Saturday, September 11, 2010

The perfect fall dessert: A fresh fig tart

Sophie recently started school, and as part of the reconnecting with school families, we often faced the question "How was your summer?" I always answered with two words: short and cold. Short enough to leave many home-improvement projects planned for our stay-cation summer incomplete on our list and cold enough to stifle motivation to garden, grill, and swim in lakes.

And, sadly, much to cold to ripen the figs on our either of our two trees. We're now moving into fall coolness—taking stock of firewood and ski equipment—and our figs are still tiny hard babies. We'll most likely prune them back in a month or so and call it a fruitless season. I may have enjoyed our blustery summer fog, but this Mediterranean fruit did not.

But I did not have the heart to let Husband go without one of his favorite seasonal desserts. I know . . . in spite of my spectacular pie defeat, I'm baking again and back into using seasonal ingredients. Oh, well. I've said I was or was not going to do lots of things before. I think at one point I said I was going to take on a household organizing project every weekend. Ha ha. Besides, several people have asked for the recipe.

Besides, who can resist this combination of flavors?

Especially when put together like this? Thank goodness for a good produce market and the fact that when it's cold and foggy here, it's blazing hot somewhere inland.

A few things to note:

The recipe is serious when it specifies cornmeal that is not stone ground. In other words, you cannot get away with using what you have on hand for polenta. I tried that once, and the crust was too gritty.

A little limoncello really gooses up the filling flavor: A tablespoon mixed in, a few more over ice for the cook.

Fresh Fig Tart with Rosemary Cornmeal Crust and Lemon Mascarpone Cream
Adapted from Gourmet July 2003

For crust
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup yellow cornmeal (not stone-ground)
1 tablespoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 stick (1/2 cup) cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1 1/2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh rosemary
4 to 5 tablespoons ice water
For filling
1/3 cup sour cream
1 cup mascarpone cheese, room temperature (8 oz)
1/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons finely grated fresh lemon zest
1/8 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons red-currant jelly
1 tablespoon honey
1 1/2 lb fresh figs
Make crust:
Pulse together flour, cornmeal, sugar, and salt in a food processor. Add butter and rosemary and pulse until mixture resembles coarse meal with some small (roughly pea-size) butter lumps. Drizzle evenly with 4 tablespoons ice water and pulse until just incorporated.

Gently squeeze a small handful: If it doesn't hold together, add more water, 1/2 tablespoon at a time, pulsing after each addition and continuing to test.

Press dough evenly onto bottom and up sides of a 10-inch round fluted tart pan with a removable bottom with floured fingers. Smooth dough with a small offset metal spatula or back of a spoon (floured if necessary), then roll a rolling pin over top of pan to trim dough flush with rim. Chill crust until firm, about 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 400°F.

Bake crust in middle of oven until center and edges are golden, 25 to 30 minutes (don't worry if bottom of crust cracks), then cool in pan on a rack.
Prepare filling and assemble tart:
Whisk together sour cream, mascarpone, sugar, zest, and salt in a bowl.

Heat jelly and honey in a small saucepan over moderately low heat, whisking, until jelly is melted, about 4 minutes, then cool glaze slightly.

Remove side of tart pan and spread mascarpone cream in shell. Cut figs lengthwise into 1/4-inch-thick slices and arrange decoratively over cream. Brush figs with honey glaze.
Crust can be made 1 day ahead and kept, covered, at room temperature. Mascarpone mixture can be made 1 day ahead and chilled, covered. Tart can be assembled 1 hour ahead and kept, loosely covered, at room temperature.

So while we didn't have a summer of sitting beneath our fig trees sipping a glass of chilled white wine and feeding each other what some consider the sexiest fruit on earth, this tart of luscious oozy figs made the evening breeze feel if not Mediterranean just a little warmer.

An afterthought: If the summer was cold and short, do you think the winter will be warm and long? I'd like to put in my request for cold and long and wet. We've got some skiing to do.


Sis. Boom. said...

Tell me about the no-summer summer! But thanks to the Farmer's Markets this summer I have been making fig hay. (Expect some jam soon!) I think I will make this. (Today's market figs turned into fig balsamic ice cream. I'll let you know ...)

Cindy said...

Oh, seriously? Fig ice cream?? I've been waking up in the middle of the night thinking about it. There's not much more time.

Maria said...

It's the total opposite on the East Coast - here in NYC it's been the hottest summer!

I made the fig tart yesterday myself following the recipe you posted and it came out DELICIOUS. I posted pics of the tart on my blog.

gwendomama said...

This has nothing to do with figs, but I recently came down on 2 friends for pronouncing MAScarpone as MARscapone. I was in TJ's the other day and heard some woman say it 3 times and had an urge to smack her. I did not act upon this urge, but I would like to express my concern that this word is reaching epic fail proportions. Such as 'chipotle' constantly being butchered as 'chipolte' (rhyming with Nick Nolte). This is a serious problem.

Annabel Manners said...

That looks *divine.* I live in L.A. and we had a short, cold summer too. What's up with that??