Late last week, out of the corner of my eye I saw these stunning specimens of the fig variety.
Fresh, organic, and at my lovely little grocery store, The Wedge. Figs?! Fresh figs?! Figs?!?! No, seriously, really? The $5 I paid for about half a pound felt like a steal, considering how hard they are to find and how short of a growing season they have (at least in the Midwest). I’m somewhat ashamed to say before these, I had never tasted a fresh fig, much less seen them in a store. I trekked home with my treasure, jubilant.
The giddiness subsided as I climbed the stairs to our place. I found them, I bought them — now what? I have only one recipe that requires figs, and delicious as pork chops with fig reduction is, dinner was already planned for the next few nights (I certainly didn’t have the ingredients on hand). Something sweet seemed more appropriate.
I could make fig and pig ice cream. My Mediterranean cookbooks only elicited recipes for fig preserves, which I’m not really equipped for. A pie? Yet another crisp?
No, these figs would meet their destiny in a tart. A lovely tart using sliced almonds, honey, and homemade tart pastry.
The result: a supremely sweet, but nuanced bit of baking. The hints of vanilla, lemon, honey, and turbinado sugar all came through in the now-fig-y syrup that coated the top of the baked tart shell. The shell was deliciously buttery, with good bite and just enough sweetness. And the figs had this smooth, sweet, raisin-y, juicy flavor profile that’s unlike anything I’ve experienced before.
Although it didn’t come out perfectly, I have plans to improve future tarts. Even though I blind-baked the shell (even though it said not to), it apparently wasn’t baked long enough (the center of the tart was downright soggy, to be honest). I would probably also leave the syrup for the last few minutes, after the shell and figs had baked more, also as a way to counter the puddle that formed. But that doesn’t mean it wasn’t a delicious dessert — because it absolutely was. The directions below include these adjustments.
Should you find yourself with half a pound of fresh figs, give this a shot.
Honeyed Fig and Almond Tart
Tart pastry adapted from Better Homes & Gardens‘ Rich Tart Pastry
1 1/4 C all-purpose flour
1/4 C sugar
1/2 C (1 stick) cold butter
2 beaten egg yolks
1 Tbsp ice water
1/2 lb fresh figs, halved (you could quarter or slice them too)
2 Tbsp Turbinado sugar
1 tsp vanilla
zest from 1 lemon (about 1 tsp)
juice from 1/2 lemon
2 Tbsp honey plus extra to drizzle
1/2 C sliced almonds
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
- Put an ice cube or two in a bowl with cold water to chill.
- In a medium bowl, stir together flour and sugar. Cream butter in using a pastry blender/forks/method of choice.
- In a small bowl, beat egg yolks. Add ice water and stir.
- Gradually stir egg yolk mixture into flour mixture.
- Gently knead dough just until a ball forms. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate 30 to 60 minutes or until dough is easy to handle.
- While the tart dough is chilling, make the honey mixture, combining the sugar, vanilla, lemon juice and zest, and honey. Set aside.
- Press the tart dough (or roll it out) into a tart or springform pan, making sure there’s a good edge to keep the syrup contained. Do not prick the pastry.
- Blind bake the tart for 10-15 minutes, until the middle is no longer raw.
- Take the tart out of the oven and arrange the sliced figs on the tart so they are touching and cover all the way to the edges.
- Bake for 10 minutes. Before the edges turn golden-brown, pour the honey syrup over the figs and then add the sliced almonds. Bake until edges are golden-brown.
- Allow to cool. Serve at room temperature.