Fresh Fig Tart, Celebrating Local Figs
It’s been a remarkable season for figs. With no late frost to destroy the early buds, and enough rain to keep the trees from self-pruning, we – and the birds and even squirrels – have enjoyed many succulent fruits from the “Brown Turkey” and the even more fig-flavored “Celeste” fig trees planted near the restaurant and in our yard.
Not having a family recipe for fig tart, we turned to the recipe for the wonderful rhubarb tart my wife Christina makes from the unapologetically rich desert book, Rosie’s All-Butter Fresh Cream Sugar-Packed Baking Book, by Judy Rosenberg. “Rosie” originally began baking professionally in Harvard Square, Cambridge, MA, and probably kept the Massachusetts General Hospital’s Cardiology Department prosperous.
Figs are sweet and mildly flavored, unlike the assertive rhubarb, which I love and grew for years from plants my father started in my hometown up north. So Christina marinated the cut figs, harvested today, in lemon juice then cut back significantly on the sugar mixed into them.
Here’s the recipe for an 8-inch square or 9-inch tart, enough to feed six to eight a fantastic, rich seasonal dessert. (And while we haven’t tested it, this method should work also for the moist dried apricots that come from Turkey, and possibly even pitted dates.)
The Base (a shortbread crust):
1 cup flour
5 tablespoons confectioner’s sugar
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature, cut into 8 pieces
1 egg white for glazing (use the yolk in the topping)
3 cups halved fresh figs
Juice of one large lemon
1 whole egg plus the reserved yolk from glazing the base
3/8 cup granulated sugar
3 tablespoons flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
Process the flour and confectioner’s sugar several seconds. Add butter and process until dough comes together, 20 to 30 seconds. (Or do all this in a bowl with a pastry knife.) Pat dough into the greased pan. Glaze the crust with egg white by pouring the white on the dough and tipping pan from side to side so the white coats the surface. Pour off the remainder of the egg white.
Bake the base until golden, about 25 minutes. Cool base completely (refrigerate to speed this up).
Prepare the topping. Mix the figs with lemon juice. In a bowl mix together the egg, egg yolk, sugar, flour and salt. Add the figs with their lemon juice.
Spread the fig mixture over the cooled, baked base. Bake the tart until set and slightly golden, about 50 minutes.
Cool completely before cutting into squares or wedges.