Dancing a Jig for Fresh Figs
When my husband and I moved from DC to Seattle a year ago, I anticipated the absence of three important elements – my friends, top-shelf Lebanese food and Karla’s fig tree.
For several years, Karla has been both a neighbor and one of those friends who doubles as family. She lives in a big old house that sits at the top of a hill, and on that hill is one happy fig tree. It’s so happy that most years, it bears fruit twice – in June and in September. Over the years, we’ve feasted on those figs out on the back porch, with olive oil, basil and prosciutto, a little gorgonzola or just by their glorious lonesome. I knew I was gonna miss those fig days.
And then along came Stephanie. Like Karla, she’s a neighbor with strong friend-as-family qualities AND she has a fig tree in the yard. Thanks to a warmer-than-usual summer in Seattle, Steph and Alex’s fig tree has produced a bumper crop of fruit. In about two weeks, she reckons that tree in the yard cranked out 500 green figs. After eating her weight in figs and making countless jars of jam, Steph confessed that she may be suffering from “fig-tigue.”
To help her lighten the load, I took a few heaping helpings and incorporated them into a tart. But not just a tart — a galette, a more rustic, free-form creation that is shaped without the structure of a pan. With the very reliable “Rustic Fruit Desserts” as my recipe guide, I did Steph’s figs right, tucking them into a flaky yet structured pastry dough lined with a dreamy honeyed pastry cream.
Next week, I’m headed back east for a visit, so I gave my girl Karla a ring to pencil in some gal-pal time. “I think the figs will be ready by the time you’re here,” she said.
Hmm. A bi-coastal fig connection. A girl can’t get much luckier.
P.S. The East coast galette comes out of the oven around noon on Sunday, if you wanna stop by.
1 ¾ cups (8 ¾ ounces) all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
¾ teaspoon salt
¾ cup (6 ounces or 1.5 sticks) cold unsalted butter
3 tablespoons ice water, or more as needed
1 teaspoon lemon juice from fruit
Seeds scraped from ½ vanilla bean (KOD: I used 1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste)
¾ cup half-and-half
2 egg yolks
¼ cup honey
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
1 ½ tablespoons cornstarch
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
8-10 large fresh figs, stemmed and quartered
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
Make dough: Combine flour, sugar and salt in a mixing bowl and place in freezer for about 10 minutes.
Cut butter into ½-inch cubes, then add to flour mixture, tossing until each butter cube is coated. Using a pastry blender, food processor or your hands, “cut” butter into flour until ingredients become coarse and crumbly and butter is slightly smaller than a pea.
Stir water and lemon juice together, then drizzle over dough, tossing with a fork to distribute liquid. Pastry will be shaggy but should hold together when squeezed in the palm of your hand; if not, add an additional teaspoon or two of ice water.
Pour onto a lightly floured work surface and press down on dough, folding a few times until it holds together. Resist the urge to fuss with the dough, or it will get warm and may become resistant.
Flatten dough into a disk approximately 1 inch thick. Wrap in plastic and chill for 1 hour. (Can be kept in fridge for up to 3 days, or up to 3 months in the freezer.)
Make pastry cream: Place vanilla bean seeds (or paste) into a medium saucepan. Add half-and-half and cook over medium heat until hot, but not boiling.
In a wide mixing bowl, whisk egg yolks, honey, sugar and salt until slightly thickened and lighter in color. Add cornstarch and whisk until combined. Temper the yolks – ladle half of the hot half-and-half into yolk mixture and stir immediately until integrated. Feel side of mixing bowl; it should be warm.
Return warmed up yolk mixture to saucepan and cook over medium heat, whisking constantly, until mixture begins to thicken and maybe even bubble. Strain mixture over a fine sieve (and into a small bowl), then whisk in butter. Stir occasionally until cool.
Roll out dough: Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or grease with cooking spray. Roll dough into a 13-14-inch circle (KOD: I dusted my work surface with flour, then lightly pounded before rolling. After one or two rolling motions, I rotated dough 45 degrees.) Fold dough in half and transfer (preferablywith a dough scraper) to baking sheet. It should overhang a little bit.
Spread cooled pastry cream over dough, but beware: the cream likes to wander. Maintain a 2-inch border around dough perimeter to help minimize seepage. Arrange figs into a circular pattern, skin side down and stem end facing into the center, also away from the 2-inch border.
Sprinkle sugar over figs. Fold outer edge of dough over outermost figs, pleating dough as necessary (and being mindful of tears and holes). Refrigerate for about 1 hour to chill and relax the dough.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees and bake on the bottom rack of the oven, 50-60 minutes. Cool for 30 minutes before serving.
Storage: Covered with a tea towel, will keep at room temperature for up to 2 days.