Tag Archives: Pastry

Good things come in threes: fig jam, tart, ‘taschen

tart5

This started with a surfeit of dried figs in the pantry. How this happened, I don’t know. One day, we woke up with dried figs coming out of our ears.

After I wrote the last sentence, it looked like a sentence that could have come from a fable in the style of Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Like:

On 23 February 2013, Gander woke up with a ticklish feeling in her ear. She remembered the moment 478 years ago, when a fig was squashed underfoot in a moment of childish frenzy, and the fig, lying bleeding in the dirt, said to her “may you have figs come out of your ears from the day you become a woman.” Gander had travelled far and wide, always away from places where figs grew in the wild, or hung in garlands under heavy porticos.
[a hundred pages and centuries of history later] and that morning, Gander looked into the mirror and saw figs, nestled in garlands above and next to her earlobe, with the tips of more dried figs visible in the shadows where her nape is veiled by lustrous dark hair.

What actually happened that morning – I looked into the pantry and saw dried figs and more dried figs nestling among dried apricots. No magic realism in sight.

Fig jam

I looked at the dried figs, they looked at me. The first and only thought that occurred to me was fig jam.

Figs, dried apricots, orange juice, with cinnamon and a smidge of vanilla. No added sugar. Poached in a slow cooker with barely enough water for more than two hours. During this time, the figs and apricots were plump, infused with each others’ flavours, and then were cooked down again until the mixture is just on the verge of drying out and caramelising. Then, the mixture was blitzed in a food processor until they turn into a thick, dark, shiny and smooth paste.

This isn’t your usual jam, where the first and last thing to hit your palate is sugar. When we tasted this jam, we tasted the fruit first, and noticed their sweetness afterwards. It was sweet enough, not cloyingly sweet. What lingered and made us come back for another spoonful was the play between the flavours of figs, apricots and oranges.

Recipe at the end of the post.

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So frenchy so chic: classic apple tart

apple tart7 (sml)

This week’s Tuesdays with Dorie (TWD) recipe is a French apple tart: thin apple slices edged in dark brown, forming rings or rosette patterns, resting on pureed roasted apples and framed by delicate flaky pastry. It’s pretty as pretty can be.

This recipe is not technically difficult, but is time consuming. It demands attention to detail at each step to bring out the best of its simple ingredients in a beautiful form. TWD pointed me to the episode of Baking with Julia in which chef Leslie Mackie makes the ‘perfect’ tart dough and this apple tart (here and here). Leslie’s low key manner made it seem like just another day in the family kitchen – which is how home baking should be.

I had two opportunities to make this tart, each time using different techniques (where the recipe offered options). Both times, the guests wowed over the tart’s good looks and taste; and I learned a little more about the art of pastry.

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