Fig Tart with mascarpone and creme fraiche

Nothing makes my heart sing like the sight of fresh figs:  At the Farmers’ Market, in Trader Joe’s, on other peoples’ blog postings, in my own garden.  I just love those fruity teardrops of crunchy sweetness.

My love affair started way back when the only sweet, non-home baked snack that my mom allowed was two or three Fig Newtons.  (You’re darn toot’n, I love Fig Newtons.  Just be happy that you don’t live with me, because I’ve been singing that jingle all morning.)

In the late 80s, early 90s, otherwise known as the dawn of the food revolution, I was baking in NYC at the now defunct Fratelli Cangiones on Canal Street.  This time period brought the first wave of chefs that altered the face of restaurants–Mesa Grill, Gotham Bar and Grill, Les Halles, restaurants  that spawned future celebrity chefs, and I might add, truly bonafided, kitchen tested chefs, not wannabes that went to cooking school, couldn’t stand the heat so opted for a life in television.

One day a flat of FRESH black mission figs came in.  Frankly, I’d never seen fresh figs until that day.  I was used to seeing dried figs that would appear in the winter for the holidays, browned and dull.  It only took one slice to reveal the beauty of the fruit.  The first bite sealed the deal.  Excited at the opportunity to create, my team set out to create a new dessert.  The ever creative Kerry Fritsch Stout decided that fresh and dried figs were a match made in heaven.  At the time of our baking, there wasn’t a food channel or internet so we relied on, wait for it…cookbooks.  A popular baker at the time was Jim Dodge.  His “Baking with Jim Dodge” was an inspiration.

Photo by Judy Lyness taken at Janet Jarvits Bookseller, Pasadena, CA

My copy looks a bit long in the tooth.  Yet that book automatically opens to the earmarked tart dough pages, spilling years old recipes with while doing so.

Booze soaked anything was the craze, and I guess still is today.  Hazelnuts were the nuts of choice, and mascarpone was in abundance at Fratelli Cangione’s, a place that was trying to be the Dean and Deluca’s or Balducci‘s of Canal Street, but alas, failed its mission.  So here is the tart in all it’s glory.

Fresh Fig Tart

Macerated Dried Figs

  • 1/2 pound of your favorite dried figs.  Stems removed
  • 1/4 cup of sugar
  • 1/2 vodka
  • 1/4 cup water
  1. Place liquids and sugar in medium sized pot. Bring to boil.
  2. Add figs.  Bring to boil. Remove from heat.  Cover and allow to cool.
  3. When figs are cooled.  Just about the time your tart dough is coming out of the oven, drain yet retain liquid.  Place figs in food processor and puree.  Add the macerating liquid into the puree so that the mixture is firm but spreadable.

Tart Dough–Taken directly from “Baking with Jim Dodge” well except for the hazelnut flour

  • 1/2 cup hazelnut flour
  • 1 stick unsalted butter cold cut into 1 inch cubes
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 cups of flour
  • 6 tablespoons heavy cream
  1. Place flour, salt, sugar and butter into a food processor.  Pulse until mixture resembles course corn meal.
  2. Add cream and pulse until mixture comes together.  Don’t over blend.
  3. Dust a cutting board or work surface with half the hazelnut flour.
  4. Place tart dough on surface.  Sprinkle the top with hazelnut flour.  Roll dough and place in 8 inch tart dish.  Remaining dough can be frozen and reused.
  5. Chill crust for half hour.  Score tart bottom with fork. Then bake in 350 oven for about 15 minutes or until lightly browned.

ASSEMBLY

Extra ingredients:  1 1/2 – 2  pounds of black mission figs or your favorite figs.  4 oz. container of mascarpone, zest of one lemon, 1/4 cup creme fraiche, sprinkle of sugar.

  1. In a small bowl place the mascarpone, creme fraiche, zest of lemon and a sprinkle of sugar.  Blend with spatula until smooth.  Scoop mixture into pastry bag fitted with favorite tip or not.
  2. Cut stems off figs and cut into quarters starting from the stem end down.
  3. Place cooled tart shell on serving dish.
  4. Spread a smooth 1/2 inch layer of macerated figs on the bottom of the tart shell.
  5. Pipe a thin layer of mascarpone mixture on top of macerated figs.  Smooth with spatula.
  6. Place fresh fig quarters in a decorative pattern on top of mascarpone. Don’t worry about gaps between figs because you can pipe remaining mascarpone in the gaps.
  7. Eat.
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