It’s that time of the year when one day you wake up and suddenly, summer is gone. Our magical mountain is as green as ever. It’s been raining more than usual this year so the fields have hardly become golden, even in August.
For a few months however, we have enjoyed plenty marvelous starry nights. We love to visit the fun festivals and concerts which occur almost every night during the Umbrian summer. There’s nothing more relaxing than sitting outside in an Italian Piazza in good company, with live music, a gelato in hand and that magical breeze.
Then it’s October and all the nightlife returns indoor as the magical breeze turns into a chilly wind after sunset. It’s still wonderful and bright during the day so I’ve managed to pick the last few figs for this rustic fruit tart. It’s been tested at a few summer parties with quite some success 🙂 .
I plan to produce an autumnal version with other fruit, may be caramelized apples or plums, a sprinkle of pommegranate or cinnamon. This is a sort of good-for-all-occasions tart.
It’s a great article with photos of the famous Alla Madonna del Piatto view and 3 of my recipes, the zucchini carpaccio, the hunter style chicken and the berry-misù. Now, if I think about it, this is a very good excuse to celebrate and to say goodbye to summer.
For the pastry:
- 100 g cold unsalted butter (1 stick)
- 200 g (1 and 2/3 cup) whole-grain flour, preferably stone-ground (or 00 flour or pastry flour or finely ground whole-wheat flour)
- 100 gr (1/2 cup) light brown sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 whole small egg
- 1 teaspoon grated orange or lemon zest
For the pastry cream (custard):
- 1 egg yolk
- 1 tbsp corn starch
- 1 tbsp white sugar
- 250 ml (1 cup) milk
- zest of 1/2 organic un-waxed lemon
For the filling:
- 4 oz fresh ricotta cheese
- 1 teaspoon rose water
- 6 to 8 fresh figs depending on size*
- apricot jelly or honey or syrup to glaze
*substitute with seasonal fresh fruit or lightly caramelized apples or pears
Preheat oven to 180° C/ 350° F.
To make the pastry dough, dice the butter and place in the bowl of a food processor together with the flour, zest and salt. Using the blade at high speed, blend until most of the mixture resembles coarse meal, about 2 minutes. Stir in the egg and blend until the mixture forms a dough, one more minute. Do not overwork.
Roll the dough into a 1/2 cm (1/4 inch) thin disk and transfer into a 10 inch ( 25 cm) buttered tart pan to make a pastry case with shallow side. Prick the base of the tart all over with a fork, as this will release any trapped air and avoid the centre to rise up. Refrigerate for 30 min. or store in a plastic bag and freeze for later use. Defrost in the refrigerator the day before using.
Bake the pastry in middle of the oven 20 minutes, or until lightly golden. Check the pastry after 10 min, if it is bubbling up, just prick it with a fork again and carefully press it back down with a spatula.
Once cooked, let it cool completely. Store at room temperature loosely covered by foil.
While the pastry is baking make the custard in the microwave as follows:
Using a tall glass container heat the milk and the zest until hot to the touch, about 2 min.
Using electric whisks, in a different tall container, whisk egg yolk, sugar and starch until smooth. Remove the zest from the milk. While whisking the yolk, add the hot milk, one tablespoon at the time until smooth and then all the rest. Transfer the mixture into the microwave and heat for one minute. Quickly stir, then microwave for one more minute or until the mixture is near at boiling point. Whisk again. At this point the custard should be thick and smooth. Set aside to cool and once at room temperature, stir in the ricotta and the rose water. Refrigerate if using later in the day.
While it’s possible to prepare the tart and filling in advance, best if no more than 12 hours, it’s definitely necessary to assemble the tart as near as possible to the time of serving. This is because sliced fruit might release liquid wich will make the tart less attractive. It will only take 5 to 10 minutes, so it’s not a big deal to do it on the last minute.
Peel the figs and cut into 1/2 cm (1/4 inch) thick slices. Spread the custard lightly into the pastry case and top prettily with the fig slices. Dilute one teaspoon of apricot jam (or honey or syrup) with one teaspoon warm water so it loosens up and becomes more liquid. Lightly brush the fruit to glaze. Enjoy the compliments of your guests :).