Oh, the things we do, the torments we endure, so you don’t have to. The week’s Fig, Plum and and Hazelnut Tart didn’t start out as the walk in the park below. After helping everyone become a tart shell master last week we thought we’d put the technique to good use with a simple fig and mascarpone tart. However, after half our figs disappeared the night before we were scheduled to blog, we had to rethink our plan. Nearby Allandale Farm had no figs, but they did have plums. Voilà fig and plum tart.
Wait, I know what you’re thinking. Even really ripe plums and figs have very different textures. The first is firm, but pliant; the second is soft bordering on promiscuous. How can you possibly cook them together without overcooking one or undercooking the other? Take heed. Do as we say, not as we do. We did it the old school way–and the old school way is pain in the hazelnuts. Basically you put the firmer of the two fruits in a pre-baked tart shell and throw it into the oven for a few minutes before you add everything else. Ideally the fruit softens, even caramelizes a bit (you did toss the fruit in sugar, right?). Well, clearly that technique does nothing but assuage your conscience. I tried, you can say, as everyone chomps down through mushy figs and intractably firm plums. The problem, as we discovered, is that the plums cook at what seems like a glacial pace (not really, but as you’re watching your beautiful tart shell grow darker by the second and the plums–damnit!–seem completely unaffected, it sure seems glacial). Finally, terrified you’ve bought a ticket on a sinking tub, you resort to desperate measures like the nearby photo, until your tart shell resembles one of those foil-hatted crazies on the subway who claims to be channeling financial advice from Aristotle Onassis.
Don’t do it.
Instead, throw the plums on a sheet pan in a 450º oven. Bake until they soften–they may even, God bless them, caramelize a bit. Allow them to cool, then lay them out in the tart shell along with the uncooked figs. Everything will bake in an embrace of mutual love and affection, everything will be done at the same time. Peace and joy will reign forever. Here’s a final thought: Bake twice as many plums as needed. Leftovers are great with yogurt or thrown into a bowl of steel-cut oats for breakfast. Enjoy. Ken
FIG, PLUM AND HAZELNUT TART
Makes one 11-inch tart
Bake the tart shell a couple of hours before assembling the tart.
- 10 ounces prune plums
- Grated zest and juice of 1 orange
- ½ cup organic sugar
- 3 bay leaves
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 2 large eggs, at room temperature
- 2 large egg yolks, at room temperature
- 1 cup mascarpone
- Zest and juice of 1 lemon
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 11-inch pre-baked tart shell in a tin with removable sides (Go here to make your own tart shell.)
- 10 ounces fresh figs, stems removed, cut into 3 slices lengthwise
- ½ cup toasted hazelnuts, coarsely chopped
- 2 tablespoons honey
- Preheat the oven to 450°.
- Cut the plums in half crosswise, remove the pit, and then cut each half again. You will have 4 thick plum slices. Toss the plums in a non-reactive bowl with the orange zest and juice and 2 tablespoons sugar. Arrange the plums on a parchment-line sheet pan. Drizzle their juices over, then bake in the bottom of the oven for 30 minutes.
- Put the bay leaves and cream into a small bowl and microwave for 30 seconds. You can also heat the cream gently on top of the stove if you prefer. Just be careful not to scald it. The point is to infuse the cream with the bay leaf flavor, not to cook the cream.
- Beat the eggs and yolks in a large bowl with the remaining sugar, mascarpone, lemon zest, and salt until the sugar has dissolved. Add the cream.
- Lower the oven temperature to 350°.
- Arrange the plums on the bottom of the pre-baked tart crust. Pour the custard over the plums. Toss the figs with the lemon juice. Arrange the figs cut-side up on top of the custard. Sprinkle with the hazelnuts. Bake on the lowest shelf in the oven for 40 minutes or until the custard is just set. It should still wiggle slightly in the middle.
- Cool on a wire rack for at least 30 minutes. When cool, remove the sides of the pan, drizzle honey over the tart and serve.
I know you have all those tart doughs in the freezer that you’ve been making all week to practice your technique, so just pull one out and plunge ahead with a fruit tart.
I love baked custard tarts… can’t you tell with 2 in a row. The savory one–tarte aux blettes–is definitely French, but this one I’m not so sure about. It’s a take on one that is in our cookbook, In The Hands Of A Chef. The mascarpone makes it Italian, but I added more cream and eggs to the original recipe so it has more custard. It’s like an English custard tart with fruit. Or a fruit tart with the custard baked into the tart rather than it being frozen in the form of ice cream or a creme anglaise.
The intention was to make this a fig, mascarpone and hazelnut tart, but if you give Roxanne the chance at figs, she’s going to find goat cheese and there go half the figs. Fortunately, Allendale Farms, once again came through with these beautiful Nahog Farm prune plums. I knew the plums wouldn’t be tender if I put them into the tart raw so I cooked them a bit first. Feel free to make this just a plum or just a fig tart by doubling the fruit in the recipe. If you choose fig, you don’t have to roast them ahead.