Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Fresh Fig Tart

With summer in full swing, we can find a farmers’ market nearly every day of the week in the Bay Area. Every little town has one, often several times a week. And I can’t resist stopping in to check them out when I drive by one. I like to see how the markets differ, both from a produce point of view as well as price. The one in Millbrae just north of us has many more exotic Asian vegetables with interesting and odd shapes and spikes, while the markets south of us tend to have more varieties of tomatoes and peppers.

One bad thing about farmers' markets though is they bring out my compulsive side. I often buy way more produce than I know what the heck I’m going to do with. I currently have enough cherries to feed a family of 10 for a week! I found myself in this position last week when I picked up some plump black mission figs. I had no clue what I was going to do with them; I just know Jeff loves figs and they’d been plucked from the tree that day. Jeff was in heaven; the figs were so fresh and succulent he suggested we make a tart with them.  We settled on this dressed-up version of a traditional tart recipe from finecooking.com (a site I highly recommend). Don’t worry about the orange flower water for the custard; I just used strained orange juice. Delicious. Rich. Company worthy! 
Fresh Fig Tart
Ingredients
Serves 8
For the crust:
5-1/2 oz. (1-1/4 cups) all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp. salt
1 tsp. sugar
4 oz. (8 Tbs.) chilled butter
2 to 3 Tbs. ice water mixed with 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

For the filling:
12 to 16 ripe figs (using a variety is pretty)
1 large egg yolk
1/2 cup crème fraîche or sour cream
1-1/2 Tbs. packed light brown sugar
2 tsp. orange flower water

Preparation
To make the crust
Combine the flour, salt, and sugar in a bowl and then cut in the butter until the mixture forms very fine crumbs. You can also do this by pulsing in a food processor. Sprinkle in enough of the ice water for the dough to come together, and then shape it into a disk. Wrap the dough in plastic and chill for about 15 min. Roll the dough into an 11-inch circle and put it in a 9-inch tart pan with a removable bottom. Pinch the dough edge so that it's slightly thick, even, and rises just above the rim. Prick the bottom with a fork in 6 or 7 places, and then put the pan in the freezer for 20 min. while you heat the oven to 425°F. Put the chilled tart shell on a baking sheet, line the shell with foil, and fill with beans or pie weights. Bake until it's lightly colored, 20 to 25 min. Remove the tart and reduce the oven temperature to 400°F; remove the weights and foil.

To make the filling
Cut the stems off the figs (leave the skins on) and slice the figs in half -- if they're large, you may choose to quarter them. Set aside one-quarter of the figs (to be added after you pour in the custard). Arrange the remaining figs, cut side up, on the tart shell; this will leave room for the custard to spread evenly when you pour it.

Whisk the egg yolk, crème fraîche, brown sugar, and orange flower water until combined and then pour carefully around but not over the figs. Add the remaining figs. Bake the tart on the baking sheet in the 400 degree oven until the custard is lightly colored and set, about 30 min. Serve slightly warm.

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