Fresh figs are a thing of beauty. This fig tart from The Seasonal Baker shows them off well.
Reprinted with permission from The Seasonal Baker by John Barricelli. Copyright © 2012. Published by Clarkson Potter. Available wherever books are sold. All rights reserved.
- For the Crust:
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 stick butter
- 1/8 cup sugar, or 2 tablespoons
- 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
- 1 egg
- 1 egg yolk
- For the Pastry Cream:
- 2 large egg yolks
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1/8 cup cornstarch
- 1 cup whole milk
- grated zest of 1/2 orange
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla paste or vanilla extract
- 1/16 teaspoon coarse salt
- 1 tablespoon cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
- For the Fruit Topping:
- 18 to 20 fresh figs, halved through the stem ends
- 1 whole fig
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
- 2 tablespoons sanding sugar
For the Crust: In a bowl, whisk flour to aerate it; set aside.
In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butter, sugar, and salt on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl halfway through. Add whole egg and yolk, and mix to combine. Add flour and beat until it has been absorbed. There will still be streaks of butter visible.
Scoop dough onto a sheet of plastic wrap, shape into a flattened disk, and wrap in plastic. Refrigerate until firm, at least 2 hours.
For the Pastry Cream: In a medium, heat-proof bowl, whisk together egg yolks, 1/8 cup of sugar, all of cornstarch, and 1/4 cup of milk; set aside.
In a medium saucepan, combine remaining 3/4 cup milk, remaining sugar, vanilla paste (or vanilla extract), orange zest, and salt. Bring to a simmer. Whisking constantly, gradually pour hot milk into egg mixture to temper it. Set a strainer over the saucepan. Strain custard mixture back into the saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat, whisking constantly. Boil for 10 seconds, whisking. (Make sure custard boils for 10 seconds in the center of the pan, not just around the sides.) The mixture should thicken to a pudding-like consistency.
Transfer pastry cream to a bowl and whisk in butter. Whisk in vanilla extract, if using. Cover with plastic wrap, pressing it directly on the surface of cream to prevent a skin from forming. Refrigerate until chilled, about 2 hours.
Putting it all together: On a lightly floured work surface, roll dough to a 12-inch round, about 1⁄8 inch thick. Fit dough into a 9-inch fluted tart pan with a removable bottom and trim dough so that it comes slightly above the rim of the tart pan. Press excess dough against the sharp edge of the rim of the pan with the heel of your hand to cut it level with the pan. Chill until firm, about 30 minutes.
Arrange the oven rack in the lower third of the oven. Preheat oven to 425°F (220°C). Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a nonstick silicone baking mat.
Spread pastry cream over bottom of pie shell. Arrange fig halves on top, rounded edges down, shingled tightly and in concentric circles. Quarter remaining whole fig, leaving quarters connected at the base. Place in center of tart so that quarters open like the petals of a flower. Brush figs with butter and sanding sugar evenly over the top.
Bake, rotating the baking sheet about 2/3 of the way through the baking time, until pastry is cooked through and figs are tender and caramelized, about 40 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.