It's the still midsummer air that reminds me to check on the figs. With their deep green leaves shading them, figs are having the coolest, quietest summer of anyone. I remember many years ago my siblings and I didn't care for them due to their odd looking insides (the flesh and seeds of the cut fruit looked like little worms to us then). We ended up cutting down a mature fig tree to build a storage room in my parents' backyard. Now I'm so obsessed with them, eating them as snacks, making savory dishes with them, and baking fig cakes and tarts. Although my sons and husband aren't fig eaters, they are all happy to help me pick them (it isn't easy for a short woman like me). For the last three years, I've bartered with a woman in my neighborhood for figs from her tree since she doesn't like them. Previous years were plentiful but this year isn't too shabby. I love sharing figs with my friends and seeing their bright smiles like the shine on the green fruit.
I promised my editor to do a recipe on figs last year. I wanted to combine our local Cypress Grove's cheese with them, since it's so popular. As I am not a fan of strong goat cheese, it took me a year to find a few types I prefer. The Midnight Moon gouda, with its subtle aroma, is perfect with figs in the tart below. And this flaky tart crust is simple to make as well. It's absolutely delicious, according to my foodie friends' taste testing. My husband thinks the crust is the best but he's still working on liking figs.
Midnight Moon Fig Tart
You'll need a 10-inch tart pan. This tart works as an appetizer or a dessert — you decide.
For the crust:
1 ¼ cup all-purpose flour
1⁄ cup almond flour
10 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted but not hot
3 tablespoons homemade lard (room temperature) or vegetable shortening
½ teaspoon salt
¾ cup powdered sugar
Additional butter for greasing the pan
For the filling:
15 to 20 green figs, cut in quarters
1 cup fig jam or other favorite jam
2 tablespoons melted butter
2 tablespoons honey or brown sugar
1 tablespoon fresh thyme
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 cup grated Midnight Moon Gouda
Thyme stems for garnish
Heat the oven to 350F. Grease the tart pan with butter and set it aside. Mix all the crust ingredients with a spatula until it forms a dough that sticks together. Press the dough into the tart pan and bake until golden, about 20 minutes. While the crust bakes, toss the figs with melted butter, honey, thyme and pepper until they're evenly coated.
Once the crust is done, remove it from the oven and let it cool for few minutes. Spread the jam on the bottom of the crust. Arrange the fig mixture on top of the jam and bake the tart at 350F for 15 minutes, just enough time for the edges of the figs to caramelize. Take the tart out and sprinkle it with the shredded goat cheese. Bake it for an additional 5 minutes to let the cheese melt. Remove the tart and let it cool. Garnish with fresh thyme stems.
You can find Home Cooking with Wendy Chan classes benefitting local charities on Facebook.