Sunday, February 20, 2011

Fig Frenzy!

I really do promise to start updating this more often! I have been baking a lot lately, but the treats always seem to disappear before I can snap a quick photo to share with you guys. After receiving some good news about the possibility of getting a job with a bakery across the street from me, I was so excited that I ran straight to my tiny little kitchen and started experimenting with some dried figs that I had recently purchased.

The results from my experimenting were much MUCH more than I had ever hoped for and I highly recommend that anyone who likes to bake, test them out for yourself. I promise you will not be let down. Unless of course you just don't like figs...if this is the case then you must have not tried the right figgy treat! So give these a shot :)

My first creation is a fig pie. I modeled this after a traditional pecan pie but used absolutely no nuts and instead a mixture of figs. I must admit, I am having a hard time keeping my hands off of this one, it is seriously good if I do say so myself. Here is how I made it!

For Pie Crust
*This is an all butter crust and is really easy to make. Once you master this, you can use it for anything.
-2 1/2 cups self rising flour
-1 pinch of salt
-1 pinch of white sugar
-2 sticks of unsalted butter, cold and cut into small cubes
3 to 6 tbsp very cold water

To mix, combine flour, salt and sugar in a food pro. If you don't have a food pro you can certainly do this the ol fashion way but you will probably need at least a pastry cutter to make your life a little easier. After dry ingredients are together, cut in butter until the mixture looks like a lot of small peas, no bigger. Turn is out into a medium sized bowl and scatter the ice water over the mix by tablespoonfuls. Fold with a spatula or wooden spoon until the dough comes together and looks fairly smooth.

At this point in time you are going to divide the dough in half, form into discs and cover with plastic wrap. Cool dough in the fridge for at least an hour before using. See, it's easy!

While the crust is cooling, continue to make your filling.

For Filling
1 cup dried figs. I used a combo of Black Mission and Calimyrna, cutting them into small pieces. There is no reason why you can't use fresh figs when they are in season as well and I am all about using fresh when you can.
2 tbsp Amaretto liqueur
2 tbsp water
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 cup light corn syrup (I made my own simple syrup by cooking one cup of sugar with one cup of water until the sugar dissolved).
3 large eggs
1/2 melted butter, make sure it is totally cooled before mixing with eggs.
1 tbsp vanilla extract
a pinch of salt

In a medium sauce pan, on medium-low heat, mix the
chopped figs with the water and Amaretto until the figs absorb all of the liquid. Once this has happened, take them off of the heat and let cool completely. While this is happening, combine the brown sugar, corn syrup, melted butter, eggs, vanilla extract and salt. Stir until all eggs are incorporated completely and the mixture takes on a map
le syrup color. When the figs are cooled, mix them in as w

Once your pastry has chilled for an hour, take one disc ou
t and roll it on a floured surface so that it is 13 inches around. Really you just want to roll the crust out to fit whatever sized pie round you have, but for this recipe, a 13 inch is just large enough for a 9 inch pie pan and the filling. Get rid of the excess dough around the edges of the pie pan and crimp to make pretty. If you feel that crimping is too difficult for you, just leave it looking rough and rustic! It all tastes equally delicious :) Next, freeze your pie crust for at least 10 to 15 minutes before baking. This ensures that your butter gets cool enough to give you a really flaky and delicious crust.

After your oven pre heats to 375 degrees F, line your crust with foil or parchment paper and fill with baking beans or some kind of baking weight. You will want to bake until the sides of the crust are set which takes about 10 minutes. At this
point, take the crust out of the oven and prick the bottom with a fork. Return the crust back to the oven and bake another 10 minutes until golden brown. When you take the pie crust out this time, reduce your oven temperature to 325 and spoon in your figgy filling.

When the oven reaches 325, place the pie back in and b
ake for about 40 minutes or until the edges of the pie are set and the middle is not completely jiggly. Let the pie cool and then place it into a refrigerator for abou
t an hour. The pie looks best if you let it cool in there overnight but I am warning you now, it is really hard to wait overnight to try this pie. It really is super yummy!!

This next recipe utilizes the second dough round left over from the pi
e crust recipe above but is even easier and more rustic looking, leaving room for error among those who may not feel the most comfortable in the kitchen.
For this fig tart recipe, you will need:
3 oz almond paste
3/4 cup mascarpone cheese at room temperature
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 tbsp maple syrup. You can use honey if you do not have the syrup.
15 to 20 figs, fresh or dried.
*If you you dried figs, they will need to be plumped a little before hand. For this, just place your figs in a bowl with about 1/2 cup of Amaretto an
d 1/4 cup water. You don't have to use Amaretto, I just really love the flavor. Let figs sit for about 30 minutes, to soak up all the good liquid.

First pre heat the over to 400 degrees F

If you did not try to recipe above, simply follow the came directions for making crust. If you did, then take out the second round of crust from the fridge and roll it out into a 12 to 13 inch round. I suggest doing this on a piece of parchment paper so that it is easier to transfer to a baking sheet.

In a blender, combine the mascarpone, maple syrup, and vanilla extract. When it comes together and it is nice and smooth, put in your almond paste, making sure to cut it up into about 1/2 inch squares. With a spreading utensil, spread your cheese mixture onto the pastry round. Leave a 1/2 to 1 inch border around the outside so you can fold the crust over. After your sweet spread is down, slice the reconstituted figs and start to place them onto the spread however you see fit. I try to make a pretty pattern of some sort but you are more than welcome to just throw the figs on willy nilly.

When all of the figs are places, fold over the border of dough so that it is slightly covering the fig and mascarpone topping. You can see in the picture of m
y tart, just how it should look. At this point you are more than welcome to melt down any flavor of jam or jelly that you like and paint a glaze over your tart. This is mostly for aesthetics, and it really does make your tarts look extra beautiful. I however did not do this because I forgot to purchase some jam. I promise that your tart will still taste absolutely delicious even without this step. When the tart is finished and ready to bake, put the parchment paper on a baking sheet.

Bake the tart for about 40 minutes or until it is
beautifully gold brown. When done you can place it on a pretty platter for a show piece and dive right in with a fork. No matter how you decide to enjoy the tart, I suggest doing so while it is warm, that is when it is best.

This recipe is really versatile and can be made with just about any fruit. It is hard to go wrong with mascarpone and fruit in my opinion :)

I hope you decide to give these recipes a shot and enjoy them both. I actually got my boyfriend to try some of the fig pie and he hates pie! (I know...who hates pie??)

No matter what, cook with people you love and have fun while you do it, that's the most important thing >

As always Happy Baking friends!

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