This week’s Tuesdays with Dorie (TWD) challenge began as a quick fig and raspberry tart, and ended with me as a culinary flaneur, discovering food ideas containing sesame, almond, figs, and raspberries. Oh, I also turned them into tartlets.
Sesame and almond pastry made me wonder. An unfamiliar combination, it looked chunky, flecked with almond and cinnamon, “rustic” (that over-used word). Lightly toasted, a nutty fragrance fills the kitchen and trickles through your lungs. The scent of sesame promised exciting things from exotic locations.
Then, I looked at the raspberry and fig filling and wondered some more. Figs and sesame, raspberry and fig – I get that. But raspberry and sesame? Delicate raspberries with the bold, strong flavours in the pastry? Curiouser and curiouser.
The recipe for the fig and raspberry crostata asks for fresh figs and fresh raspberries. It’s still winter in our corner of the world, and the fruit shop was charging $4 per fig. Per. Fig. Yikes! Unwilling to spend my weekly coffee budget on a few under-ripe figs, I substituted dried white figs, plumed up in warm water and scented with cardamom and cinnamon. In keeping with the winter theme, I added raspberry jam to the fig compote instead of fresh raspberries, with a generous splash of lemon juice.
Raspberry jam, dried white figs and lemon juice creates a sweet-tart reddish gooey mess, which bubbles up during cooking to leave strands of caramel around the lattice pastry. Its relative simplicity showed off the enriched textures and flavours in the pastry: toasted sesame, toasted almonds, cinnamon. In these tartlets, the pastry wants to be the star.
This mix of textures and flavours make these tartlets grown-up’s treats. Sweet and tart jam and caramel. Crunchy, sesame-fragrant pastry. These tartlets piques your curiosity, then invites you to linger, smell, nibble, and then taste.
Pastry notes: My food processor could only reduce the toasted almonds to sesame seed size, or maybe a bit smaller. As a result, the pastry dough was very chunky, and there were visible dabs of butter remaining.
The pastry dough was dense, soft at room temperature, and tore very easily. But it can be repaired just as easily. I found it simpler to break off lumps of dough and press it into shape against the tart pan. Doing this also allowed me to really push the pastry dough into the corners of the tartlet pans to get a thin crust, and maximise space for the filling. It was also more difficult to get strips of pastry dough for the lattice top. If it is too soft, put the dough back in the fridge for 10-15 minutes.
After baking, the pastry retained its chunky, crumbly character, halfway between a biscuit (cookie) and pastry. In fact, I can almost imagine making crackers out of this mixture (reducing the sugar content) to eat with honey and blue cheese.
Other ideas: I am making this tart – with some tweaks and variations – on Thursday for a team meeting. There may be a kind of soft cheese frangipane, or another way to fill a tart base with spiced and honeyed fig compote. The pastry would also love to hang out with honey, orange water, maybe even lavender. If you’re interested in a fig tart redux, please check back on the weekend.
Finally: Please go and see what other TWD bakers have done. This week, it’s either the fig-raspberry crostata (or tartlets), or a cobbler.
Fig-raspberry tartlets with sesame-almond dough
Pastry dough (this made too much dough for 12 tartlets)
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup unblanched almonds, lightly toasted
1/2 cup sesame seeds, lightly toasted
1/2 cup (approx 70 grams) sugar
2 cups (approx 280 grams) plain / AP flour
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon finely chopped lemon zest
8 ounces (approx 225 grams) cold unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
Tartlet filling, Winter edition
250 grams dried white figs
2-3 green cardamom pods
Small part of a cinnamon stick
150 grams good raspberry jam, quantity to taste
Juice from half a lemon, to taste
Egg wash (one egg plus half tablespoon of water, mixed well)
1. For the pastry dough: Whisk eggs with vanilla until blended; set aside.
2. Put 1 tablespoon of sugar, sesame seeds, and almonds in a food processor. Pulse until finely chopped (mine were half sesame seed sized at best), but not oily or pasty. Add remaining sugar, the flour, cinnamon, salt, and zest.
3. Here, you can either use a kitchen mixer to combine the ingredients on a low setting, or add the butter and mix by hand. When the mixture resembles fine crumbs, add eggs, mixing only until dough is moistened (my dough still had visible dabs of butter). Turn mixture out onto a smooth surface and knead a couple of times (my dough still had a few dabs of butter). Cut the dough in two, shape both pieces into disks, wrap well and chill (or freeze).
4. For the filling: Gently poach whole dried white figs with cardamom and cinnamon until the figs are plump. Taste and adjust flavour, add lemon to taste.
5. For the tart: Roll out and cut one piece of dough to fit into the mini-tart pans, I found it easier to break off bits of dough and push it into the cases, and doing this didn’t seem to affect the texture or sturdiness of the pastry. Roll out and cut lattice strips from the other piece of dough. Chill the mini-tart pan and lattice strips briefly in the fridge.
6. Spoon the fig filling into the shells. Remove lattice strips from the refrigerator. For these tartlets, I laid the lattice strips in a simple cross shape. Brush with egg wash and trim ends of the tart pan. Chill for 30 minutes before baking. During this time, preheat oven to 350°F / 175°C.
7. Remove tartlets from the fridge, brush with egg wash again, sprinkle top with coarse sugar. Bake for 10-15 minutes.