Fig and Rosemary Tart

My Dad built a greenhouse in his backyard a few years ago, and planted in it a few small sapling fig trees, a couple of cherry tomato plants, and an assortment of other random greenery.  Two years later, WOW.  The contained heat of the sun as it is channeled in keeps the enclosure somewhat warm even in the frozen heart of our Canadian winters.  In the summer it’s like walking into a rain forest.  Those little cherry tomato plants are 9 foot monsters, and the fig trees have been doing their best “Little Shop of Horrors” imitation, taking over half of the total space.  

Last year, for the first time ever, I had my first taste of a juicy, ripe, freshly plucked fig.  Oh, the bliss. Right now they’re just coming into season, and I celebrated with a mini-harvest the other day…which led to the creation of this dessert.

I should also mention that although I call this a dessert, while baking I envisioned it more as a slightly sweet and slightly savory thin tart to be served with coffee as a late morning or early evening snack.  I suppose that my palate has changed over time, and I’ve morphed from a little girl who would suck on sugar cubes when nobody was looking, to an adult who opts more for texture and flavour. Now, I would sell my unborn first child for a piece of really good quality slightly bitter rich dark chocolate, or chunky home-made cashew butter on toast. Although we did eat this as a dessert when some friends came over last night, we also ate it quite happily for breakfast this morning if that means anything at all.  And considering what I usually eat for breakfast I suppose that doesn’t say too much, so I’ll just leave you with the message that it’s not too sweet and leave it at that.

Fig and Rosemary Tart

  • 2 cups fresh figs* plus a couple to garnish if you wish
  • 1/4 cup Marsala **
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 3 tbsp sugar, divided
  • 2 sprigs rosemary plus some to garnish
  • 1 block/container cream cheese
  • 1 egg
  • Pinch salt
  • 1 portion store bought puff pastry ***
* I knew that my Dad had two types of fig plants, a black fig and a……another one.  However, I’m not a fig aficionado (yet) and they both look pretty similar to me on the plant, so I just grabbed what was ripe and ended up with a mixture.  
** If you can’t find Marsala, try using Madeira or a rich Port.
*** I like to cook, bake and make things myself from scratch.  But….puff pastry is not one of them.  I happily bow to the pros and buy it from the freezer aisle, and that certainly doesn’t keep me up at night.
Cut your figs up into small chunks of about 1/4 – 1/3 of an inch.  There should be about 2 cups. I haven’t cut up the last two yet so you can see the difference between the two varieties.
Put your figs into a small pot with the Marsala, water, rosemary and 2 tbsp of sugar.  Turn the heat to a medium high, give it a stir, and let it do it get it’s groove on.  Please don’t forget to stir it now as it cooks down because burnt figs would just be such a tragic loss to the world.

It will take some time for this mixture to reduce, and exactly how long will depend on your element. This took me about 20 minutes.  The figgy goodness is ready when it has thickened up enough that when you stir you leave a path on the bottom of the pot that takes a second or two to fill in.  Take this off the heat to cool, and discard the rosemary stalks – they’ve done their duty.

In a medium sized bowl, beat together your cream cheese (I use light because it’s more spreadable), the egg, and your remaining 1 tbsp of sugar.  You can do this by hand, but I use an electric mixer because having chunks of Philly in my tart is really not compelling.

Thanks for not making fun of the ancient mini-beater that I use, which only has room for one attachment.  So it’s not PERFECT for making meringues, but it’s a heck of a lot easier than doing it by hand so I’ll take what I can get.  Back to it, then?  Roll out your puff pastry on a lightly floured work surface until it is less than a 1/4 inch thick and it’s a square of about 11″ x 11″.  
Curl the edges over twice, like you’re hemming the tart. Essentially, you’re making an elevated crust so that the filling has something to keep it contained.  Now you should have a square of about 9″ x 9″, and put this on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.  No greasing and flouring will be necessary.
Prick the bottom of the pastry all over with a fork to prevent it from getting a giant air bubble when it cooks.  Dollop the cream cheese mixture onto the pastry shell and smooth it out into an even layer that goes right up to the edges of the pasty.  This will be thin!  Now here’s a hint:  before trying to spread the fig mixture on top, pop it in the freezer for about 15 minutes.  It won’t freeze, but it will firm up enough for you to spread the fig mixture on top of it evenly without worrying about ruining your tart by smearing the two toppings into one another and ending up with a fig-cream-mush instead of your two discrete layers.

Is it cold and firm to the touch?  PERFECT!!  Spread your fig layer evenly on top.  It will be quite thin, so be conservative as you do this.  Be sure to go right up to the edges of the pastry again, and fully cover the cream cheese layer.
Into the oven it goes!  
Bake this for about 25 minutes, or until it is puffed up and golden brown.  Do a quick check to make sure that the bottom is golden as well, because nobody likes raw crust.  Or maybe they do.  I don’t know. Fine, I don’t like raw crust.  Please let this cool just a touch before you approach it again, and cut it into 9 squares of roughly the same size. Garnish with whatever you like, but I chose to use some fresh figs and rosemary, because they’re both just so gorgeous.
There you go.  It’s thin, subtle, and sophisticated without being too rich or too sweet.  
Leisurely coffee drinking music:  Autumn in Paris by Chet Baker.
Pairing:  Pair this with a rich cup of dark roast coffee by day, or a rich ruby Port by night.
  • Gossamer1013

    Have just picked out two cups of precious figs and am about to start this…anticipating wanting to be alone with the results.