat the mixture until smooth. Lower your mixer’s speed and then add in flour, mixing completely.
Begin kneading the dough to create a smooth ball and then flatten the ball out into a disc. Wrap the entire ball of dough in plastic and place into the refrigerator. It will need to cool for about an hour, until it becomes somewhat firm but not hard. You can refrigerate it for a week, if you like, but you will need to allow the dough to soften before you use it, setting it out at room temperature.
The next step is to prepare the filling. How to make Fig Newtons’ filling? Start by cutting your figs in half and then put that into a food processor or blender with the applesauce and orange juice. Pulse until a thick paste is formed. Use a spatula to scrape the blade and the bowl and then let the mixture process for another minute in the blender or food processor. You are trying to get rid of all the chunks.
Place that into a piping bag and set to the side. It can be stored for up to 24 hours. You can refrigerate these preserves, if necessary, for as long as three weeks. Just be sure to allow them to warm up before using them by setting the preserves out at room temperature.
To put the cookies together, preheat the oven to 370 degrees Fahrenheit and knead your dough. Keep kneading until the dough becomes pliable and smooth, and then dust the dough with flour and use a rolling pin to make an 8-inch square. Dust the two sides with flour and roll out the dough into a 15-inch square, then remove the dough from where it is resting and shake off the extra flour. Cut the dough into 3 ¼ inch strips.
Hold your piping bag at a 90° angle hovering just above the dough. Holding it right there helps the preserves to flatten down as they come out of the bag. Put about an inch of preserves on the middle of each piece of dough. Then fold the dough over like a flap.
Brush off the excess flour from the dough and roll the bars over until the seam is facing down. Gravity will help to keep them closed. Using your fingers, flatten the bars down and then move them to a sheet pan that has been lined with parchment.
Place the baking sheet on the middle rack of the oven and bake for about 18 minutes. When the Fig Newton bars are finished cooking, they should be firm, puffed and only light brown. Use a bench scraper to cut the bars into 1-inch pieces so they will be the same size as the official Fig Newtons.