Thought to have originated in the area known as Asia Minor, fig rolls have been consumed for thousands of years. Early fig rolls could be as simple as rolled dried figs, at times combined with fruits such as apricots or dates, which were commonly eaten by travelers. Spreading around North Africa, the fig roll is believed to have been developed into a pastry in Egypt when flour, spices, and honey were added to the dish.
Fig rolls are a rich source of concentrated nutrients, including calcium, iron, and potassium. They also have a lot of fiber, no sodium, no fat, and no cholesterol. Readily available and calorie-rich, they can be used as a snack food to provide quick energy or they can be a regular part of the diet as part of sustained general nutrition.
While early fig rolls were shaped by hand, commercially prepared fig rolls today are generally made by using modern baking machinery. Many of these commercial preparations use some form of fig paste wrapped in dough, which is then baked and packaged for mass consumption as cookies. Some use other fruits in combination with, or in lieu of, figs to serve as the filling for the cookies.
The fig roll remains a featured delicacy in Egyptian cuisine, as well as in the cuisine of numerous other countries in the Middle East and Mediterranean. It tends to retain its authentic characteristics in these areas. A fig roll can be eaten throughout the day — from early morning with tea, to an afternoon snack, to an after-dinner dessert.
The distinctive taste of a fig roll can be varied by adding any of a number of different types of ingredients, such as dates, honey, and nuts. A variety of seeds and spices can also be added to a fig roll, such as cinnamon, cardamom, and nutmeg. Rosewater can be added for a delicate aroma. Some dessert fig rolls are made by adding chocolate and marzipan. The shape can vary as well, such as being shaped into small balls or thin flat bars called fig cakes.
Many home recipes also exist for making fig rolls. These recipes tend to be very easy to follow and can produce outstanding results with a minimum of effort. Labeled with names such as fig bars, fig cookies, or fig cakes, these recipes can be found on the Internet and in general cookbooks.