Delicious any time of the year, dried fruit tarts are particularlyappropriate now, when there is less variety of fresh fruit at marketthan in other seasons. Using ingredients from California was the goal of chef Alan Fine, atransplant to San Francisco from Ohio, as he explored winter dessertsthat emphasize the West. The dried fruit–figs, prunes, orapricots–poach plump and juicy in wine, then bake in a toasted almondcream. Wine-poached Fig and Almond Tart About 1-1/2 cups dry red wine1/2 cup granulated sugar 1 cinnamon stick, 2 or 3 inches Yellow part ofpeel pared thinly from 1 lemon 1 tablespoon lemon juice 1/2 teaspoonfreshly ground black pepper 1 pound (2 cups packed) moist-pack driedfigs Toasted almond cream (directions follow) Pastry shell (directionsfollow) 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.
Addfigs, 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 endsfrom figs and arrange fruit evenly over almond filling. Bake in thelower third of a 400[deg.] oven until filling is richly browned (itswells up around fruit), about 45 minutes. Let tart stand at least 45 minutes before cutting. Meanwhile, ifyou have more than 2/3 cup syrup, boil until reduced to this amount; ifyou 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 temperatureover 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- to10-inch frying pan and stir over medium-high heat until nuts areslightly darker in color and smell toasted, 3 to 4 minutes; take carenot to scorch. Remove from heat and stir in 3/4 cup powdered sugar and2 tablespoons all-purpose flour; let cool. In food processor or with amixer, blend nut mixture thoroughly with 1/2 cup (1/4 lb.
) unsalted orsalted butter or margarine, cut in pieces; then add 1 large egg, 1 largeegg yolk, and 2 teaspoons vanilla. Use, or let stand at room temperatureup to 4 hours. Pastry shell. In a food processor or a bowl, combine 2 cupsall-purpose flour, 2 tablespoons granulated sugar, and 3/4 cup (3/8 lb.)butter or margarine, cut in small pieces. Process or rub with yourfingers to form fine crumbs.
Add 1 large egg and process or stir with afork until dough holds together. Shape into a compact ball, flatteninto 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 24hours.
Wine-poached Prune and Almond Tart Follow preceding directions; substitute pitted moist-pack driedprunes for figs. Wine-poached Apricot and Almond Tart Follow directions for wine-poached fig and almond tart, but use drywhite wine instead of red, and increase wine in poaching syrup to 2cups. Also increase sugar to 2/3 cup. Omit pepper, use moist-packdried apricots instead of figs, and press apricots down into filling.When apricot edges begin to darken (after about 20 minutes in oven), laya sheet of foil over pan as pastry bakes.