Rustic Fig Tart

Courtesy of Baking Style by Lisa Yockelson (Wiley, 2011)

Rustic Fig Tart

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    2 cups unsifted bleached all-purpose flour 1 teaspoon cold milk
    1/8 teaspoon baking powder 1 1/4 teaspoons vanilla extract
    1/4 teaspoon salt 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
    11 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into small, rough chunks 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
    10 tablespoons granulated sugar 18 fresh figs (about 2 1/2 generous pints), stemmed and left whole
    1 cold large egg 2/3 cup best-quality red currant jelly


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    • 1

      To make the dough in a food processor, place the flour, baking powder, and salt in the work bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade. Cover and process, using quick on-off pulses, to combine the ingredients, 5 to 10 seconds. Add the chunks of butter, cover, and process to reduce the butter to smaller bits. Uncover, sprinkle over the granulated sugar (5 tablespoons), cover, and pulse once or twice to combine. Whisk the egg, milk, and vanilla extract in a small mixing bowl. Pour the egg mixture over the flour and butter mixture, cover, and process, using 10 to 15 on-off pulses, until the mixture just begins to come together in small clumps. The clumps should look moist. Turn the beginnings of the dough onto a work surface and gather it into one solid mass, smoothing it together lightly with the heel of your hand into a round cake.

    • 2

      To make the dough by hand, whisk the flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium-size mixing bowl. Drop in the chunks of butter and, using a pastry blender or two round-bladed table knives, cut the fat into the flour mixture until reduced to smaller morsels (irregular bits of butter are fine). Sprinkle over the granulated sugar and use a fork to mix it through the butter mixture.

    • 3

      With your fingertips, dip into the buttered flour mixture and crumble it to further disperse the fat. Whisk the egg, milk, and vanilla extract in a small mixing bowl. Pour the egg mixture over the flour and butter mixture and mix to form a dough, using a flat wooden paddle or sturdy spatula. It will come together in moist clumps. Turn the rough lumps and pieces of dough onto a work surface. Press, smear, and pat the dough into one solid mass, using the heel of your hand, forming it into a round cake. 

    • 4

      Wrap the cake of dough in a sheet of waxed paper and refrigerate for 20 minutes.

    • 5

      Roll the dough between two sheets of waxed paper into a 12 to 13-inch round. It’s fine if the edges are slightly ragged and misshapen—this adds to the charm of the overall tart -- but be sure to make as even a circle as possible. Place the tart dough round on a cookie sheet or rimmed sheet pan and refrigerate for 2 hours.

    • 6

      Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F in advance of baking.

    • 7

      Line a rimmed sheet pan with a length of ovenproof parchment paper.

    • 8

      To form the tart, carefully peel away the top sheet of waxed paper from the dough. Invert the dough round onto the center of the parchment paper–lined baking pan and peel away the second sheet of waxed paper. Let the dough stand for 15 to 30 minutes, or until just pliable (this will depend upon the ambient temperature of your kitchen). If the dough is too cold, it will crack, splinter, and break when folding it over the figs; if this happens, it is not the end of the world, so just firmly smooth over and press together the cracks with your fingertips to reunite the sections of dough. Rustic is rustic -- and pretty.

    • 9

      Sprinkle the surface of the dough with 1 tablespoon of the spiced sugar mixture (3 tablespoons granulated sugar whisked with 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon and 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg), leaving a 2 1/2 to 3-inch outer band of dough clear of sugar. Place the figs in a medium-size mixing bowl, sprinkle over the remaining 2 tablespoons spiced sugar, and toss well (but lightly). Spoon the sugar-spiced figs in one layer onto the center portion of the sugared surface.

    • 10

      Fold over the band of tart dough to create an overlapping border. You can use a flexible palette knife or small off set metal spatula to help lift the dough up slightly and partially over the mound of figs. Make a few pleats in the border as necessary. The center portion of figs will be exposed and a wide circular portion of it will be covered with the pastry dough. Sprinkle the 2 tablespoons sugar on top of the folded-over tart dough border, if you are not planning on dusting the edges of the baked tart with confectioners’ sugar.

    • 11

      Bake the tart in the preheated oven for 45 minutes, or until the figs are tender, the natural fruit juices gurgle up here and there, and the pastry is set and golden. Let the tart stand on the baking pan on a cooling rack for 20 minutes. If you are glazing the tart with the red currant jelly, warm the jelly in a small saucepan over low heat until melted down completely and bring to the barest simmer, then paint the figs with the jelly, using a soft pastry brush. Cool the tart to warm or to room temperature. If you have not sugared the folded edges before baking, sift a little confectioners’ sugar (2 tablespoons) over the rims’ folds before cutting into generous wedges for serving.

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