December 8, 2015:
Growing up in Italian American household nothing reminded me more of the holiday feast than dried fruits & nuts! When my husband & I got engaged my father presented my future Lebanese in laws with a huge basket of his best Fig harvest from our back yard! It was an immediate connection, the common fruit of the Mediterranean – this recipe is a tribute to that beautiful day! #FoodMemory
Kathy Wakile’s Figs in Baskets (Makes 2 dozen)
- 1 cup soft dried figs, stemmed and coarsely chopped
- 2/3 cup water
- 1/2 cup fresh orange juice
- 1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
- 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
- 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 3/4 cup coarsely chopped walnuts, optional
- 1 recipe Rustica Pastry (see below)
- 1 egg white (reserved from making pastry), for brushing
- Coarse sugar, for dusting
- To make the filling, combine the figs, orange juice, sugar, and 2/3 cup water in a medium heavy-bottom saucepan and simmer over low heat, stirring occasionally, until the figs soften, 10 to 15 minutes. Let the mixture cool slightly, then pour it into the bowl of a food processor and pulse just until finely chopped (do not puree). (At this point, the fig mixture can be transferred to an airtight container and refrigerated overnight. Bring to room temperature before continuing with the recipe.) Transfer the mixture to a large bowl and stir in the butter, egg, vanilla and walnuts. Mix well.
- Preheat the oven to 350° F with a rack positioned in the center. Lightly coat the baking pans with nonstick cooking spray or vegetable oil from an oil mister.
- To form the pastry baskets, on a smooth, lightly floured work surface roll out 1 disk of dough between 2 pieces of parchment paper to a thickness of 1/8 inch. Use a 3 1/2 inch cutter to cut 12 rounds, rerolling scraps as needed to make all 12 rounds. Carefully transfer each round to the baking pan, using a pastry tamper or your fingertips to neatly mold each circle into the pan. Use scissors or a small sharp knife to cut away any excess dough. If the dough tears when you are fitting it into the pan, no worries. You can easily patch it back together; it will hold and now show. (Gather up the dough scraps, pat together, wrap tightly, and reserve in the refrigerator; you will use it for the basket weave tops.) Repeat the process to make 12 more rounds, gathering up the dough scraps and adding to the packet of reserved dough in the refrigerator. Transfer the pans to the refrigerator to keep the dough cool while you roll and cut the strips for the basket weave tops.
- To cut the dough for the basket weave tops, roll out the reserved trimming into a large rectangle about 6 inches across and about 12 inches long, with an even thickness of 1/8 inch. Then use a knife, pastry cutter, or pizza wheel (and a ruler or straight edge if you like) to cut the rectangle in half crosswise and into thirds lengthwise. This will give you 6 rectangles of dough. Cut each rectangle crosswise into 16 strips each, about 1/4 inch wide and 4 inches long.
- Scoop about 1/4 cup of fig filling into the chilled pastry shells (I like to use a mini scoop to keep things neat).
- To weave the lattice tops, lay 2 strips parallel across each tartlet, spacing evenly. Lay a third pastry strip across the middle of the tartlet, perpendicular to the first strips. Weave it over and under the first two strips, then add a fourth strip and weave it in the opposite direction. Fold back the rim of the shell over the edge of the lattice strips and crimp to secure.
- Whisk together the egg white and 1 tablespoon of water. Lightly brush the egg wash onto the tops of the pastries. Sprinkle with coarse sugar and bake 10 to 15 minutes, or until the edges begin to turn light golden brown and the fig filling is bubbly. Rotate the pans halfway through the baking time.
- Set the pans on wire racks and cool to room temperature. Use the small spatula or a fork to carefully ease the pies out of the pans. Serve at room temperature.
Shortcut: Use store-bought puff pastry, pre-made pie dough, or shallow pre-made pastry shells.
Rustica Pastry Ingredients:
- 2 1/4 cups flour
- 1/3 cup confectioners’ sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 7 ounces (1 3/4 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/4 inch cubes
- 1 teaspoon finely grated orange zest
- 2 large egg yolks (1 white reserved for egg wash)
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/2 teaspoon orange extract
- 2 tablespoons cold water, plus more as needed
- Combine the flour, sugar, salt, butter, and orange zest in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a standard blade. Pulse 8 to 10 times, or just until the mixture looks like coarse cornmeal with some pea-sized clumps of butter. Add the egg yolks, vanilla and orange extracts, and 2 tablespoons of the cold water and pulse a few more times to combine. Add more water, a teaspoon at a time, and continue pulsing just until the dough begins to form large lumps.
- Pat the dough into 2 disks, wrap it tightly, and chill it in the refrigerator for 45 minutes to 1 hour. (The dough can be made ahead and kept in the refrigerator overnight or up to 3 days before using).
- If it chills for more than an hour, it will be very stiff; let sit at room temperature for about 20 minutes to soften.