Fig and Shortbread Cookies
Makes 4 dozen cookies
1 pound (4 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1-1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar
1 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla bean paste or vanilla extract
1 teaspoon salt
4-1/2 cups all-purpose flour (measured by dipping the dry measure cup into the flour and sweeping the top level with the cup)
½ teaspoon ground cardamom
½ teaspoon ground cloves
½ teaspoon ground mace or nutmeg
1-1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground white pepper
1 1/2 cups fig jam, preserves, or dried fig spread
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Spray a 9-by-13-inch pan with nonstick cooking spray. Cut a length of parchment paper long enough to line the bottom of the pan with a little extra to hang over the short sides. Spray the paper and the uncovered sides of the pan again.
In a medium-sized bowl, stir together the flour, salt, and spices. Combine the butter and sugars in a large bowl. Using an electric mixer set at medium speed, beat until creamy, about 4 minutes. Beat in the vanilla bean paste or vanilla extract. On low speed, mix in the flour mixture in four parts, beating just until incorporated. Once all the flour is in, beat for about 30 seconds if the dough doesn’t seem mixed.
Press one third of the shortbread dough into the prepared pan, in an even layer. Wrap the remaining shortbread dough in plastic wrap and put it in the fridge. Bake the bottom crust until it is firm and just beginning to turn a pale golden brown, about 30 to 35 minutes.
Remove the pan from the oven, and spread the jam or preserves evenly over the crust. Using your fingers, crumble all of the remaining chilled shortbread dough over the jam to form a pebbly, crumbled topping. Return the pan to the oven and continue baking until the topping is firm and pale golden in color, 35 to 45 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
Use a knife to loosen the bars from the edge of the pan, then grab the overhanging parchment and lift the whole thing straight out and onto a cutting board. Peel away the parchment paper. Slice the bars in any size you like – you should get at least 48 small cookies from the pan.