Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Raspberry Fig Crostada


I meet every month with a special group of women friends. We talk about life...the hills and valleys. We cheer each other and give honest feedback. There are tears, laughter, wine and a heck of a lot of good food. I hosted our group this past week and decided to make a luscious raspberry-fig crostata from my Baking with Julia cookbook.


I love when fresh figs arrive and how they look nested in their little green baskets in the grocery store. I can't walk by without admiring their deep purple, green, and brown skins. They are just straight-up sexy. 




This dough is heavenly. With sesame seeds and ground toasted almonds, it has such a wonderful taste. 
Like the recipe suggests, the dough is quite soft. I found it pretty impossible to roll out and pick up (yeah, it fell totally apart). But hey, it was easy to pick up pieces and just press it into the pan. Save.



The ladies loved this tart. It is just the right amount of toasty sesame crust, luscious, sweet fruit, and crunchy turbinado goodness on top. Oh, and a little scoop of vanilla ice cream never hurts.

Sometimes it just feels so right to spend the day baking. This recipe took a bit of time, but it was so worth it. I felt special serving it to my women's group. We all deserve a little bit of homemade sweetness sometimes, right? What are you excited to make this fall?

Raspberry-Fig Crostata
Makes 8 to 10 servings

Baking with Julia by Dorie Greenspan. The recipe was contributed to the book by Leslie Mackie.


Filling:
3/4 pound fresh figs, quartered
3/4 pound fresh raspberries
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup {packed} light brown sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon grated lemon zest
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
Fresh lemon juice to taste

1 recipe Sesame-Almond Dough {recipe below}, divided into 2 uneven "halves" and chilled
1 large egg beaten with 1 tablespoon cold water, for egg wash
Coarse or turbinado sugar

Put half the fruit in a medium saucepan, keeping the remaining fruit close as hand. Add the granulated sugar, brown sugar, flour, lemon zest, and butter and stir to mix. Bring the mixture to a soft boil over medium heat, stirring constantly. The fruits will release their juices and the liquid will thicken. Turn the mixture into a bowl and stir in the uncooked fruit. Taste a spoonful, paying particular attention to the saucy liquid, and add lemon juice as needed. Cool the filling to room temperature.

Remove the smaller piece of dough from the refrigerator and give it a few bashes with the end of your rolling pin to soften it enough to get it rolling. Working on a floured sheet of parchment paper, roll the dough into a 10-inch circle. Using a ruffle-edged pastry wheel or a thin sharp knife, cut the circle into 1/2-inch-wide strips. Slip the parchment onto a baking sheet, cover with waxed paper, and chill the dough while you roll out the bottom crust. 


Working on a floured surface, roll the bottom crust into an 11-inch circle. Carefully center the dough over a 9-inch fluted tart pan with a removable bottom and gently work it into the pan, pressing it evenly into the bottom and up the sides. Don't worry if the dough breaks {as it inevitably will}; it is easily patchable. In fact, the dough, when soft, is similar to a press-in crust - just press a piece of dough into any hole and it will stick. {If the crust is really soft and unworkable at this stage, refrigerate it again before proceeding.} Trim, leaving a bit of dough as an overhang, about 1/8 inch, and use it to build up a slight ledge around the edge of the tart.
 

Pour the cooled filling into the tart shell and brush the edges of the shell with the egg wash.

Remove the lattice strips from the refrigerator and count the number of strips you cut. Plan on using half for the vertical strips, half for the horizontal, and figure out the spacing between each strip accordingly. Lift one strip of dough from the parchment paper with the help of a long icing spatula and place it vertically across the left side of the tart. Brush with a little egg wash and trim the ends even with the edge of the tart. Now place a strip horizontally across the top of the tart, crossing the first strip; brush and trim. Continue in this way, alternating vertical and horizontal strips, until the top is covered. 


Chill the tart for about 30 minutes before baking. It can be kept in the refrigerator for a couple of hours if necessary; cover with plastic. Cover the remaining egg wash with plastic wrap and refrigerate.

Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Remove the tart from the refrigerator and brush once more with egg wash. Sprinkle the top with coarse sugar. Place the tart on a parchment-lined jelly-roll pan to catch any drips and bake for about 45 minutes, until the pastry is a rich golden brown and the filling is bubbling. Transfer to a cooling rack. After about 10 minutes, remove the sides of the tart pan and slide the tart off the base onto a platter. Serve the tart at room temperature.

Storing. This is best the day it is made, but leftovers can be covered and stored in the refrigerator for 1 day. Bring to room temperature before serving.

Sesame-Almond Dough
Makes enough for a 9-inch Lattice-topped tart

2 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3/4 cup unblanched almonds, lightly toasted and cooled
1/2 cup sesame seeds, lightly toasted and cooled
1/2 cup sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour {I used half all-purpose and half white whole wheat flour}
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon finely chopped lemon zest
2 sticks {8 ounces} cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes

Whisk the eggs together with the vanilla extract until blended; set aside until needed.

Put the almonds, sesame seeds, and 1 tablespoon of the sugar in the work bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal blade. Pulse until the almonds are very finely chopped, but not oily or pasty. Turn the mixture into the bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and add the remaining sugar, the flour, cinnamon, salt, and zest. Mix on low speed for a few seconds, just to combine the ingredients.
Keeping the mixer on low, add the butter mixture and mix until the mixture resembles fine crumbs. Add the egg mixture, mixing only until the dough is uniformly moistened and forms curds, about 15 seconds. Turn the mixture out onto a smooth work surface. Knead the dough gently a couple of times just to fully blend the ingredients.

To Make a Lattice-Topped Tart, gather the dough into a ball and cut it into lopsided halves. Shape both pieces into disks {the smaller "half" will be used for the lattice}.
Wrap each piece of dough in plastic and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

The dough can be made ahead and refrigerated, wrapped in plastic, for up to 2 days before using or wrapped airtight and frozen for a month. Thaw, still wrapped, in the refrigerator.

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