The summer is here once again and it just seems to get hotter every year. It almost feels unbelievable that just one month back it was so pleasant and I could still find fruit like strawberries, figs and other winter produce at the market.
As I child, I don’t think I even knew what figs were. At some point, when I was much older, I came across dried figs. I first discovered them at my cousin’s house, in the gift boxes containing dried fruit and nuts which were normally exchanged during Diwali.
This was in north India where figs are commonplace enough but still a rarity in south India, where I am from.
Then I found dried figs were being sold by my spice vendor in Kochi. They’re very attractive and quaint (many people don’t think so, but I do), sold as little bracelet sized circles or longer garlands made of flattened discs of fig strung through the centre with natural twine.
On an aside, did you know that the fig is not really a fruit, but the flower of the fig tree?
Then last year, I saw fresh figs for the first time at my local market. I think I caught them at the end of the season because when I went back the figs were gone! Then last month I saw them again.
I have always liked eating dried figs and really love the chewy taste of the dried fruit with the slight crunch from the seeds. So it is not surprising I would like fresh figs and brought some home.
Surprisingly, no one seemed to want this fresh fruit other than myself! So much the better, I thought, since I didn’t have to share. However, I did have more fresh figs on hand than I could eat by myself and fresh figs aren’t famous for their ability to keep.
There was only one thing to be done. Make something with figs! But what?
Given that I had been making a lot of jam and chutney, I wasn’t very thrilled by the idea of making some more jam or preserve. After a lot of recipe searching and thought, I made small fig tarts with cardamom scented frangipane.
I used the pate sable recipe from last month’s Daring Baker challenge for the crust, and I used Pim’s frangipane recipe for which she uses to make her “best ever fig tart”! Instead of making one big tart, I made small individual tarts, finally putting to use the tart tins Deeba had sent me some time back. I also decided to flavour the frangipane with my favourite spice, cardamom.
You can use blanched almonds, and your frangipane will be a nice whitish colour, but I use almonds with the skin on. I like the flecked brown in the frangipane, which is a good thing because I’m too lazy to blanch and skin the almonds.
You can also make these tarts with other fresh fruit like pears, mangoes, sweet plums, etc.
8 to 9 figs, depending on their size
For the crust (pate sablee):
1 1/2 cup all purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
100 gm butter, chilled and cubed
½ tsp vanilla extract
6 tbsp granulated sugar
1 egg yolk at room temperature
2 tbsp chilled water
3/4 cup toasted almonds
1/4 cup granulated sugar
4 cardamom pods
75 gm butter at room temperature
2 tbsp cold milk (optional to thin the frangipane)
Making the crust:
Put the flour, chilled butter, and baking powder into your processor bowl and run with “on” and “off” spurts till the mixture resembles coarse bread crumbs. Whisk the egg yolk and vanilla extract and add to the mixture along with the sugar.
Run the processor only till the mixture starts clumping together. Add the chilled water one tbsp at a time, and run the processor again only till the dough just comes together.
Take the dough out, gather into a ball and then flatten it into dics. Wrap this and chill for at least 30 minutes.
Lightly butter six 4” tart moulds with removable bottoms. Take the dough out and place on a lightly floured work surface.
Roll out the dough to 1/4" thickness and cut out 6 circles about 6” diameter each. You should be able to line six 4” tart moulds.
Gather the scraps, roll again and cut out the required circles. Do not work the dough more than absolutely necessary even though this particular pastry is rather forgiving.
Prick the pastry all over with a fork and then bake at 180C for 20 minutes or till a faint golden brown. Remove the tart cases from the moulds and cool on a rack.
Making the frangipane:
Run the toasted almonds, sugar and cardamom seeds (remove them from the pods) in your grinder/ processor till finely ground (sandy texture) but not pasty. If you grind the almonds too much, the oil gets released making the mixture pasty.
Add the butter and process again till mixed. Now add the egg and process till the frangipane is smooth.
This recipe makes more frangipane than is needed in this recipe. You will need about half of it. You can refrigerate the remainder (will keep for about 2 to 3 days) or freeze it (should keep for about a month) and use it in something else.
Making the fig tarts:
Wash the figs and trim both ends. Cut the figs into slices or eights lengthwise, according to your preference.
If your frangipane is too thick, you can add a little milk (do not add too much) to the amount of frangipane you’re using for these tarts. Mix very well.
Put the tarts back in their moulds, and spoon the frangipane equally into the 6 tarts. Arrange the fig pieces/ slices decoratively on the frangipane.
Bake the tarts at 180C for about 30 minutes, till the frangipane is cooked and starts browning.
Cool on racks and serve slightly warm or cold. You can serve them as they are or with a bit of whipped cream or thick yogurt.
This recipe makes six 4” fig tarts.
So did these make the best ever fig tarts?
Frankly, I don’t know as I’ve never eaten figs in a tart before. I can tell you that these tarts were quite good, though my daughter preferred to eat hers without the figs in them. She very carefully picked out the figs and then told me that her tart tasted good now. It definitely should have, since all that was left on her plate was some shortbread-like pate sablee and almond frangipane!