A Winter’s Tale: sesame-almond, fig-raspberry tartlets


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

(adapted from Baking with Julia, edited by Dorie Greenspan. Recipes available online: sesame-almond pastry and fig-raspberry crostata)


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)
Raw sugars


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.

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38 thoughts on “A Winter’s Tale: sesame-almond, fig-raspberry tartlets

  1. tinywhitecottage 20 August 2013 at 1:23 am Reply

    These are wonderful. You put so much thought into them and I do love the “rustic-ness” … overused word, I know :).

    • saucygander 25 August 2013 at 9:07 am Reply

      Hello! Thanks for your kind words, the pastry is delicious and lived up to the promise of its “rustic” appearance.
      I’ve made another version of the tart, with fig honey caramel drizzled onto the pasty – even better!

  2. {Main St. Cuisine} 20 August 2013 at 3:06 am Reply

    Your tartlets look wonderful…like something I’d find in my favorite bakery’s pastry case! We grew up with fig trees at my Grandparents’ home (they were from Italy), but I’ve not seen dried, white figs. Where would I find those? In any case, I’m sure your fig tart will be enjoyed by your fellow team meeting attendees!

    • saucygander 25 August 2013 at 9:13 am Reply

      Sorry about late reply. The dried white figs packaging says they are imported from Greece, so I’d guess some deli or grocers may have them. I’ve also seen smaller dried white figs in shops that stock middle eastern ingredients.
      I don’t think the flavour was very different, but they seemed very soft and so probably quite fresh. The softness is, I’d think, more important than the colour.

  3. tworedbowls 20 August 2013 at 5:14 am Reply

    These are lovely! They look delicious (and wonderfully unique too!)

    • saucygander 25 August 2013 at 9:14 am Reply

      Thanks, they were even better with fig & honey caramel drizzled on top (photo/post coming soon)! 🙂

  4. Liz 20 August 2013 at 10:56 am Reply

    cute! perfect tea time treats. Thanks for putting your time in on these 🙂 Just looking at them makes me smile!

  5. johnnysenough hepburn 20 August 2013 at 11:34 am Reply

    Two eggs in the dough? Do you think that’s why it was so brittle. I’ve only ever used one before. Curious as to how my shortcrust would do with an added egg. As I love pastry that’s crumbly and crunchy all at the same time. As for sesame seeds, I’ve used all sorts of ground nuts in mine so I can imagine the sesame seeds would be great as well. And far prefer your idea with the jam. Dried figs with cardamom…
    – And can I make it on time for Thursday??

    • saucygander 25 August 2013 at 9:18 am Reply

      You are probably right about why the dough was so brittle, I had put it down to my lazy nut grinding!
      The jam made the filling very sweet, others liked it but I would make my own jam/compote from scratch next time. Speaking of next time, I did make the tart again, and discovered fig & honey caramel. It deserves a post of it’s own, if I can figure out how to photograph caramel.

  6. lemongrovecakediaries 20 August 2013 at 3:46 pm Reply

    Love your version – very cute. I think the spiced and honey fig sounds just the thing – your team members are very lucky you bring in all these goodies for them 🙂

    • saucygander 25 August 2013 at 9:19 am Reply

      Thanks, baking for the team is a good way to share the love, and the calories! Besides, I get an instant team of taste testers 🙂

  7. Anne ~ Uni Homemaker 20 August 2013 at 4:50 pm Reply

    These are so cute! I can easily eat more than I should. Haha… great post!

  8. smarkies 21 August 2013 at 12:31 am Reply

    oh so cute! These definitely look tempting. I like how you adapted the filling

  9. Liz 21 August 2013 at 1:16 am Reply

    Your tartlets are adorable! Great idea!

  10. Cathleen 21 August 2013 at 1:22 am Reply

    Oh, how cute! I really enjoyed the interesting flavor combination of the crust. I like your cracker idea with honey and bleu cheese.

    • saucygander 25 August 2013 at 9:22 am Reply

      We also really liked the crust, there is a but of dough in the freezer so I will try the cracker idea soon.

  11. steph (whisk/spoon) 21 August 2013 at 5:50 am Reply

    those are adorable! and I like your “winter edition” filling swaps. I did the cobbler this week instead, but i’m now intrigued by the sesame crust.

    • saucygander 25 August 2013 at 9:23 am Reply

      The sesame crust is definitely worth a try. With a bit less sugar it would also make good crackers, I think (another food experiment!)

  12. Ckay 21 August 2013 at 8:25 am Reply

    your mini tartelettes are gorgeous. So elegant and delicious looking.
    Well done

  13. SandraM 21 August 2013 at 11:02 am Reply

    Love the mini crostatas! They look fantastic.

  14. Karen @ Karen's Kitchen Stories 21 August 2013 at 1:23 pm Reply

    So cute! I love what you did with this dough and recipe! I must try for sure. So “poppable.”

    • saucygander 25 August 2013 at 9:25 am Reply

      Poppable is a great word! Definitely described these, and other little bite-y things!

  15. Paula @ Vintage Kitchen Notes 21 August 2013 at 11:27 pm Reply

    These are grown up tarts for sure. I loved the pie dough so much, making individual tartlets like you did is the best idea! So many seeds, I love it.

    • saucygander 25 August 2013 at 9:26 am Reply

      We also loved the pie dough, so flavoursome!

  16. gfcelebration 22 August 2013 at 5:27 am Reply

    Great idea, turning this recipe into individual tartlets. They look fabulous.

  17. yummychunklet 22 August 2013 at 5:30 am Reply

    The fig sounds delicious!

  18. isthisakeeper 22 August 2013 at 4:23 pm Reply

    I love your tart-lets and your ingenuity for using what fruit you could!! 🙂

    • saucygander 25 August 2013 at 9:29 am Reply

      Thank you! Not wanting to pay $4 for a fig was a great incentive to improvise!

  19. jora 23 August 2013 at 1:22 am Reply

    4 dollars per fig!?! That’s outrageous! It sounds like your recipe modifications worked out great. It’s fun when you can make a recipe your own.

    • saucygander 25 August 2013 at 9:36 am Reply

      Outrageous is the word, but it led us to this fig filling so it was all good in the end.

  20. LFFL 23 August 2013 at 11:38 am Reply

    Those would make cute snacks for a dinner party.

  21. sweetbakedlife 26 August 2013 at 10:42 am Reply

    Congratulations! I have nominated your blog for the Versatile Blogger Award. If interested, please pick up your award here: http://sweetbakedlife.com/2013/08/25/the-versatile-blogger-award/

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