Ripe slices of fresh Black Mission figs bathed in sugar and lemon juice top this lemon-zest tart crust to create a stunning, center piece dessert. It's such a sexy tart that I thought, why compete? I slipped on a pair of ripped-at-the-knee jeans and a pink T-shirt for our dinner party to step aside for the real beauty.
We started with a flavorful fig, arugula, and bacon salad and a glass of sparkling glass of cava. At the end of the evening, the gorgeous tart echoed the fig salad course and proved a delicous end to our heirloom tomato pizza dinner.
I adapted the recipe from "Dolce Italiano: Desserts from the Babbo Kitchen" by Mario Batali's top pastry chef, Gina DePalma, to give the tart a bolder flavor. I doubled the lemon zest in the tart crust, adjusted the flour amount slightly, added a second egg yolk in the filling, switched out the almonds for pine nuts, and doubled the lemon juice in the fig topping. The extra lemon takes the dessert from being excellent to outstanding.
Crowned with a dollop of whipped cream and served with a bubbly moscato d'asti, a slice (or two!) of this dessert makes for a celebratory end to a fun evening with friends.
Fresh Fig Tart (Crostata di Fichi)
1 recipe sweet lemon zest tart crust (below)
1/2 stick butter (four tablespoons)
1/4 cup confectioners' sugar
2 large egg yolks
1 tablespoons honey
1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted and finely chopped
12 - 15 medium fresh Black Mission figs
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/4 cup granulated sugar
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Flour the surface of a large cutting board. Cut the dough ball in half. Save half for your next tart. Flatten the other half into a disc and roll it into an 11-inch circle. It should be 1/8 inch thick. The sides will crack as you roll out the dough. Just pause and repair the cracks with your fingers.
Transfer the dough to a 10-inch tart pan with fluted sides and a removable bottom by rolling the dough over your well-floured rolling pin and then unrolling it onto the pan. Press the dough gently into the bottom and corners of the pan. If the dough breaks, just repair it with your fingers. This process takes a little time but the dough is forgiving. Chill the tart shell while you're making the filling.
In the bowl of an electric mixer or in a regular bowl using an egg beater, cream together the butter and confectioners' sugar. Beat in the egg yolks one at a time, followed by the honey. Beat in the finely chopped pine nuts.
Trim the stems off the figs and quarter them lengthwise. Place them in a large bowl with the lemon juice and granulated sugar, tossing to coat evenly.
Pour the tart filling over the bottom of the tart shell and spread evenly. Arrange the figs on top, flesh side up, in a circular pattern. Bake the tart for 40 minutes or until lighly brown. Cool the tart for at least 30 minutes before serving.
Sweet Lemon Zest Tart Crust (makes 2 tarts)
2-1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
Fresly grated zest of 2 lemons
1-1/2 sticks unsalted butter, cold, cut into 1/4-inch cubes
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 cup heavy cream
Place the flour, sugar, salt, baking powder, and lemon zest in a food processor and pulse several times to combine. Add the cold, cubed butter a little at a time and process until the mixture is sandy and there are no lumps.
In a small bowl, whisk together the egg, egg yolk, vanilla extract, and heavy cream. Add the wet ingredients to the food processor and pulse 3 - 4 times. Pour the dough, which may still be flaky, into a large bowl and start working it together with your hands until it's a solid piece.
Form the dough into a ball, wrap in plastic, and chill until firm, 1 - 2 hours. You can freeze the dough for up to 2 months.