Like many other people on the Northeast Coast of the United States, I’m trapped in my house because of what was the impending Hurricane Irene, as many restaurants shut down and Mayor Bloomberg did a gradual shutdown of NYC that even the transit system isn’t running.
So to do something, I walked through my garden and backyard to evacuate (harvest, actually) my Sweet 100 tomatoes, beefsteak tomatoes, fuzzy squash (mao qwa; 节瓜), and most importantly, my beloved figs, before Irene comes over to my backyard and would ruin my plants – or make purée out of my fruits and squash.
Since my figs were really ripe, I can’t help but eat some of my figs as they were super soft and sticky sweet. What I miss eating were tarts and pie. Taking this craving and have inspiration from my figs, I thought of baking a fig crostata. It’s a rustic Italian-style tart that display my gorgeous figs and without being too fussy with pleating that tart’s edges.
If you have an hour or two to spare, like I do (it’s more like a total of 2 days), this is a way to take your mind off cabin fever while Irene batters her way through. The fig crostata was divine. Crisp, flaky crust with tons of supple, sweet figs that’s been accented with honey, brown sugar, hazelnuts, orange zest, and Cognac.
It’s a sophisticated way to have something sweet while you have to wait patiently. I had my tart with the naturally sweet, red fruit-forward (red fruits like currants and raspberries) Marco Polo tea from Mariage Frères.
Here’s the recipe:
For the crust (Pâte Brisée)
Yield: 1 tart
Crust recipe from Martha Stewart’s New Pies and Tarts
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/2 cup (1 sticks) unsalted butter, chilled and cut into small pieces
1/8 to 1/4 cup ice water
Note: You may use a large bowl, using your hands if you don’t have a food processor.
In the bowl of a food processor, combine flour, salt, and sugar. Add butter, and process until the mixture resembles coarse meal, 8 to 10 seconds.
With machine running, add ice water in a slow, steady stream through feed tube. Pulse until dough holds together without being wet or sticky; be careful not to process more than 30 seconds. To test, squeeze a small amount together: If it is crumbly, add more ice water, 1 tablespoon at a time.
Flatten into a disc and wrap in plastic. Transfer to the refrigerator and chill at least 1 hour. Dough may be stored, frozen, up to 1 month.
2 pounds of fresh figs, halved or quartered (I did both cuts depending upon size)
1 cup of toasted hazelnuts, coarsely chopped
3/4 cup honey (I used Cloister Honey‘s Sourwood honey)
3/4 cup dark brown sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 tablespoons orange zest
1 tablespoon of Cognac, optional (I used Courvoisier 21, since a 21-year old Cognac has an incredible depth of flavor)
2 tablespoons heavy cream, for brushing the crust
1 tablespoon sanding sugar
1. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the pâte brisée dough to 1/8-inch thickness. Fit into an 8-inch pie dish, leaving a 1-inch overhang. Freeze for up to 30 minutes.
2. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a large bowl place the all the filling’s ingredients and carefully stir without breaking up the fragile figs too much until all the cornstarch is not showing. Transfer to pie shell. Fold in overhang to form a crust; brush crust with heavy cream, and sprinkle with sanding sugar. Bake for 30 minutes; reduce oven to 375 degrees. Bake until golden and center is bubbling, about 30 – 45 minutes more. Let cool at least 30 minutes to let the filling set.