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Tuesday, November 03, 2009

The best fig tart, ever (a recipe from The Foodie Handbook)

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I could also call it the easiest fig tart, ever.  Really.  It has an astonishingly small list of ingredients: a pie crust*, some luscious figs, with a hidden layer of frangipane, which, despite the fancy-sounding French name, is simply a concoction of toasted almonds, sugar, butter, and egg that you can make easily in a food processor.  

The key to the magic here is the frangipane.  It's one of those things that sound far more difficult and fancy than they really are.  My frangipane recipe came from the one in Michel Bras fantastic Notebooks of Michel Bras: Desserts. It's basically equal quantity (by weight) of almond meal, butter, and sugar, with one egg to bind it all together.  That's a truly fantastic recipe, and one so versatile I find a use for it in practically all my fruit tarts, from the summery stone fruits to the fall harvest of pears and apples.  Right about now, with melting soft and tantalizingly sweet figs make an appearance all over the place, you can make a fig tart with a base of this frangipane and it will turn even the most ardent fig hater into a lover. 

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The slight problem I found with the original Bras recipe is the almond flour.  If you bake all the time and have access to great almond flour from a professional pastry source, then it'll work just fine.  But the rest of us, with access mainly to what's available at the supermarket, finding good (and fresh) enough almond flour to use in this recipe will be challenging.  So, I adapted the recipe to use whole almonds which are readily available and generally far fresher than any almond flour you can buy. 

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Frangipane

75g whole almonds (about 1/2 cup)

75g sugar, you can use half granulated sugar and half confectioner's sugar, or just all granulated sugar (about 1/8 cup granulated plus 1/4 cup confectioner's, or just 1/3 cup granulated)

75g butter at room temperature

1 large egg

Preheat the oven to 350F (180C).  Spread the almonds evenly on a baking sheet and place them in the oven.  Roast them for about 10 minutes, or until slightly toasted and fragrant.  Transfer to a plate and let cool to room temperature.

Put the cooled almonds and the sugar into a food processor and process until fine.  Add the butter and the egg and pulse until well-combined.  If you don't want to use it right away, divide the frangipane into four equal parts, wrap each tightly in plastic.  They will keep in the fridge for a couple of days, and up to a month in the freezer.  

To make a 9" fig tart

1 9" pastry dough

about 10 large figs or about 15 small ones

1/4 the recipe of frangipane above

Preheat the oven to 400F (200C).  Roll out your pastry dough to about 10-inch diameter - more or less won't harm anything.  Spread about 1/4 of the quantity of frangipane on the dough, leaving about 1 inch parameter around the outer edge of the dough.  Quarter the figs (only halve if small) and arrange them -pointy end up will be prettier- in concentric circles to cover the frangipane.  Fold the edges in, pinching a little to make sure they stick.  If you want, you can brush the dough with eggwash and give it a good shower of sugar.  Bake for about 45-50 minutes, or until the pastry edges are golden brown.

Serve while still warm, and, if you want to be truly indulgent, with a scoop of my Brown Butter Ice Cream.

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*If you're afraid of pie crust, you can buy one pre-made, just make sure it's an all-butter crust.  If you have a favorite recipe, just use it.  If you haven't got one yet, I highly recommend the crust recipe from page 121 of the book.  The technique might sound odd to you, but you'll only need to try it once before it becomes your basic dough recipe as well, I promise.

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