August 2, 2013

at home in the curious city

I grew up eating Fig Newtons during recess on the school yard. I don't think I made the connection that Fig Newtons are made from figs until I ate my first real fig in college. I always thought Fig Newton was a person. I was pretty parochial before the age of 18. Anyway, figs are abundant and totally in season right now so it's the perfect opportunity to pay homage to Mr. Fig Newton!

I asked my freshman year college dorm mate, the lovely Jessica Smith from the cooking blog Girl Likes Cake, to be our guest blogger. She is currently attending pastry school in San Francisco so she knows her business in the kitchen. Just to reminisce a bit, Jessica was one of a handful of people who expanded my mind that first year away from home. She got me into Lynard Skynard and J Crew. I know, she's the coolest!

Goat Cheese and Quince Fig Pizza
10 figs halved
16 oz Pizza dough (Trader Joe's)
1 tbs fresh rosemary chopped
2 cloves garlic chopped
1/2 red onion sliced thinly
2 oz goat cheese
1 oz quince paste thinly sliced (Trader Joe's)
3 tbs olive oil
Red pepper flakes to taste
Salt and pepper to taste
Start by letting the pizza dough sit out for 20 minutes before handling it.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Coat the sliced onions with 1 tbs olive oil and toss with salt and pepper. Broil/grill it for 5 minutes until it becomes tender and barely charred so when you bake it with the pizza later it ensures caramelization. 

Roll the pizza out, or if like me you do not own a rolling pin, pat it out. Drizzle the pizza with the rest of the olive oil. Add the toppings to the pizza - figs, garlic, onions, rosemary, goat cheese, and quince paste. Finish with a sprinkle of red pepper flakes, salt and pepper to taste.

Bake pizza for 20-25 minutes until crust starts to golden.

The pizza turned out deliciously. This recipe was derived from a bunch of fig recipes I looked up online, none of which seemed that great individually so I combined ingredients from here and there. I threw in the quince paste as an experiment and it worked! It gives a subtly sweet and tart flavor that enhances the fig and contrasts well with the goat cheese and rosemary. The paste melts in the oven and coats the dough really fantastically. FYI quince paste is this very dense jam made from the quince fruit. I found it in the cheese refrigerator at Trader Joe's.

Antony's only comment in between inhaling the pizza was he wished there was some meat on it. So next time I will cut up some proscuitto and put it on his half of the pizza. 

Mascarpone Fig Tart
One 10 inch baked tart shell (recipe below for Buttery Tart Dough)
12-15 ripe black mission figs
About 1/4 cup of loose honey (I used orange-blossom which was lovely!)
3/4 cup of fresh mascarpone cheese
1/2 cup heavy cream
3 tbs powdered sugar
Splash of marsala or muscat wine, to taste
Preheat your over to 400F.  Clean your figs and cut into quarters, removing any stems. Place them on a parchment-covered rimmed baking sheet and drizzle honey over them. Roast in the over for 15 minutes or so, until the honey is bubbly and the figs are slightly roasted. Allow to cool.

Make your filling. Using an electric hand mixer or kitchen aid, lightly whip the mascarpone in a large bowl. Slowly incorporate the cream and then add the sugar and wine. Mix until the cream is thickened and fairly stiff (imagine if you could cut through it to make a nice slice). Adjust sugar and wine to taste.

Smooth the filling into the cooled, baked pie shell and arrange your figs on top in a pretty pattern. Enjoy!
Buttery Tart Dough
All credit for this dough goes to the amazing Ms. Stacie Pierce, former pastry chef of Chez Panisse and currently of Little Bee Baking in San Francisco. Check her out and look forward to her forthcoming shop in Bernal Heights! You can definitely sub in any other sweet tart dough if you have a favorite standby!

2 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp sugar
1/4 tsp salt
10 tbs cold unsalted butter
Approx 1/2 cup very cold icy water

Make sure your butter is the right temperature. It should be cold but somewhat malleable. A good test is to press a finger gently into it. If you can make an impression without butter coming off onto your finger then you're good! If it's too soft pop it back in the fridge for a bit.

Mix together the flour, sugar, and salt in a large bowl.

Cut the butter into small squares. Flatten each one into a little pat as you drop them into the flour mixture.

Begin to incorporate the butter into the flour. The flakiness of a tart dough comes from the little pockets of butter, so you don't want to mix it completely. The goal is to make the dough just come together without overworking it. Begin by raking the butter loosely through the flour mixture with your hand, gently breaking the butter into little pieces. When this is mostly done, start drizzling in the cold water a little bit at a time. Continue to rake your hand through the dough and add water as needed until it starts coming together. There will still be some dry patches and crumbling bits. Don't press and squeeze the dough as this will overwork it. You may not need all the water depending on the humidity in your kitchen and the temperature of your butter.

Divide the dough into two equal portions. Gather each portion gently into a ball and cover in piece of plastic wrap. You can gently knead the dough through the plastic wrap to smooth out the dry bits and shape the dough into a round, flat disc. Check to see if you have white marbled strands of butter throughout - this is a good sign!

Refrigerate your dough for about an hour before you roll it out.

For the recipe above you'll just need one disc and a 10-inch fluted tart pan with removable bottom. Refrigerate dough for about an hour before rolling out.

Preheat oven to 375F. Spread some flour out on a flat, cool surface. Gently roll your dough out to about 1/8 inch. Lay gently in the pan and trim so there's about 1/2 inch overhang. Fold this overhang back over itself inside the sides of the tart and press to seal. This dough is really yummy and flaky, but it will inevitably shrink, so make you're at least starting out with the dough all way up the sides of the pan. 

Cover the tart gently with foil and fill with either dry beans or pie weights. Bake for about 15 minutes. Remove the foil and weights and bake for another 15 minutes or so until just lightly golden in places on the bottom. Allow to cool.

Unused, tightly wrapped dough will last a few days in the fridge or about 2 months in the freezer.

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