Friday, September 2, 2011

Fresh Fig Tart

Fresh Fig Tart in a Pistachio Crust
You may have read an earlier post in which I not only raved about fresh figs in general, but at one point, also hinted at a fig tart I was dreaming up at the time. Sadly, there were no figs left when I went back to the store, so I've had time to think about how I would put this new dessert together. It seemed like months went by with nary a fig in sight--although it was more like weeks--and then just days ago I found a flat of large, nearly ripe beauties. Yesterday the ripening was complete, and I made what I'm calling "Fresh Fig Tart in a Pistachio Crust."

My wife was a little surprised that this was 100% vegan, especially given the creaminess of the filling. It's pretty amazing what you can do with plants--what can I say?

This is not a difficult dessert to make at all. The hardest part is the crust, and that's a piece of cake (sorry if this sounded confusing). I had made a pistachio version of "Nutty Chocolate Balls" for a demo I presented in Boston, and I'd been keeping a little bag of very fine pistachio flakes and bits in my freezer. It just so happened, I had precisely enough to make the crust (am I lucky, or what?).

As an aside, in that post I did indicate that the fine powder and smaller bits should be strained out before rolling the chocolate balls in the chopped nuts, but not why (I just went back and checked). The reason is that if you don't, then the fine powder will be the first to adhere to the chocolate, and this will keep the larger bits from sticking. This alone would not be a problem, but it's the larger chunks that provide the nutty flavor and pleasant crunch, whereas the powder's influence would be barely perceptible. But in a cake batter, cookie dough or--in this case--tart shell, the powder becomes very effective. So there you go.

Since the pistachio meal was already prepared, all I had to do was combine it with a little palm sugar and coconut oil. Then it was only a matter of packing the mixture into a tart pan and chilling it until firm before baking.

The filling was basically a cashew cream--made by soaking raw cashews in water until soft, draining them, and then whipping them to a smooth cream in a Vitamix blender. I added a little water to facilitate this, along with just a few tablespoons of agave nectar and kirsch. I spread this evenly in the tart shell, once it had cooled.

The smaller you cut the fruit, the better coverage you'll get, meaning fewer gaps where the filing is visible. However, in this case, I simply quartered them lengthwise, both for aesthetics and to maintain the integrity of the fruit. Looks are important, but so is the feeling in your mouth of biting through a piece of luscious fig! Having these elegant shapes to work with allowed for an attractive, almost mandala-like design.

For a glaze, I used a jar of St. Dalfour apricot jam--because it's excellent quality jam, but also because they don't add any sugar to their recipes. I just scoop the jam into a small pot, warm it over a low flame until it melts, and strain out the solids. Then I brush it onto the fruit while it's still warm. As it cools, it congeals to form a lustrous, highly flavorful protective coating on the fruit. Back when I was the head pastry chef at a billionaires' country club in California, they wanted me to use some cheap, tasteless "confectioner's glaze" from a gallon tub. To save money! I just couldn't. Wouldn't, in fact.

Well, that's it. Easy, huh? Look for the recipe in my next book--I don't have a title yet, so keep in touch with my blog and I'll announce it in plenty of time, don't worry!


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