I await fig season each summer with such eager anticipation. I get to the farmers market first thing on Saturday morning, making a beeline to my favorite fig vendor to snap up as many as there are available. My first task is making Fig, Bourbon and Vanilla Bean Jam, a favorite of my friends and family. I hold a few back to slice and eat drizzled with honey or wrapped in prosciutto or country ham. I move on to other preserves, and if there are still any more to be had, I move onto baking and cooking. From Fresh Fig Cake to Fig Flauganarde, I am really crazy for figs.
The recipe for this tart marries some of my favorite old and new ingredients. Browned butter makes everything better, with its rich nutty aroma and deep flavor. And since I discovered hazelnut meal at the store, I have found lots of interesting ways to pair it with fruit and spices. And browned butter and hazelnut is a classic combination. The dusky, earthy flavors create such a complex whole, with a honeyed sweetness that highlights the figs, rather than overwhelming them. I pretty readily find Bob’s Red Mill Hazelnut Meal, and it can be used in any application you might use almond meal. You can make your own crust, or use a ready rolled store bought version.
Fig, Brown Butter and Hazelnut Tart
Pastry for one 9-inch pie
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
1 cup granulated sugar
2 Tablespoons honey
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
4 large eggs
¾ cup all-purpose flour
1 cup hazelnut meal
Pinch of salt
1 pint of figs
1 Tablespoon demerara sugar
- Preheat the oven to 350.
- Fit the pastry into a 9-inch pie plate. Line the crust with parchment paper and fill with ceramic pie weights or dried beans. Bake the crust for 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and leave to cool.
- Cut one stick of the butter into small pieces and place in a small saucepan (light colored or stainless is best so you can see the butter as it browns). Heat over medium high heat, watching constantly, until the butter is melted. It will start to spit and hiss, then you will see brown speckles appear. Swirl the butter around to distribute the browned bits, and as soon as the butter has an even brown color and a nice nutty smell, pour it into a measuring jug and refrigerate for at least half an hour. It can be used liquid or softly solid.
- Beat the browned butter and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer until pale and fluffy. Add the honey and vanilla and beat until well combined and glossy. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, making sure each addition is well combined before adding the next and scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Add the flour and hazelnut meal and beat on low until completely combined and smooth. Scrape the filling into the prepared crust and smooth the top.
- Halve the figs, or slice any large ones into four slices, and arrange them cut side up attractively on top of the filling. Sprinkle the demerara sugar evenly over the figs.
- Cook 45 – 50 minutes until puffed, firm and a tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Leave to cool to room temperature, or cover loosely and refrigerate for up to a day.