Delicious any time of the year, dried fruit tarts are particularly
appropriate now, when there is less variety of fresh fruit at market
than in other seasons.
Using ingredients from California was the goal of chef Alan Fine, a
transplant to San Francisco from Ohio, as he explored winter desserts
that emphasize the West. The dried fruit–figs, prunes, or
apricots–poach plump and juicy in wine, then bake in a toasted almond
cream. Wine-poached Fig and Almond Tart About 1-1/2 cups dry red wine
1/2 cup granulated sugar 1 cinnamon stick, 2 or 3 inches Yellow part of
peel pared thinly from 1 lemon 1 tablespoon lemon juice 1/2 teaspoon
freshly ground black pepper 1 pound (2 cups packed) moist-pack dried
figs Toasted almond cream (directions follow) Pastry shell (directions
follow) 2 tablespoons currant jelly
In a 2- to 3-quart pan, combine wine, sugar, cinnamon, peel, juice,
and pepper. Bring to a boil, stirring, until sugar is dissolved. Add
figs, cover, and simmer until figs are plump and soft, 20 to 30 minutes.
Let cool in syrup (as long as overnight), then drain, reserving syrup;
discard peel and cinnamon.
Spread almond cream evenly in pastry shell. Trim woody stem ends
from figs and arrange fruit evenly over almond filling. Bake in the
lower third of a 400[deg.] oven until filling is richly browned (it
swells up around fruit), about 45 minutes.
Let tart stand at least 45 minutes before cutting. Meanwhile, if
you have more than 2/3 cup syrup, boil until reduced to this amount; if
you have less, add wine to make 2/3 cup. Add the jelly and heat,
stirring, until jelly is melted. Serve syrup hot or at room temperature
over wedges of the tart. Makes 10 to 12 servings.
Toasted almond cream. In a food processor or with a nut grater,
process 3/4 cup blanched almonds until powdery. Pour nuts into an 8- to
10-inch frying pan and stir over medium-high heat until nuts are
slightly darker in color and smell toasted, 3 to 4 minutes; take care
not to scorch. Remove from heat and stir in 3/4 cup powdered sugar and
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour; let cool. In food processor or with a
mixer, blend nut mixture thoroughly with 1/2 cup (1/4 lb.) unsalted or
salted butter or margarine, cut in pieces; then add 1 large egg, 1 large
egg yolk, and 2 teaspoons vanilla. Use, or let stand at room temperature
up to 4 hours.
Pastry shell. In a food processor or a bowl, combine 2 cups
all-purpose flour, 2 tablespoons granulated sugar, and 3/4 cup (3/8 lb.)
butter or margarine, cut in small pieces. Process or rub with your
fingers to form fine crumbs. Add 1 large egg and process or stir with a
fork until dough holds together. Shape into a compact ball, flatten
into a cake, then press evenly over bottom and 1 inch up side of a 10-
to 11-inch pan with removable bottom. Fill, or cover and chill up to 24
hours. Wine-poached Prune and Almond Tart
Follow preceding directions; substitute pitted moist-pack dried
prunes for figs. Wine-poached Apricot and Almond Tart
Follow directions for wine-poached fig and almond tart, but use dry
white wine instead of red, and increase wine in poaching syrup to 2
cups. Also increase sugar to 2/3 cup. Omit pepper, use moist-pack
dried apricots instead of figs, and press apricots down into filling.
When apricot edges begin to darken (after about 20 minutes in oven), lay
a sheet of foil over pan as pastry bakes.