[Free form fig and hazelnut tart]
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – I’m not much of a baker. It’s not only because I don’t really have the patience but also because I love the improvisation of general cooking – baking is just a bit too rigid for me.
The slightest issue with proportion and your hard work collapses, burns, sinks or crumbles into a pile of rubble right before your horrified eyes.
You can obviously fix (or hide) the mistakes of some disasters if you’re really clever – but not me. Luckily my palette is more savoury so I can mostly avoid these types of dilemmas.
Saying that though, many years ago I helped my sister make a birthday cake for her school friend, and in our excitement we opened the oven door a bit too early causing the cake to sink in the middle.
Being a highly optimistic person I came up with a very good solution: dump a load of freckles in the hole and cover the whole lot with thick chocolate icing. We named it ‘Hidden treasure cake’ and no-one suspected a thing. In fact, it was a hit!
After an impromptu trip to the local Eveleigh Farmers Market where I picked up a large box of figs (about 9) for $5 (wow!) I decided to make a free form tart with them. The first Fig recipe on Fig & Cherry!
First: I’ve never made pastry crust from scratch but I didn’t let that deter me. Besides, I’ve read loads of recipes that explain what to do – butter, flour, water. Rest the dough… blah blah. I can do that.
Second: I didn’t feel like getting out my food processor so I just decided to use my hands.
Conclusion: The tart turned out fine as you can see. But be warned, I’ve only made this recipe once and I made it up completely on the fly. Follow with caution!
Incidentally, I was flicking through an old copy of one of my favourite food magazines this morning, Australian Gourmet Traveller and I found this Neil Perry recipe for Fig and Raspberry crostata. Mine looks pretty similar, huh? Not bad for a first go.
Obviously Neil’s recipe is far superior to mine – it includes frangipane, yum! Plus I found out yesterday that he has a personal blog too. Check it out. OK, that’s quite enough for now.
Would love a vote if you get a chance. Go on, I’ll be your best friend….
Free form fig and hazelnut tart
I haven’t added sugar to the pastry because my figs were really ripe and I prefer brown sugar on top. Feel free to add a tablespoon of caster sugar to the dough if you like.
1 cup wholemeal flour, sifted
100g butter, chilled and diced
2 tablespoons roasted hazelnuts, crushed
6-7 medium figs, neatly sliced
1 teaspoon dark brown sugar
1. Add the sifted flour and diced butter to a large mixing bowl. If it’s a really hot day see note* below.
2. Using your fingers mix together the flour and butter until the consistency of medium sized breadcrumbs. Add 2 tablespoons of cold water and mix until the dough just comes together.
3. Knead the dough quickly and lightly with the heel of your hand on a sheet of baking paper.
4. Roll out the dough between two sheets of baking paper to form a 30cm circle. Place on a large baking tray (with the baking paper touching the tray) and place in the fridge for 30 minutes.
5. Preheat the oven to 180C. Remove the dough from the oven and scatter with the chopped hazelnuts, leaving a 3cm border around the edge. Top with figs and fold the pastry border in towards the centre, pleating as you go.
6. Sprinkle the exposed figs with brown sugar and bake for 45 minutes or until golden brown and crispy. Serve with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream (my favourite!).
*It was a very hot day when I made this so I popped my mixing bowl into the freezer for 15 mins before adding the flour and butter. The colder the ingredients stay the more flaky the finished pastry will be. This is because the flakiness is due to the little chunks of cold butter distributed throughout the dough – If it’s too warm they will melt.