Fig & Almond Tart with Honey & Orange Mascarpone

Ooops, it’s another tart!  I’ll try to be more adventurous with the next thing I make, but I’m trying to perfect my pastry! I have a new job (not started yet, but very excited) managing a new cafe on Southville’s wonderful North Street.  It’s a new venture by the people who run Mark’s Bread, possibly Bristol’s best bakery (and sadly right next door to my gym…) and as part of my induction I’ll have a day in the bakery learning about how they turn out such perfect loaves; wild yeasts, fermenting doughs, proving and retarding, and how to get crackling crusts and tender crumbs. I hope I’ll also be shown how to make their wonderful croissants and pastries. I don’t want to look like a complete novice on my first day, so I’m trying to figure out what difference changing the proportions of butter to flour makes, how much blind baking is ideal, whether it is really crucial to rest the pastry before you roll it out, and all those things that I’ve read in recipe instructions and sometimes just skipped for the sake of speed!  Also, figs are in season (4 for £1 in Ashton Fruit!) and I had some blanched almonds in.  Nuts need to be used up fairly quickly, or they’ll turn rancid, one of the most palate-curling tastes there is.  And I know it’s a bit poncy, but I like to use whole almonds and grind them fresh.  They are sweeter and more almondy in the finished product that way, but are also damper than ready ground ones, so you might need to reduce the quantity of other liquid you use in a recipe that assumes ready-ground.

For the pastry:

125 unsalted butter

225g plain flour

40g icing sugar

2 egg yolks

The juice of half an orange (you may not need all of this)

For the filling:

8 fresh figs, ends of the stalks removed, and halved.

The zest of 1 orange and the juice of half

200g butter

200g soft brown sugar

50g plain flour

150g freshly ground almonds

2 eggs

1 tablespoon of honey

200g mascarpone

Process the butter, icing sugar and flour to breadcrumbs, then add the egg yolks, process again, add as much of the orange juice as needed for the pastry to just come together, then press into a ball, and chill for an hour. (the pastry, not you!)

Melt the honey and orange juice and zest together and set aside.

Preheat the oven to 180C

For the filling, beat the butter and sugar together until pale and creamy, then add the eggs and beat again to combine.  On a lower speed, beat in the flour and ground almonds until all is well mixed.

Roll out the chilled pastry and use to line a greased, loose-bottomed tart tin of about 23cm, leaving a little overhang to trim later..  Line with foil or greaseproof and half fill with baking beans (dried or ceramic).  Bake in the preheated oven for 10 minutes, then remove the beans and bake for a further 10.  Trim the overhang at this stage with a serrated knife.  If find this easier when it is still warm and not too crispy. Allow to cool slightly.

Spoon the almond mixture into the pastry case and level gently with a spatula.  Press the fig halves into the filling so that they are sitting comfortably and the cut surfaces are pretty level with the filling.

Drizzle about half of the honey & orange mixture over the figs and bake for 35-40 minutes until risen, golden and firm.

Mix the remaining honey & orange mixture with the mascarpone and chill.  Serve the tart warm with a spoonful of the mascarpone.  You may need to skip dinner for this one; it’s filling and sweet, and you’ll probably want a second slice!


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