Fresh figs rate among my very favorite fruits, and they show up at the best time of year, when summer produce is having its last hurrah and fall’s firmer fruits are showing up. Figs are like a special envoy sent in to make the transition easier, getting along as well with raspberries and peaches as they do with pears. They are also happy on their own, in savory dishes (like this for example), served with meats or cheeses, and if there is a more wine-friendly fruit I don’t know what it is.
I was recently charged with bringing dessert to a dinner party where I knew that at least a third of the guests preferred their sweets to be not so sweet. The pile of figs perched on the verge of uselessness eyed me from the other side of my bedroom/office/living room/kitchen. I thought of an easy, composed dessert of ricotta, figs, honey, and walnuts, but that seemed a little lazy. I used to bake for a living, after all, and what good is this apartment with an oven if I’m never going to use it? Anyway, I had no ricotta.
What I did have, and what I almost always have, is fresh chèvre, or goat cheese. When I say “fresh” I mean the soft, spreadable, new cheese that has no rind, typically sold in logs or buttons. I add it to salads, eggs, and pastas, all the kinds of simple things I cook for myself.
There was also piece of pâte brisée in my freezer. Thus, a tart was born.
It was a hit, and ultimately took little more effort than my original ricotta, figs, and honey would have. The filling, not far from a cheesecake, is a one-bowl affair, no mixer required. The pastry shell is the most labor intensive part, but only if you make your own from scratch. Those of you who enjoy making pastry won’t mind this part, and those of you who don’t can visit the frozen foods aisle for help.
I won’t tell.
Fig and Chèvre Tart
a 9″ tart shell, fully baked
10-12 fresh figs
1/4 c sugar, divided
1/4 t finely grated orange zest
4 1/2 oz (125 g) fresh chèvre (at room temp)
1/2 c (100 g) crème fraîche or heavy cream (at room temp)
2 egg yolks (at room temp)
1. Preheat your oven to 350°. Trim the stems from the figs and cut them in half. Toss the fruit with 1 T of the sugar and set aside while you prepare the filling.
2. Make the filling: Put the chèvre, orange zest, and remaining sugar in a small bowl and use a rubber spatula to stir and smooth it out. Add the crème fraîche or cream, a little at a time, and continue to mix and smush with your spatula to remove any lumps of chèvre and create a homogenous mixture. Stir in the egg yolks.
3. Spread the filling evenly in the bottom of your pre-baked shell and arrange the figs on top of the filling. Bake the tart for 20-30 minutes, until the figs are tender and the filling is set and starting to brown. This tart is best served the day it is made, at room temperature or still slightly warm from the oven.
Variations If you are a honey lover, try using honey instead of sugar in the filling and with the figs. If you have some raspberries, they would be a delicious addition: Toss a handful gently with the figs just before assembling and baking the tart.