Now that the Summer has slowly slipped into Autumn, the sunrises are arriving a little bit later & the mornings are just a little bit fresher. One of my favourite things about Autumn is the amazing array of vegetables & fruits in season, all ready to create rich warming suppers & decadent desserts. On my way back from the train station on Friday, I decided to pop into my local shops to pick up a chicken for dinner & somehow got side-tracked by the most delightful fresh figs. Anyone who knows me will tell you that I can’t just pop in anywhere for one thing & will always leave with a jam-packed shopping bag, crammed full of inspirational ingredients that take my fancy.
This is where my little flaky fig tartlets began. A shelf full of soft, jewel-coloured deep purple beauties just sat there, seeming to whisper “pick me!” & as thoughts of crisp puff pastry parcels with slender slices of sweet, jammy baked figs took over, I swiftly put two trays in my basket. Obviously, once home, I decided that I would need some rather special ice-cream to top them off. An hour later, I returned to buy Greek yoghurt (more about that later) & ended up chatting to the lovely Assistant about what I was going to make (I love sharing food tips & have been known to scribble random recipes on scraps of paper for people, as some of you will know!).
Usually, I would make a rich buttery shortcrust pastry for a fruit tart of any description, as I find it a bit more substantial. However, something as delicate as fresh figs requires a lighter, crisp casing to contrast against the jammy fruit centre. Now you all know that I like making my own flaky puff pastry & it does take more time to make, but once you’ve tasted this you’ll understand why all the effort is worth it! If you do prefer to buy ready-made puff pastry, please make sure it’s got proper butter in it. As I’ve shared my puff pastry recipe before, I’ve copied it here for you (to save you having to wander off & find it in my blog). Ready to begin? Hands washed & aprons on!
What you need:
For the pastry:
8oz Self Raising Flour (plus extra for rolling out)
6oz Salted Butter, cold from the fridge & cut into 4 equal pieces (I used salted, as it omits the need for additional salt)
100ml Cold Water
For the filling:
4 fresh Figs, washed & stalks trimmed, each fig cut into 8 wedges
Half a jar of Apricot Jam or Preserve (you can use whatever flavour you prefer)
1 teaspoon of Runny Honey
1 large Egg, beaten with a pinch of salt (this makes it smoother to brush onto your pastry)
What to do:
Firstly, you need cool hands so wash them under the cold tap, rinsing your wrists well – trust me, pastry likes cool conditions & this works.
Tip the flour into a large mixing bowl & add one of the butter pieces. Rub it into the flour until it resembles fine breadcrumbs.
Using a round-ended knife, stir together & slowly add enough water, just a little at a time, to bring it all together – take your time, as you don’t want a sticky gooey mess. Once you have achieved a thick, dough-like consistency, that should be enough.
Turn out your pastry onto a lightly floured worktop & shape into a rectangle. Roll away from you into a long piece, about a centimetre thick. Try to keep the edges as straight as you can, but don’t worry too much or you’ll drive yourself loopy! Using a dry pastry brush, dust off any excess flour as you go, especially when folding the layers (otherwise it may affect the recipe & you want flaky pastry, not floury).
Take one of the three pieces of butter & cut into small chunks of about 1cm (you can just pull it apart, but the heat from your hands might melt it).
Dot the butter all over the top two thirds of the pastry.
Fold the bottom plain piece over the next third of pastry, then fold the top piece over that. Brush off the excess flour & press the open edges together to seal the layers of butter & air in.
Dust the worktop with a little more flour. Turn the pastry one turn to the right & roll out again, just as you did above.
Repeat the above steps a couple more times, using up the last two pieces of butter. Then turn the pastry to the right, roll it out again & fold into thirds, brushing off the excess flour as you go.
Lay your pastry on a piece of greaseproof paper, fold the top of the paper over your pastry & put it on a plate in the fridge for an hour (you might need to leave it longer during hot weather, so probably add another ten minutes if you’re not sure – I’ve left it a couple of hours before & it didn’t do any harm). If you’re like me & like to get organised, this would be a good time to make the ice-cream (my recipe is a bit further down).
Pre-heat the oven to 220*C & then prepare your tin by brushing with melted butter all around the inside, then run under the cold tap to add a film on top, shaking off the excess. Your pastry should just lift off after cooking.
Once your pastry is rested & chilled, it’s time to get rolling! On a lightly floured worktop, roll out the pastry (not too thinly).
Cut into squares, about 4 inches long on each side. At each corner, make a cut towards the centre, stopping about half an inch from the middle (so everything is still attached).
Mix the honey with the jam & give it a good stir. In the centre of a pastry square, put half a teaspoon of the jam mixture & top with a couple of fig wedges, skin side down.
Take the pastry edges of one of the four sides of the pastry & pinch together. Do this to the other three sides & then pinch them all together in the centre above the figs, twisting them to make a little knot on top. Repeat until you have used all the figs & pastry up.
Place them all on your prepared baking tray & brush with a little beaten egg.
Bake in the centre of the oven for about 10-12 minutes, until golden & risen.
Transfer to a wire rack to cool if you want to serve them later, or you can serve them warm if you prefer.
Now onto the adornment of such a dainty delight! This ice-cream actually came about from a rather lovely July Sunday afternoon & a random tub of Mascarpone in the fridge. It goes with pretty much everything & it’s light, yet creamy flavour tastes incredibly decadent. This is not the traditional way to make ice-cream, because (a) I don’t like custard & (b) I’m not making custard. You don’t need a special machine, there won’t be any churning or standing on one leg with your left eye shut type of nonsense either. If you prefer not to use Greek yoghurt, simply replace it with double cream & give it a light whip up beforehand to give it a bit of body. Ready to get started? Here we go!
What you need:
2 tubs of Mascarpone Cheese
500ml tub of Greek Yoghurt (the proper stuff, not diet)
Juice & zest of a Lemon (if you have large lemons, just use half)
1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
2 tablespoons Runny Honey
What to do:
Wash your lemon in warm, soapy water to remove any dirt or wax from the skin.
Zest the lemon using a fine grater or zesting tool (I use my fine cheese grater). Leave to one side for now.
Juice your lemon into a jug or large cup. This is so that if you have any pips or pith, they will go straight into the jug & you can strain it into another cup before adding it to your ice cream (nobody wants a sour lemon pip in their ice-cream!). Set to one side with the zest.
Tip the Mascarpone & Greek yoghurt into a large mixing bowl. Add the vanilla extract, one tablespoon of the lemon juice & a good pinch of the zest (you want a subtle hint of lemon here, not a “smack you round the chops” kind of taste that makes your ears flap).
Using an electric whisk, mix for about a minute or so, until everything is blended together into a creamy fluffy mixture.
Get a teaspoon & have a little taste. If you think it needs a bit more honey or a bit more zest, add a tiny bit more – don’t go mad with them, because once it’s in you can’t extract it! Give it another quick whisk & taste again (with a clean spoon please!).
Once you’re happy with it, spoon the mixture into a couple of plastic tubs, only filling about halfway up & put the lids on.
Place in the freezer for an hour, then remove & using a fork, give everything a thorough stir to remove any ice crystals that may have formed.
Smooth it back down into a nice swirly pattern, sprinkle a little more zest on top & put the lid on. Replace in the freezer for another hour at least, or until you are ready for dessert.
Serve a generous scoop onto your crisp puff pastry fig tartlets (or spooned in a quenelle shape if you want to impress your dinner guests).
This light, fluffy ice-cream can also be layered onto crisp wafer cones, or any dessert that requires a simple adornment of light, lemony cool creaminess (& not a custard in sight!). It’s also nice with a drizzle of Limoncello over the top, but that’s definitely one for those nights curled up on the sofa!
Next time you see fresh, fragrant figs in the shops, remember this recipe for my fig-get me knots! Stay hungry! A 😉 x