Taste of the week: Fig and almond tart

Picking figs is one of the greatest joys of my Provençal garden. I love the pure luxury of grabbing a plump ripe fig straight from a branch, tearing it open to reveal its ruby red seeded heart, and then devouring it right there beneath the tree's leafy canopy.

We have several varieties of fig trees on our property and they are such industrious little producers that I often have more figs than I know what to do with. Which is how I came to develop this recipe. My favorite is the ronde de Bordeaux, small figs with a deep purple, almost black exterior and a vibrant red interior, that are ideal for tarts and jams. I love to serve this tart with roasted fig sorbet.

Fig and Almond Tart

8 servings   |   Equipment:  A 10-inch (25 cm) tart pan with a removable bottom; a rolling pin; a baking sheet lined with baking parchment; a food processor.

A 14-ounce (400 g)all-butter puff pastry, thawed if frozen (see Note)
1 cup (80 g) almond meal (see Note)
5 tablespoons (2 1/2 ounces; 75 g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/3 cup (65 g) unrefined cane sugar, preferably organic, and vanilla scented
2 tablespoons (20 g) unbleached, all-purpose flour
1 egg yolk, preferably organic and free-range
1 tablespoon fig jam
35 to 40 (1 3/4 pounds; 875 g) small purple figs, stems trimmed
Confectioners’ sugar, for dusting

NOTES: •    In our tests, we have preferred Dufour brand frozen puff pastry, available at most specialty supermarkets. See www.dufourpastrykitchens.com. Be sure to leave ample time for thawing frozen dough, at least 6 hours in the refrigerator.

Almond meal (sometimes called almond flour) is made from whole, unblanched (skin-on) almonds. For this recipe, whole, unblanched almonds can be finely ground in a food processor. Do not over-process or you may end up with almond butter.

1.    Fold the pastry in half, transfer it to the tart pan and unfold it. Without stretching the dough, lift it up at the edges so that it naturally falls against the rim of the pan. With your fingertips, very delicately coax the dough onto the rim. There should be a generous overhang. With the rolling pin, roll over the top of the tin, trimming off the overhanging pastry to create a smooth, well-trimmed shell.

2.    Center a rack in the oven. Preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C). Place the tart shell on the baking sheet.

3.    In the food processor, combine the almond meal, butter, sugar, flour, egg yolk, and fig jam and process to blend. Transfer the almond mixture to the pastry shell. Smooth out the top with a spatula. Place in the oven and bake just until the pastry firms up and begins to brown, and the almond mixture browns, about 10 minutes. Remove from the oven.

4.    Cut an X in the top of each fig and gently squeeze from the bottom to open the fruit like a flower. Arrange the figs, cut side up, side by side on top of the almond mixture.

5.    Return the tart pan to the oven and bake until the figs and the filling are dark and bubbly, 20 to 25 minutes. Remove from the oven and transfer to a rack to cool. While the tart is still warm, sprinkle with confectioners’ sugar. After about 10 minutes, carefully remove the tart from the sides of the pan, leaving it on the pan base. Serve warm or at room temperature, cut into wedges. This tart is best served the day it is baked.

The secret: Use ripe, but not overly ripe figs, which tend to give up too much liquid and turn the pastry soggy.

Tip: Figs freeze beautifully. Treat them as you would berries: Arrange the whole fruit stem side up, side by side on a baking sheet, and place in the freezer. Once frozen, transfer to a zippered plastic bag and freeze for up to 3 months. For use, thaw at room temperature.



This recipe was first published in The French Kitchen Cookbook: Recipes and Lessons from Paris and Provence.

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