Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Fresh Fig Tartlets with Mascarpone & Chocolate Black Pepper Crust


Edible figs originated in Arabia and were first cultivated by the Mesopotamians. In fact figs are held by many to be one of the ancient world’s first 5 domesticated crops – along with olives, grapes, pomegranates, and dates. And that, incidentally, is how this site came by its name.

Figs were cultivated in the northern Mediterranean by 1600 B.C.E., thanks to the Phoenicians who brought them there - first on the islands of Cyprus, Rhodes, Sicily, Malta, and Corsica, and later in the mainland Phoenician colonies of Spain, Portugal, and France.

Subsequently, the fig spread to Italy and Greece, where it was incorporated into popular mythology and quickly became a staple for rich and poor alike. The Ancient Greeks and Romans both considered figs to be restorative – especially to the convalescent. They were commonly held to fortify the young and to invigorate the elderly. And whenever I bite into a juicy in-season fig, I have to agree. How could that subtly perfumed sweetness not be medicinal, after all?

Fig season is already wrapping up in this part of the world, but I wanted to share one more way we celebrate the harvest around here before they’re gone. I’m not one for ultra-fussy desserts at home, so these tartlets are essentially nothing more than chocolate cookies swirled with creamy mascarpone cheese and topped with the fresh fig slices. Here the whole is scented with Marsala wine and orange zest. And I find the earthiness of the chocolate to be a great foil for figs, especially when it’s punctuated with the subtle bite of black pepper – something I love with fruit year-round.

The chocolate and black pepper crust here is based on Julia Child’s “Chocolate Dough” in Dorie Greenspan’s Baking with Julia, because I really can’t imagine ever improving on that! And thanks so much to you all for your comments while I was gone. I must say I really missed you, and everyone’s questions and kind words have been truly wonderful to come home to! I’m looking forward immensely to visiting all of your sites and catching up on what I missed while I was in Maine.




Makes about 10 – 12 tartlets

1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for dusting
¼ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
¼ cup sugar
¼ tsp salt
½ tsp freshly ground black pepper, or less, depending on taste
4 oz. very cold unsalted butter, cut into small cubes or grated
1 large egg yolk
1 tbsp ice water
2 tbsp melted butter
8 oz. mascarpone cheese
1 vanilla bean
2 tbsp Marsala wine
1 lb fresh figs, sliced thinly from top to bottom
zest of 1 orange

Place the flour, cocoa, sugar, salt, and pepper into the bowl of a food processor. Pulse to combine. Add the cold butter and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse oatmeal. Add the egg yolk and ice water and pulse just until a crumbly dough starts to form – do not overwork, or your crusts will be tough.

Form the dough into a disk, wrap in plastic wrap, and chill for at least 30 minutes or up to 3 days. The dough freezes for 1 month if wrapped well and sealed in a freezer-safe bag.

When ready to continue, preheat the oven to 350 F and brush a baking sheet with melted butter.

Remove the dough from the refrigerator and allow to sit for 10 minutes – just to come up to a workable temperature. Scatter a clean work surface with a small amount of flour and roll the dough out to about 1/8 to ¼ inch thick. Remember that the less the dough is worked and heated, the more tender it will be. So work quickly, and use your fingertips rather than the palms of your hands.

Using a 3 ½ or 4 inch round cookie cutter (fluted if possible), cut out circles of dough and transfer to the baking sheet. Roll out the dough scraps again and cut out more circles. Continue until you’ve used up the dough.

Prick the dough circles all over with a fork and bake for 8 minutes. Rotate the pan and bake for another 4 to 8 minutes until the crusts are dry and firm. Place the baking sheet on a rack to cool.

In a medium bowl, stir the mascarpone cheese until creamy. With a sharp knife, split the vanilla bean lengthwise and scrape out the seeds. Add them to the mascarpone with the Marsala wine and stir until well combined.

Just before serving, divide the mascarpone cheese between the tart crusts and swirl out with the back of a spoon. Arrange the fig slices (about 9 - 11 for each tartlet) with their tops pointing in to the center of the circle (see photo above), and sprinkle each one with a few strips of orange zest. Serve immediately.

Update:
This recipe is my submission for Sugar High Friday #35, and Ivonne of Cream Puffs in Venice is hosting the event this month. The theme is The Beautiful Fig, so I'm sure the round up will be truly sumptuous. Thanks Ivonne!

50 comments:

Garrett said...

I love the crust for these tarts. I did a chocolate cupcake with pink peppercorns, and it was fabulous. I think it's a very contemporary flavor combination which you perfectly executed here.

Simona said...

This is so interesting and beautiful, I don't know where to start. I am really intrigued by the dough. I hope I can still find some figs at the market.

Rose said...

Nice to have you back Amanda. What can I say about these tartlets? I am actually speechless. They look divine and I am very intrigued with the crust that I have to try. If only we had that beautiful, fresh figs here in Michigan. The only one available are sold in plastic boxes, from California, all mushy and wrinkled. I am so jealous now. It's been a while since I had a really good fig.
By the way, I pickled my radishes the other day and I must say that they are really good and very addictive on their own. A bit sweet for pickles but I will give it another shot with some changes to the recipe to suit my taste. Thanks a lot Amanda and have a wonderful day.

clumsy said...

These look delicious. I love marscapone cheese, but for some reason have never tried fresh figs. I'll have to try and get my hands on some. Thanks!

Figs Olives Wine said...

Garrett, thank you so much! I can't wait to check out those cupcakes - thanks so much for the link. They sound divine.

Simona, thanks! I do hope you can find some figs - ours are still nice and should be for at least a week. Let me know.

Rose, it's nice to be back, so thanks! And I'm so glad to hear about the radishes! It sounds like you're on to something good!

Clumsy, thank you! I hope you can get your hands on some fresh figs while they're still in season! Good luck and let me know.

farmgirl susan said...

They're so pretty! I can't believe I never thought to use cookies as tartlet crusts--brilliant. I'm not one for figs, but I bet this technique would work for all sorts of other fruits. Oooh! I'm thinking savory now. . .

Your posts are always such a joy to read--the recipes sound wonderful but doable and the background and historical information you share is so interesting. And you put a new one up every couple of days! I don't know how you do it all, but I'm sure glad you do.

Missed you. Hope you had lots of fun--and cake! xo

Pille said...

Beautiful! I love the way you've arranged the figs on top!

Joanna said...

There have been so many fig posts in the past few days and weeks, but this one is BY FAR the best - most beautiful, and then the wonderful biscuit recipe ... I love the idea of chocolate with pepper (sounds nearly as good as choc and chilli, which is about as good as it gets).

Great to have you back!

Joanna
joannasfood.blogspot.com

Figs Olives Wine said...

Susan, you're such a love - thank you so much for such a kind compliment. Savory is a brilliant idea here! I never go in much fr individual portions b/c it seems like so much fuss, but with a recipe this simple, I can see getting really into all the different possibilities!
And the wedding was great. No wedding cake - they did rounds of cheese piles up to look like a wedding cake instead - which was cool. But there were these unbelievable mini red velvet cupcakes for late-night. And the bride's mother is an unbelievable baker, so we had treats all week while we were putting things together.

Pille, thank you! I like how the mascarpone holds them in place while you munch.

Joanna, you're so lovely to tell me that! Thank you so much - and yes, I LOVE chocolate with chili too. We've got similar palates!

foodette said...

What a beautiful picture - I have yet to try making pie crust (of which I believe your cookies are a variation), but this would be what I would want to make. It sounds like the perfect flavor combination. I always love visiting your site and seeing what you are up to. Your food is so inspiring and beautiful!

Amalee Issa said...

Amanda, this latest entry is outragously gastro-pornographic. Your top picture of the fig tartlets is stunning. I've been reading your blog for only a handful of weeks, and you have surpassed yourself with this recipe. I love figs, and will make this next! Thank you.

Amalee

Gloria said...

So nice recipe Figs Olive, I love the mix of mascarpone and chocolate.xxxGloria

winedeb said...

Glad you are back! These little tarts look like little dancers to me twirling around with little skirts. So lovely! And, what a combination of flavors and textures!

Figs Olives Wine said...

Foodette, you're so nice to say so! Thank you so much. And you're absolutely right - this is a sablée pastry crust. Though I do skip the sablée-ing itself in which (as I'm sure you know) you smear the dough across your work surface a few times to break down the butter pieces further.

Amalee, aren't you kind to say so! I'm really so glad you like the tartlets, and you must let me know if you make them.

Gloria, thank you! I like mascarpone with chocolate too - they're 2 of my favorites!

Winedeb, thank you! It's lovely to be back and read all your kind comments. I adore this image you've conjured up - sort of flamenco dancers from overhead. I like it! Can't wait to catch up on your site too. Reentry's been more hectic than anticipated.

tribecachef said...

The black pepper here is such a good call. Great post.

Lucy said...

Bless those Phoenicians.

I love those early crops, the ones that crossed all class divides. And you're so very right about the chocolate & fig combination. Blissful.

Wedding sounds like it was lots of fun...glad you're happy to be home!

Joanne Rendell said...

too delicious for words. I hope there are a few left and we can devour them on a picnic date sometime soon???

Maryann said...

Amanda, Can you believe I still haven't bagged any figs? haha I just missed them during the last shopping outing. All out.

Anh said...

This recipe rocks!!! Wonderful use of fresh figs!

Figs Olives Wine said...

Tribecachef, thank you! I love the earthy heat with the chocolate.

Lucy, bless them indeed! And how blissful is the thought of figs being a staple in everyday life? If only! And thank you - the wedding was hilarious and lovely and teary all in one - a great time was had by all!

Jo, alas Selma down the hall had the last of them - she's the only reason my clothes still do up. But I shall make some more before the figs are gone, I promise! It's high time for a picnic.

Maryann, what a bummer! They are mighty popular these days - let me know if you have any luck!

Anh, thanks so much! I love them best fresh - I just can't help it!

Jen said...

Okay, this may be the most amazing recipe I've ever seen. Can't wait to find some fresh figs. YUM. and thank you! I hope you had fun at the wedding!

Jenn said...

That looks amazing! I often just eat figs with just a bit of honey.. but this is something I defintely want to try!

www.chocolateshavings.ca

Ivonne said...

These are unbelievable! You did an amazing job and you have to submit to these for SHF #35!

joey said...

That is simply beautiful! How I wish we had fresh figs here so I could make your gorgeous tartlets!

Mercedes said...

Oh, they're just stunning! Can you believe a squirrel stole every single fig from my nascent fig tree on the deck?! Granted, I only had about 5 figs, but nonetheless, I'm still mourning their loss.

Figs Olives Wine said...

Jen, thank you! I hope you find some fresh figs too - let me know. And thanks so much for asking - the wedding was just wonderful!

Jenn, if you look at my fig post from earlier in the month, you'll see my confession that I prefer figs with as little done to them as possible too! But this is a nice compromise because the figs are still fresh and uncooked. Hope you enjoy.

Ivonne, thank you! If you think they're suitable, I'd love to submit them!

Joey, thanks so much - I wish you had fresh figs too! They can be tough to find, I know.

Mercedes, those squirrels are bastards, plain and simple. They stole all of my friend's peaches too. So frustrating to watch them ripen over the weeks and then have them all gone when you come home one night. grrr

pastry studio said...

I'm going to rush to try these gorgeous little tartlets. I'm just about to sob at the thought of the end of fig season, but this will help to ease the pain. Thanks for such a beautiful blog that features the holy trinity.

http://pastrystudio.blogspot.com/

The Passionate Palate said...

This looks like one of the most fantastic fig recipes I've ever seen. Inivting & unique. Glad you are back!

Wendy said...

I've always wondered where the name for your blog came from!
Beautiful, beautiful tarts. :)

Figs Olives Wine said...

Pastry Studio, thank you! I hope the tarts help hold you over until next year, but I hate the end of this season too. It's just too short here in the northeast!

Passionate Palate, thank you so much! I hope you enjoy, and I'm so glad to be back too!

Wendy, thank you! So glad you like the tarts.

Cynthia said...

Amanda that's such an exquisite presentation. I don't know if I've mentioned it before but I've never had figs and can just imagine the fruity sweetness with the mascarpone cheese.

Anonymous said...

I really like mascarpone with figs. This looks fantastic!

JennDZ - The Leftover Queen said...

Oh HELLO.. Those are just THe single most fabulous thing I believe I have ever seen. Amanda, you are an absolute genius! I can't even tell you how much I love these tarts!

Homesick Texan said...

Thanks for all the fig history--I never knew!

Figs Olives Wine said...

Cynthia, thank you! I really hope you have the chance to try them soon - the flavor is very subtle and gently, fragrantly sweet.

Anonymous, thank you! I love the combination too!

Jenn, aren't you kind! Thanks so much - I'm so glad you like.

Homesick Texan, you are most welcome. I love that stuff too!

Aileen said...

These are so beautiful!

Figs Olives Wine said...

Aileen, thanks so much. I'm so glad you like!

Annemarie said...

These. Look. Great. Fab idea of how to use the fresh figs out there right now - figs and cheese always do it for me.

Figs Olives Wine said...

Annemarie, thank you! I love figs with cheese too - truly a match made in heaven.

Ivonne said...

I'm absolutely thrilled that you decided to submit this for SHF #35! It's a definite winner!

Figs Olives Wine said...

Ivonne, you're so kind to include me! Thanks again.

swirlingnotions said...

Holy moly does that look fantastic. Chocolate and sea salt is one of my favorite combinations, but I've never tried chocolate and black pepper . . . and with figs to boot. Oh boy.

Welcome back!

Figs Olives Wine said...

Swirling Notions, thank you! I adore chocolate with good salt too, so I hope you'll enjoy the pairing with black pepper!

Peter M said...

Great fig tarts. I like that this dessert complements figs' flavour rather than mask it. Good show!

Figs Olives Wine said...

Peter M, thanks so much! That's why I tend to write recipes that keep fresh figs raw. Their flavor's so delicate that it seems like such a waste to dull it with cooking!

Joan said...

Finally I found some gorgeous-looking (emphasis on looking) plump figs the other day (did you see my comment under you last recipe with figs about not finding any?) and decided to make a really easy dish which I would liek to share with you: it's a combination of a French recipe I read in a french paper and a divine desert I had in Barcelona:
Cut fuigs in half and place in a buttered gratin dish. (to make one layer) Beat together 2 eggs, fresh cream (I used one small packet, 100 ml I think), 100 g powdered almonds, a generous pinch of cinnamon and I also trickled in a wee bit of honey (Turkish, like the figs, so they could chat in Turkish!). Then I poured this over the figs and put int a medium oven for about 3o mins. I left it to cool and before serving - with Greek yoghurt - splashed over a little ouzo.
Joan in Milan

the pastry princess said...

absolutely beautiful tarts! the figs are so plump and lucious. i also used black pepper with my figs! yum

Figs Olives Wine said...

Joan, of course I remember, and I'm so glad you finally got your fig-fix! Thanks so much for letting me know! And I must thank you as well for the recipe. I love the cinnamon and ouzo notes here, and I really look forward to trying it out! So good of you to share.

Pastry Princess, thank you! It's such a great combination - the figs and black pepper - isn't it? So glad you like it too.

eatme_delicious said...

Beautiful tartlets!

Figs Olives Wine said...

Eat Me Delicious, thank you! I'm so pleased you like!

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