Thursday, August 23, 2007
The Double Life of Figs
Figs have two growing seasons, one in late spring and another in late summer that lasts through early fall. Magic. Maybe it was an early fixation with Fig Newtons, but I really do love figs in all forms. Figs grilled with prosciutto, figs with Bleu de Basque and sourwood honey, figs sprinkled with saba and shaved chocolate, figs cloaked in anise sabayon, figs and coffee ice cream, fig-filled cuccidati, figs just being figs.
I am also especially deeply in love with the simple life of the galette, or crostata as it is known in Italy. Who could resist a fig and raspberry galette? A match made in heaven. If you haven’t tasted this blazing combo, seize the day.
So many figs. So little time.
-When handling dough, be gentle. I like to mix without tools because I know of nothing more meditative than having my hands in flour. Just make sure your hands are thoroughly coated with flour and work the butter in gingerly to avoid softening it. Using a pastry blender also works very well. In any case, one of the most important things I learned in pastry school is what it means to have a “light touch.” It can take a while to really understand what this means in practice.
-If you have a bench scraper, now is the time to use it. As you roll out the galette, use a light smattering of flour and keep moving the dough after each roll to prevent sticking. If you feel the slightest resistance, use your scraper to gently release it and apply more flour. Rotate the dough to ensure evenness. Try to work fairly quickly to avoid warming the butter. When the dough is rolled out to the desired shape and size, I always take my 3” wide brush and remove excess flour from both sides.
-The beauty of galettes is you can shape them however you’d like. It gets easier with practice.
-Chilling the dough before and after rolling, and again after the galette has been shaped if it feels too soft, is the key to flaky success.
-This dough recipe makes enough for two galettes. You can freeze half the dough for later use if you’d like.
Fresh Fig Raspberry Galette
2 C AP flour
1 T sugar
1/4 t salt
6 oz butter, cold and cut into small pieces
1/2 C chilled water
1 1/2 lb fresh mission figs, sliced in quarters
1 pint raspberries
1/4 C + 2 T sugar, to taste
melted butter and sugar for finishing
Mix the flour, sugar and salt in a bowl. Cut the butter into the flour mixture until you have some small pieces and some a bit larger. Be sure to coat each piece with flour. Add the cold water and mix gently, using a pastry scraper to fold the dough onto itself two or three times. Gather the dough without mixing too much or applying a lot of pressure or squishing it too much. It will look a bit of a mess and you will wonder how it will ever transform into anything useful, but resist the temptation to overwork it. Place the dough on a piece of plastic wrap. Gather tightly and chill thoroughly.
When the dough is ready to roll, preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Let the chilled dough rest on a lightly floured board for a few minutes so it can soften just a bit to prevent cracking. Then roll the dough out to a 14” circle about 1/8”thick, moving the dough and keeping the board lightly floured as needed. When you have the desired shape, lift the pastry onto a parchment covered pizza sheet pan. Chill for about a half hour.
Place the figs in a bowl and toss with sugar. Gently incorporate the raspberries and place the fruit onto the surface of the pastry, leaving about a 2” border all the way around. Neaten up your pile so the fruit is evenly distributed. (Alternatively, you can carefully arrange a pattern of figs and add the raspberries last.) Now start to lift and gather the dough up and on top of the fruit, being careful not to create any cracks. Work with both hands, one keeping the folded dough in place and the other doing the pleating. Brush the border of dough with butter and dust the dough and the fruit with a last sprinkle of sugar. Bake for about 40 – 50 minutes, until the dough is crisp and browned. Cool on a wire rack to keep the bottom crunchy.
galette photography courtesy of Jennifer Kanter/Semaphore Fine Preserves & Films