Caramelized Fig Tart with Cinnamon Cream – Crostata di Fichi Caramellati

Yesterday afternoon was glorious. The golden late afternoon light tinged the leaves and blades of grass so that heaven and earth seemed one blissful creation. Strolling past the lovely farm of some friends, Rosano popped out of the branches of an olive tree and asked me if I would like some fresh figs. How could he have known? I had been waiting all year for some nice plump golden figs! He took me over to his house, came out with a plastic bag, and filled that bag up with the softest, sweetest, most syrupy golden figs I had ever seen. He pointed out that you pick the ones that have a drop of sap dripping from the bottom. Oh, yes! I trundled home with the sweet treasure, holding it as carefully as possible so as not to arrive with a bag full of jam. So, what am I going to do with two kilos of fresh figs? I’m going to make this delicious crostata:

Crostata di Fichi Caramelloti con Crema alla Cannella

Caramelized Fig Crostata with Cinnamon Cream

First, make the pasta frolla (pasta frolla is softer and more melt-in-your-mouth than a French tart crust):

Ingredients:

½ cup unsalted butter at room temperature

1 egg plus 1 yolk

3/4  cup fine sugar

Zest of ½ lemon

2 cups flour

Pinch of salt

Instructions:

Cream together the butter, sugar, egg, egg yolk and lemon zest in an electric mixer. Make a mound with the flour on a clean board or marble surface and form a well in the center. Spoon the butter-sugar-egg mixture into the well and blend the wet and dry ingredients together with your hands as quickly and lightly as possible. If the dough is too wet, add a little more flour, and if too dry, another egg yolk. Form a ball with the dough and then flatten it into a thick disk. Cover it in plastic wrap  and place in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes and up to 24 hours. Before using, let sit out at room temperature until soft enough to roll out.

Second, make the Pastry Cream:

Ingredients

3 egg yolks

150 grams or ¾ cup fine sugar

1 tablespoon potato starch or corn starch

500 grams or 2 cups milk

Cinnamon to taste

Instructions

Set aside about 1/3 cup of the milk.

Pour the remaining 1-2/3 cups milk along with the cinnamon into a large pot over medium high heat and bring to a boil, then turn off the flame.

Meanwhile, in a separate bowl beat the egg yolks, sugar and cinnamon with an electric mixer until light and frothy. Continuing to beat, slowly pour approximately 1/3 of the milk you have set aside into the sugar and egg yolk mixture. Next, stir in the potato starch (or cornstarch).

Pour the mixture of eggs, flour, sugar and milk into the pan with the warm milk. Put everything on the stove and bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Turn the flame down to low.

To thicken the mixture, let it simmer on low heat for a few minutes, beating continuously with a whisk to avoid lumps (but if lumps occur, don’t worry—at the end you can use an immersion blender to smooth the custard out again). Now take the rest of the cold milk that you have set aside, and slowly pour it into the custard, stirring occasionally, and stopping when you have a nice thick velvety consistency. You may not need all of the cold milk. Turn off the heat and let cool, covering with a film of melted butter or baking parchment placed directly on the surface to avoid the forming of a skin.

Third, Caramelize the Figs:

Ingredients:

1 pound fresh figs  (note: if figs are in short supply, you can substitute with pears, or mix the two)

1 scant cup sugar

Instructions:

Wash, dry and cut the figs into quarters. If they are very large, cut them into sixths.

Pour the sugar into a nonstick skillet over medium high heat, and stir until it melts and starts to bubble.

Add the figs and stir; continue cooking the figs in the caramelized sugar for another five minutes or until they begin to soften and turn gold.

Assembling the Crostata:

Preheat the oven to 350 F.

Roll out the pastry between two sheets of plastic wrap or waxed paper into a 12” round and and place it over a 10” tart pan, gently peeling the plastic off once the dough is placed in the pan. The dough breaks easily, so handle it very gently; if it tears, repair it with your fingers but do not overwork.

Spoon the cooled pastry cream into the crust.

Gently spoon the caramelized figs over the pastry cream.

Place the tart into the preheated oven and bake for 20-30 minutes, or until the crust is golden brown. Remove from the oven and let cool until the filling is gelled, about an hour.

Delicious served warm.