Fig Pistachio Frangipane Tart

The "Fig Bonanza" that keeps on giving, my father's fig tree!

My influence to make this tart was the upcoming visit of my dearest friends from Portland, Oregon. These folks love food and wine and our visits with each other whether out west or out east always revolve around the communal table. Andrew is a classically trained chef who did a one year apprenticeship with Alain Ducasse, at his flagship restaurant Le Louis XV in Monte Carlo, Monaco. I thought, "Wouldn't it be so cool to do my first french tart for my friends from Oregon, especially for Andrew. 

My friends arrived in New York City on the red eye with little to no sleep. I was so excited to tell Andrew I made a Fig Pistachio Frangipane Tart. I do not know about you but I have a really bad habit of bastardizing words in the English language and even more difficult time pronouncing some. My friends and family can vouch for this as well as the various word trends I end up creating. Within the first 5 minutes I said, "Andrew, I made my first ever French Tart!" He said, "What did you make?" I said, "Fig Pistachio Frangipane Tart?" He hesitated and was not certain exactly what I said and I know it had nothing to do with the lack of sleep. He said, "Sounds Italian!" I said, "No, it is French!" Andrew said, "Ohhhhh you mean "Frangipane!" Of course he pronounced it with the most perfect French accent (pronounced: FRAN-jup-payn, FRAWN-zhee-pan). I of course defaulted to my own Italian dialect whatever that may be.

If you are as curious as I about what Frangipane is you can read it here. 

note: the history of Frangipane is traced back to the 16th-century Italian nobleman, Marquis Muzio Frangipani.

So maybe my pronunciation was okay after all! 

Okay, on with this Tart.

I knew I wanted to make a nut tart pastry and now (my new favorite word Franzipane) which typically is a ground almond cream filling. The recipe for this tart was influenced by, In the Sweet Kitchen, by Regan Daley. However my twist was a Pignoli nut crust (my italian heritage slipping in there) with a Pistachio Franzipane filling.

PIGNOLI NUT CRUST

ingredients

  • 3/4 cup of toasted pignoli nuts
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1.5 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup unsalted cold butter cut into small pieces
  • 1 large egg yolk

directions

  1. Lightly toast the pignoli nuts and let cool completely.
  2. Combine the nuts and sugar in a food processor and quickly pulse until the nuts and sugar are finely ground but NOT nut butter!
  3. Add the flour and pulse once or twice until blended, then add the cold butter and pulse for 20 seconds or until the pieces of butter are the size of peas.
  4. Add the egg yolk and pulse for 5-7 seconds until mixture comes together.
Transient

Assembly for Nut Crust

  1. Press the crumble into a 10-11 inch tart tin with a removable bottom (or you can press the dough into 6 tartlette tins) Make sure the dough is evenly pressed and there are no bare patches.
  2. The shells can be frozen and well wrapped up to a month or you can move on to blind baking your nut crust.

Nut Crust Blind Baking
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

  1. Prick the bottom of each chilled shell all over with a fork.
  2. Line the bottom with a piece of parchment paper slightly bigger than shell and fill it with pie weights or dried beans.
  3. Place the shell(s) on a baking sheet and place in center of oven and bake for 8-10 minutes for tiny shell(s), 12-15 minutes for small shell(s) and 15-18 minutes for large shell(s), (which is what I used) or until the edges of the pastry are dry and just beginning to color.
  4. Remove the liner and weights and return shell(s) to oven for another 5-10 minutes, depending on the size of your shell(s) and until the floor is dry not colored.
  5. Transfer to wire rack to completely cool before filling and baking.
Transient

Fig Pistachio Frangipane

ingredients

  • 1 cup shelled unsalted pistachios skinned
  • note: you can use almonds as well for the frangipane.
  • 1 1/4 - 1.5 pounds of Mission Figs
  • 3 tbsp all-purpose flour sifted
  • 1 tbsp dark honey but not buckwheat
  • 3 tbsp of fig, plum or red currant jelly for glazing with 1 tbsp water
  • 2 tbsp of granulated sugar, for sprinkling
  • 5 tbsp unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 large egg and 1 egg yolk
  • 1/4 tsp pure almond extract
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • Confectioners' sugar for dusting optional

directions

  1. Combine the pistachios and 1/3 cup sugar in a food processor and finely ground.
  2. Add the butter and pulse until smooth, scrape down sides as needed.
  3. Add egg and egg yolk and process until thoroughly incorporated, then add almond extract. Process for 45 seconds. Then sift half the flour over pistachio paste and pulse 3-4 times. Repeat with second half until flour is incorporated but do not over mix.
note: frangipane can be used immediately or can be made up to 2 days in advance. Should be stored in airtight container in refrigerator. Needs to be brought to room temperature before proceeding with recipe.

Assembly
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

  1. Gently warm the honey over low flame and brush a thin layer on the bottom of the cooled tart shell(s).
  2. Spread the frangipane evenly over the honey.
  3. Wash and dry the figs. Cut off the tiny nib at the top and cut lengthwise.
  4. Arrange the halves, cut-side up, in concentric circles over the frangipane. Having the stem-ends point toward the center helps them fit better.
  5. Sprinkle the entire surface of the tart with 2 tbsp of sugar and place on baking sheet.
  6. Bake for 50-60 minutes or until the frangipane is slightly puffed and golden in places and is firm to the touch in center of tart.
  7. Transfer the tart to wire rack and cool completely.
  8. In a small saucepan melt jelly with 1 tbsp of water to lightly coat the figs with the jelly glaze. should be a thin film only on the figs not coating the entire tart.
  9. Let cool for 5-10 minutes. Dust with some confectioners' sugar before serving (optional).
Transient

Fig Cognac Honey Jam

When I tasted the figs off my father's fig tree this past Summer, I thought to myself:

"How can I capture this flavor for a cold winter day while the fig tree lies dormant?"

JAM! JAM! JAM! 

So I dove right into the sweetness of this fruit and decided to jam away! I am so happy I did, it is easy to do and the flavors are incredible. You can serve this up with some fresh ricotta on toast,  a favorite cheese plate or right out of the jar. This jam is good with pretty much anything.

ingredients

  • 1lb of Mission Figs
  • 1 lemon zested
  • 1/2 an orange zested
  • 3 tbsp of Cognac
  • 3 tbsp water
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/2 lemon juiced
  • 1/3 cup of orange blossom honey

directions

  1. Place all the ingredients into a large pot on the stove at medium heat.
  2. When the ingredients begin to boil lower the heat and have it simmer for 35 - 40 minutes or until the jam looks like an amber color.
  3. note: You should sterilize your jars if you would like to store the jam for up to a year. Makes about 2 cups.
Transient

5 minutes in pot

35-40 minutes cooked

While I was making the jam the funniest thing happened. When I cook in my 400 sq ft apartment in NYC, I open the back window and have a fan in the front window to pull the air through the space to ventilate the apartment from feeling like an oven. As the sweet smell of figs were being pulled outside the window two Honey Bees came flying into the apartment. They started to swarm my pot of jam and thankfully they were not interested in me and eventually I was able to shoe them out the window. 

I guess if the bees liked the smell of my jam then that is a good sign! 

Next Up! Fig Pistachio Frangipane Tart

The Almighty Fig Tree

Hail to the almighty fig tree! Especially the one that my "Pop" has nurtured at his home in East Quogue, NY, for the past 10 years. The tree, sits on the south side of the house just outside the window where my husband Chris, Trixie our dog and I lay asleep (with dreams of Figs dancing in our heads!)

Every weekend out east at my Pop's house, the first order of business is a discussion about the fig tree. Depending on the season it can go like this: "Not even Hurricane Irene could take that fig tree down! Or, "The tree has grown another foot, and the landscaper is having a hard time mowing the lawn! Or, "This week there is going to be a 'Fig Bonanza', the tree is going to explode!" Or, "I have a suspicion the squirrels are having a feast!" Whichever way you shake it, the first 5 minutes always revolves around the fig tree. 

Transient

This fanatical sentiment towards the fig tree goes back to my Grandmother, Olimpia Ciacciarelli who was from Minturno, Italy. Grandma Olimpia came over on "the boat" with her family to Ellis Island in 1912 at the age of 14. As a little girl she grew up with fig trees, an integral part of her families nourishment and delight. Here in the United States, Brooklyn to be exact, her sister had a fig tree which sat in the middle of her courtyard and gave birth to the most luscious Mission figs. My grandmother would take the train from the Bronx to Brooklyn to load up shoeboxes full of figs to bring back to her family. Everyone in the family including my father at a very young age became fig fanatics.

Fast forward to the year 2002. My father, an electrician, was working the midnight shift at Saks 5th Avenue in NYC and was on a lunch break. His co-worker, Frank pulled a fig out of his bag, according to my father, the largest fig he'd ever seen. Frank gave my father one of his precious figs, which made my father have dreams of one day having his own fig tree. So he asked Frank if he would give him a branch from his fig tree, and wrap the bottom with wet newspaper so he can try and cultivate it. The next day Frank brought the fig branch in and my Father immediately called my Grandmother to consult on what to do next. She enthusiastically advised him to place the branch in a container with water so it would root. As the months went by the branch was beginning to grow roots and was ready to be transplanted into a small pot. While the fig tree continued to grow, my Grandmother, unfortunately never got to see it. She became ill and passed away a few months later. 

Since her passing the fig tree had grown through a few pots and spaces until finally it found its perfect spot on the south side of my fathers house, where it nestled up to the fence and a nearby heating vent. My father claims that the placement near this vent was not intentional but thinks it may be a contributing factor to the health of the tree. What my father truly believes is that my Grandmother, since her passing, has been watching over the health of the tree.

There are two harvests, early spring and in late summer, which my Father calls the "Fig Bonanza Crop". Friends from the neighborhood come to see the tree, sometimes they come by and take his figs thinking he would not notice. Little do they realize my father knows every fig on that tree. Every morning he goes out and takes stock of his precious fruit. Some mornings I can even hear him talking to the tree because our bedroom window is right there. "Who ate your figs last night tree? "The squirrels huh?" I will protect you don't you worry!" That day my father got me involved with putting socks over every fig, even bags to protect his fruit. "Warding off the Foe is a constant battle he says, If you see any animals running around with the biggest purple lips you have ever seen they have been eating the figs off my tree".

I have been fortunate enough to eat these figs right off of the tree. They are the sweetest figs I have ever tasted. Even Trixie thinks so! They are so perfect that making something from them seems crazy, but of course I did.

If you haven't figured it out, my father is a fanatic about his fig tree. He nurtures the tree everyday as if it was his own child. If my grandmother were alive today she would be so proud of the tree and would be out there everyday right by his side taking stock. Truth be told, If you nurture something everyday what it gives back to you might be twice fold, maybe even a "Fig Bonanza".

The offspring of my father's fig tree

My father has been nurturing a fig tree for our home at "Sheridan Green". Here is Trixie protecting our tree from the Foe.

The neighbor across the street Ben and Esther have taken one of my father's fig branches and also has begun to cultivate their own tree. 

Next Up! Fig Cognac Honey Jam and Fig Pistachio Frangipane Tart