Poached Dried Figs in Phyllo Flowers with Spiced Syrup

This image courtesy of Joseph DeLeo

Think of these as treasure-filled purses of feathery phyllo, or as golden flowers sprinkled with green pistachios. Serve them in a pool of spiced syrup or shower them with a dusting of confectioners’ sugar. Either way, they are sublime.

Makes12 servings

Cooking Methodbaking, poaching


Total Timeunder 4 hours

OccasionFormal Dinner Party

Recipe Coursedessert

Dietary Considerationpeanut free, soy free, vegetarian


Taste and Texturebuttery, fruity, nutty, spiced, sweet

Type of Dishdessert


  • ¾ cup sugar
  • One 3-inch cinnamon stick
  • 1 star anise pod
  • 1 whole clove
  • 1 cardamom pod
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 strip lemon zest, ½ × 2 inches
  • 12 large dried Calimyrna figs, stems left intact
  • ¼ cup coarsely chopped unsalted skinned pistachios, plus ½ cup finely chopped
  • 6 tablespoons (¾ stick) unsalted butter
  • One 16-ounce package frozen phyllo dough, thawed in the refrigerator
  • Confectioners sugar, optional


  1. Combine 3 cups water and the sugar in a medium saucepan; heat to a boil, stirring, to dissolve the sugar. Add the cinnamon, star anise, clove, cardamom, bay leaf, and lemon zest. Cook, covered, over medium heat for 5 minutes. Add the figs and cook, covered, over medium-low heat until they are plumped, about 45 minutes. Transfer the figs and the syrup (there should be about 1½ cups) to a bowl and refrigerate until very cold. This can be prepared 1 or more days ahead.

  2. Drain the cold poached figs, reserving the syrup. Heat the syrup in a medium saucepan to a boil, and boil, uncovered, over medium heat until reduced to about 1 cup. Refrigerate until chilled. (See Step 8: If you prefer to garnish with confectioners’ sugar, skip this reduction and reserve the syrup for another use.)

  3. Blot the figs dry on a folded kitchen towel. Using a small paring knife, cut a half-circle flap in the bottom of each fig. With your fingertip, press the soft interior of the fig to make a space for the pistachios. Stuff about 1 teaspoon of the coarsely chopped pistachios into each fig; replace the flap.

  4. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly butter a 12-cup muffin pan.

  5. Melt the butter in a small saucepan over low heat or in the microwave. Let it stand until the white solids have settled. Pour off and reserve the clear (clarified) butter. Discard the solids.

  6. Unwrap the phyllo and remove 8 sheets. Using a ruler, cut the stack of phyllo sheets into six 5-inch squares. Rewrap the remainder and reserve it for other use. Keep the cut phyllo covered with a dampened kitchen towel so it won’t dry out. Working with four 5-inch squares at a time, brush each one with clarified butter and then restack them, alternating the corners of the squares to create a flower-like pattern. Place one of the pistachio-stuffed figs upright in the center, loosely gather up the edges, and gently pinch the phyllo around the stem of the fig to resemble a drawstring purse. Place the “purse” in a muffin cup. Gently separate the phyllo corners to make “flower petals,” allowing the stem of the dried fig to be visible. Brush the edges of the phyllo with a little butter so they will turn golden as they bake. Sprinkle the phyllo petals with about ½ teaspoon of the finely chopped pistachios. Repeat with the remaining phyllo and figs to make 12 “flowers.”

  7. Bake until the phyllo is golden, 12 to 15 minutes. Cool slightly in the muffin tins and then use a thin spatula to carefully transfer them to a wire rack to cool.

  8. Serve each flower on a shallow pool of the reserved chilled spiced syrup. Or for a less formal dessert, omit the syrup and simply sprinkle the “flowers” with confectioners’ sugar.

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