fig-tart-85Figs. It’s amazing how evocative a single word can be. When I was applying to college, one of the essay options was to write about your favorite word. I chose the word “labyrinth.” I don’t know if it was my favorite, but it certainly evoked certain imagery and sensations in me. I think this is probably due to the amount of time I’d spend listening to The Phantom of the Opera, as well as reading the book. To me, a labyrinth was the maze underneath the Paris Opera House, full of mist, flickering candles casting shadows on the walls and bits of broken and disused set pieces and props. It was where a haunted and frightening, yet darkly romantic figure kept his lair and moved like a ghost throughout the theatre. Labyrinth was a word bursting with mystery and shades of grey. So you can only imagine how I feel about the word “fig.”

fig-tart-27I’ll start off by noting that I group figs and dates together in my head. This is probably incorrect in many ways, but so be it. The fact that the monkey in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom died from eating poisoned dates, doesn’t keep me from associating figs with the same ill-fated monkey and accompanying exotic locale. And exotic is probably the word that I most associate with figs. Figs summon the whip of hot sand on my cheek, or the whisper of olive trees. Their mention brings saliva to my mouth with the accompanying images of thick, sweet honey dripping down fingers on to crumbling, white cheeses, sharp with salt and the tang of goat.

And yet, in spite of all the sensuous impressions evoked by figs (or, perhaps, because of them), I’ve always felt vaguely intimidated by the idea of cooking with figs. Figs were the province of far off mysterious lands, not my kitchen. However, upon finding figs in the farmer’s market last week, I decided to bring the mystery home and see what could come of it. And lo and behold, a fig and ricotta tart appeared from within the exotic shroud of the fig. And it was delicious. So now that fear has dissipated and I can go forth and savor the mellow sweetness of the fig, along with its sumptuous mental imagery.

Ingredients:

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Filling:

1 1/2 C Fresh Ricotta Cheese
1 Pint Figs
3 Tbsp Sugar, plus more for sprinkling
1/4 C Honey
1/4 C + 2 Tbsp Brandy
1 Cinnamon Stick
2 Tbsp Milk

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Crust – It’s basically the same recipe as the one for the Savory, Chicken Broccoli and Corn Galette, except I substituted sugar for the herbs.

1 1/4 C All Purpose Flour
1/4 tsp Salt
8 Tbsp (1 stick) Butter (as always, unsalted), cut into small pieces
2 Tbsp Ice Water
2 1/2 Tbsp Citron (lemon vodka), very cold
1/4 C Greek Yogurt
2 Tbsp Sugar

UPDATE: I used homemade ricotta that was strained for a while so it was fairly dry. If you are using store bought or very wet ricotta, you’ll need to drain it for a while or the end result may be sadly mushy…

Instructions:

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Start with the pastry, as it can sit in the refrigerator for as long as it takes to make all the filling components. Start by measuring out the flour, sugar and salt. Whisk them together and stow them in the freezer until everything else is ready. You want everything to be COLD! When the flour is cold, cut in the chunked butter with a pastry cutter or use your hands to work the butter unto the flour mixture until it gains a sandy/pebbly appearance. Small bits of butter are fine, they help make the pastry flaky down the line.

Stir ice cold water and lemon vodka together with the yogurt and pour the liquid into the buttery flour. Gently mix with your hands or a spatula until the dough just clumps together. Turn the dough onto some plastic wrap and stow in the fridge while you make the filling – the dough should rest in the fridge for about an hour at a minimum.

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Once the dough is chilled (or while it’s chilling), preheat the oven to 400º F.

The next step is to prep the figs . Cut the stem off of each fig and then quarter each one. If you have some particularly large figs, you can always cut each half into thirds to keep the size of the fig slices about even. Put your sliced figs in a bowl and then add 1/4 C Brandy. Set the bowl aside to let the figs soak.

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Combine the honey and the cinnamon stick in a small sauce pot. Begin to heat the honey, until it begins to simmer. Then stir in the remaining 2 Tbsp of brandy. Simmer until the honey begins to thicken and then remove from heat and set aside.

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Stir the 3 Tbsp of sugar into the ricotta and set aside until the dough is ready to be rolled out.

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Roll out the dough on a liberally floured surface. Carefully transfer the dough to a parchment paper-lined baking sheet and spread the ricotta cheese in the center of the dough, until it is about 1 inch shy of the edge. The dough probably didn’t roll out perfectly round and it’s okay if there’s more than 1 inch. It just means you’ll have to roll up the edges a little more.

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Roll the edges of the dough up to form a circular crust. The dough should come up over the edges of  the ricotta.

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Arrange the fig slices in concentric circles in the ricotta cheese. Brush the surface of the figs and ricotta with the honey/brandy mixture, then brush the crust with the milk and sprinkle some sugar over the crust. Note – you probably will not need all of the honey/brandy mixture. That’s okay.

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Bake in the 400º F oven for approximately 35 to 40 minutes, or until the figs are roasted and the crust has nicely browned. Remove from the oven and cool completely before serving.

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Fig & Ricotta Tart
 
Filling:
Recipe By:

Ingredients
  • Filling -
  • 1½ C Ricotta
  • 1 Pint Figs
  • 3 Tbsp Sugar, plus more for sprinkling
  • ¼ C Honey
  • ¼ C + 2 Tbsp Brandy
  • 1 Cinnamon Stick
  • 2 Tbsp Milk
  • Crust -
  • 1¼ C All Purpose Flour
  • ¼ tsp Salt
  • 8 Tbsp (1 stick) Butter (as always, unsalted), cut into small pieces
  • 2 Tbsp Ice Water
  • 2½ Tbsp Citron (lemon vodka), very cold
  • ¼ C Greek Yogurt
  • 2 Tbsp Sugar

Instructions
  1. Start with the pastry, as it can sit in the refrigerator for as long as it takes to make all the filling components. Start by measuring out the flour, sugar and salt. Whisk them together and stow them in the freezer until everything else is ready. You want everything to be COLD! When the flour is cold, cut in the chunked butter with a pastry cutter or use your hands to work the butter unto the flour mixture until it gains a sandy/pebbly appearance. Small bits of butter are fine, they help make the pastry flaky down the line.
  2. Stir ice cold water and lemon vodka together with the yogurt and pour the liquid into the buttery flour. Gently mix with your hands or a spatula until the dough just clumps together. Turn the dough onto some plastic wrap and stow in the fridge while you make the filling – the dough should rest in the fridge for about an hour at a minimum.
  3. Once the dough is chilled (or while it’s chilling), preheat the oven to 400º F.
  4. The next step is to prep the figs . Cut the stem off of each fig and then quarter each one. If you have some particularly large figs, you can always cut each half into thirds to keep the size of the fig slices about even. Put your sliced figs in a bowl and then add ¼ C Brandy. Set the bowl aside to let the figs soak.
  5. Combine the honey and the cinnamon stick in a small sauce pot. Begin to heat the honey, until it begins to simmer. Then stir in the remaining 2 Tbsp of brandy. Simmer until the honey begins to thicken and then remove from heat and set aside.
  6. Stir the 3 Tbsp of sugar into the ricotta and set aside until the dough is ready to be rolled out.
  7. Roll out the dough on a liberally floured surface. Carefully transfer the dough to a parchment paper-lined baking sheet and spread the ricotta cheese in the center of the dough, until it is about 1 – 1½ inches shy of the edge.
  8. Roll the edges of the dough up to form a circular crust. This might entail some of the ricotta getting wrapped in the edges of the crust, which is fine.
  9. Arrange the fig slices in concentric circles in the ricotta cheese.
  10. Brush the surface of the figs and ricotta with the honey/brandy mixture, then brush the crust with the milk and sprinkle some sugar over the crust.
  11. Bake in the 400º F oven for approximately 35 to 40 minutes, or until the figs are roasted and the crust has nicely browned. Remove from the oven and cool completely before serving.

 

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