[When i was a child… – Figs and almonds tarts]

crostata-ficchi.jpg

From Jamie’s Italy

Indian summer they call it.
I would rather say ‘opportunity to still get figs at the end of October’.
In fact, France is being blessed with summer-like temperatures and I am, on the other hand, blessed with plump figues noires [black figs].

I am a devoted lover of figs. When I was a child, I used stand up on my balançoire [swing] to reach the higher branches of the fig tree of our backyard, and then eat the result of my harvest in less than ten minutes. But I was fooling no one, my stained fingers and lips spoke for themselves!

Crostata di fichi
This is the perfect way to use ripe figs. It makes a well balanced pudding – the tartness of the figs complements the sweet frangipane in such a delicious way.

I think it tastes even better the next day, just chilled. I even had it for breakfast with a generous dollop of yoghurt.

Just a short note – althought the tins i used are *super-cute* i really advise you to bake the tart in a 28cm tart tin as the frangipane/fig ratio is slightly too high when using two small tins instead of a large one.
It does improve the taste and balance to have less frangipane per slice and thus to use a 28cm tin.

Crostata di fichi

serves 8

15 whole figs, washed
30g caster sugar
2 tablespoons water
2 sprigs of fresh thyme, leaves picked
zest of 1 orange

for the shortcrust pastry:
125g butter
100g icing sugar
a small pinch of salt
255g plain flour
1 vanilla pod, scored lengthways and seeds removed
zest of a lemon
2 large egg yolks, preferably organic
2 tablespoons cold milk or water

for the frangipane:
285g blanched whole almonds
55g plain flour
255g unsalted butter
255g caster sugar
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 vanilla pod, scored lengthways and seeds removed

First you will need to grease a loose-bottomed 28cm tart tin with a little of your butter.

To make your pastry, cream together the butter, icing sugar and salt and rub in the flour, vanilla seeds, lemon zest and egg yolks – you can do all this by hand or in a food processor. When the mixture looks like coarse breadcrumbs, add the cold milk or water. Pat and gently work the mixture together until you have a ball of dough, then flour it lightly. Don’t work the pastry too much, otherwise it will become elastic and chewy, not flaky and short as you want it to be. Wrap the dough in clingfilm and place in the fridge for at least an hour. Remove it from the fridge, roll it out and line your tart tin. Place in the freezer for an hour.

Preheat the oven to 180°C and bake the pastry case for around 12 minutes or until lightly golden. Remove from the oven and turn the heat down to 170°C.

To make the frangipane, blitz 255g of the whole almonds in a food processor until you have a fine powder and transfer this to a bowl with the flour. Now blitz the butter and sugar until light and creamy. Add this to the almonds with the lightly beaten eggs, the vanilla seeds and the grappa and fold in until completely mixed and smooth. Place in the fridge for at least half an hour to firm up. Remove the stems from the figs, score each one on the top in the shape of a cross, then using your thumb push up from the base to open them out.

Spoon the chilled frangipane mixture into the pastry case, then lightly push the figs into the frangipane with the scored side up. Heat the sugar with the water and drizzle this syrup over the figs. Roughly chop the remaining almonds and sprinkle over the top with the thyme leaves and orange zest. Bake in the preheated oven for about 40 minutes, or until the frangipane mixture has become firm and golden on the outside but is still soft in the middle. Allow to cool for about 30 to 40 minutes. Lovely served with a dollop of mascarpone or crème fraîche.