This recipe was inspired by my first batch of smoked fig leaf sugar, a creation born of playful experimentation. That sugar ended up in all sorts of places: chocolate cakes and glazed roots, simple syrup, and macaroons. Yet it was this simple, coarse-crumbled cookie that best presented the seductive and subtle notes of incense, musk, and mint.
11 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
3 smoked fig leaves (see below)
1 cup granulated sugar, divided
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup brown rice flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
2 eggs, beaten
Brush a round or rectangular tart pan with 1/2 tablespoon of the melted butter; place the pan on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
Strip the smoked fig leaves from the stem; discard the stem and rub the leaves between your fingers to crush slightly. Use a mortar and pestle or a spice grinder to pulverize the crushed leaves. Add half the granulated sugar and continue to pulse until the fig leaves are incorporated, taking care not to powder the sugar (there will be tiny bits of leaves here and there; this is fine). Add the rest of the sugar and stir in a large bowl.
Put all but 2 tablespoons of the sugar in a large bowl and whisk in the all-purpose flour, brown rice flour, baking powder, baking soda, and sea salt. In a small bowl, combine the remaining 11 tablespoons of melted butter and the eggs. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients, and use a spatula to combine. Spread and pat the dough evenly in the prepared pan; coat the top with the reserved 2 tablespoons of sugar. Let the dough rest for at least 2 hours, or up to overnight (this time is important for both the relaxation of the all-purpose flour's gluten and for the hydration of the brown rice flour, which can be too gritty otherwise.
Preheat the oven to 365 degrees. Bake the dough for 30 minutes. Remove from the oven, let it rest for 10 minutes, then carefully remove the pan. Use a sharp knife to cut the plank into 2-inch rectangles or wedges. Some of the sugar coating will naturally tap off, and that is fine. Place the cookies on the baking sheet and return the pan to the oven for approximately 12 minutes, or until the top and edges are golden brown.
Remove from the oven. Once cooled to room temperature, the cookies can be kept in an airtight container for up to seven days.
Variation: Drop Cookies
Instead of pressing the dough into a tart pan, you can make round cookies. Gently roll a walnut-sized ball of dough in your palms, then roll it in the reserved granulated sugar. Place on a cookie sheet and press down slightly; the cookie will be about 2 inches in diameter. Repeat with the remaining dough, leaving 2 inches between cookies. Let the cookies rest for 1 hour, or overnight. Bake for 12 to 14 minutes, or until golden brown.
Smoked Fig Leaves
Smoked fig leaves can be used in spice blends; brewed with tea leaves (my favorite pairing is Golden Yunnan); or added to soups, stews, or braises. Once smoked, fig leaves smell less verdant and bright and more like burning Palo Santo, the South American wood that perfumes my house most mornings and evenings. After making my first batch, I kept a capped copper container of them on my desk for months; occasionally, when I needed a momentary release, I'd remove the lid and inhale the unique scent.
Small smoker (see below)
If you rinsed your fig leaves, make sure they are dry before proceeding. Place the fig leaves on the smoker's rack in an even layer. Smoke them for 15 to 20 minutes, or until dry and brittle. Cool completely before storing in an airtight container.
How to Build a Small Smoker
What you'll need:
1 to 2 ounces wood chips
A roasting pan or round Dutch oven (at least 3 inches deep)
A square or circular cooling rack (that inserts easily into the roasting pan or Dutch oven)
Using the foil, make a loose, little package (or two, as needed) containing about an ounce of wood chips; poke a few holes in the package and place it in the bottom of your pan. Place the rack on top of the foil. Place the foods to be smoked directly on the rack; use foil to cradle any wet foods (such as boiled beets or tomato slices), and use plates on shallow bowls to hold any foods that can't sit securely on the rack.
Set the smoker over one or two burners--depending on the size of the pan--set to high heat, and wait for the heat to ignite the chips (I sometimes use a propane torch directly on the foil, if a gas stove isn't available). Once you see smoke, wait about 5 minutes more. Cover the smoker with a tight-fitting lid or two layers of foil; wait 5 to 7 minutes more, or until you see smoke seeping out the sides. Turn the burner(s) off, and refer to your recipe for smoking time (or use your best judgment).
Once the foods have been removed, allow the wood chips to cool to room temperature, then submerge them in water to be sure they're extinguished.
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