I’ve been taking great solace in the kitchen these weeks. It helps that the bounty of indian summer in Northern California is colorful, plentiful, and very diverse. Without a physical challenge on the calendar, I have had a great deal of time to just be in our apartment with Gunner, and my tool box from the days when I worked in a professional kitchen. Using brushes, cutters, pins, scales and exact measurements that I haven’t thought of in a while. These meditative moments of creating in the kitchen were what drew me to this work in the first place and getting back to them makes me feel more whole.
Kitty is having a little one and so we all gathered to celebrate her in a garden in San Anselmo. It was the type of gathering where we could have spent all morning and afternoon catching up with this guest – because she’s doing something new, that guest – because she just came back from that masterful adventure, and that wonderful guest over there – because its been too long. The kind of gathering where even after you decide its time to leave, it takes you another hour to say goodbye. It was a joy to celebrate Kitty, but also a joy to be in this garden filled with a community of fun, strong, powerful and inspirational women, all eager to welcome this new Little One to the world. An urban myth turned fairy tale right here in our backyard (well, the hosts’ backyard actually!)
So, between having some meditative time to make this beautiful tart, and having a sunny afternoon to share it over good conversation – it was a great weekend.
This little tart is so pretty, those whom enjoy it will assume that it not only will stop your heart but took hours to create. Well, only if you WANT it to take hours is this the case. (As I did, sipping wine, rolling out dough, taking photographs, hand selecting the decorative figs….) The truth is that you could prepare and freeze the crust up to three months in advance, and you could prepare the fig filling – which cooks itself – the day before serving. I will likely employ this technique in the months to come, as holiday desserts start coming to mind.
As for stopping hearts – only if your figs are straight from the tree. I did modify the recipe to bring down the butter and sugar quantities, and then painted the figs on top with a light honey glaze, which means that the figs really have the opportunity to steal the show. Enjoy! xo – L
- 1 1/4 cups unbleached flour
- 3 Tablespoons fine-ground cornmeal
- pinch of sea salt
- 1 large egg yolk
- 1 1/2 Tbsp heavy cream
- 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
- 6 Tbsp unsalted butter, softened
- 3 Tbsp turbinado sugar
- 1 tsp meyer lemon zest
- 4 pints fresh green and purple figs, trimmed
- 1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
- 1/3 cup good white wine
- 1/3 cup turbinado sugar
- 1 tsp vanilla bean paste, or 1/2 vanilla bean - split and scraped
- 1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
- 1/2 tsp freshly grated lemon zest
- 2 Tbsp unsalted butter
- 2 Tbsp honey + 1 Tbsp water
- First, prepare the crust. In a medium bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients and set aside. In a small bowl, whisk together the yolk, cream and vanilla. Then, in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter, sugar and zest until combined - just about a minute. Add the egg yolk mixture and beat until just combined. Add the flour mixture in two batches, scraping down the sides in between additions. Mix until the dough is smooth then scrape the dough out onto a piece of plastic wrap, press it into a disk and chill for at least one hour, until firm.
- Once firm, preheat the oven to 325F degrees. Remove the disk from the fridge and roll it out onto a lightly floured surface into a 12-inch round. Gently, fit the dough into a 10-inch tart pan with a removable bottom, being sure that the flutes on the sides of the pan are full of dough. Prick the bottom of the crust all over with a fork. Bake the tart crust until its evenly pale and golden, about 22-25 minutes. Transfer the tart pan to a wire rack to cool.
- Next, prepare the fig filling. Quarter 2 pints of the figs and set them aside. Cube the remaining 2 pints of figs and place them in a saucepan with the lemon juice, wine, sugar, vanilla bean paste, nutmeg and zest. Simmer the mixture over medium-low heat until it starts to jam a bit, roughly 1-1.5 hours. Once its nice and thick, remove it from heat and add the butter, stirring to melt it completely. You're going to want to let the fig mixture cool to room temperature before filling the tart.
- Just before serving (or within a couple of hours) spread the fig filling in the crust. Then, decorate the top of the filling with the quartered figs. I like to stand them all up on their bottoms so that the pointy tops stick up. Wedge the figs in tightly, and so that no filling shows when you look at the tart from above. Then, with a pastry brush, paint the figs with the honey water so that they're shiny. Remove the tart pan and serve.