Flourishing Figs

My mother said I could keep her raincoat as a birthday present, which is fortunate, as NYC seems close to becoming an ark building situation.  Apparently figs love hot sticky days mixed up with buckets of rain.  I’m going to hammer a take-out window into the front of my house featuring fresh-fig-everything to bank on my bumper crop out back.  I could serve fresh figs over pastry cream nestled into a flaky tart or figs with fresh mozzarella and basil or even a quick plate of gently roasted figs, grilled French bread drizzled with olive oil, and duck breast slowly seared in a cast iron pan, and then flipped over the last minute, just long enough to take it to pink.

Start with dessert.  To make pastry you need cold butter, cut into cubes.  The coldness of the butter is what keeps it just separate enough from the flour to stand on it’s own, when they rubbed together, which makes gives that gorgeous flakiness.  Use 7 tablespoons of unsalted butter with 1 cup of flour, a pinch of salt, and a slightly bigger pinch of sugar.  Rub the butter into the dry ingredients, using only your fingertips.  There should be an unevenness to the lumps when you are done, with some slightly larger, some slightly smaller, but no more evidence of flour.  Pour in drops of ice water, just a few drops at a time, until the dough comes together.  Mix around with your hand just to combine.  Freeze for half an hour.  Allow to sit for a few minutes out of the freezer, and then roll to about and 1/8 of an inch.  There should be streaks of butter visible in the dough.  Roll the dough over the pin, and then over your tart pan.  Without stretching the dough, tuck it into the corners of the pan, placing the dough into the inside edges first, and then up and over the sides.  Tuck the bits that hang over behind the inside edges to create a slightly thicker edge.  Freeze again for about 10 minutes.  Cover with a piece of parchment paper and fill with uncooked beans.   Bake at 425 degrees in a preheated oven for 10 minutes.  Remove the beans and bake for another 10 minutes, or until golden.

For the pastry cream, bring 2 cups of milk to the simmer in a saucepan.  In a separate bowl, combine 2/3 cup of sugar and 1/3 cup of flour, and a pinch of salt.  Whisk the hot milk gradually into another bowl of 3 slightly beaten egg yolks, in a thin stream.  Add the flour and sugar mixture, and continue mixing.  Over a low flame, continue whisking until the mixture coats the back of a wooden spoon and looks slightly thickened.  Strain through a sieve, and refrigerate.  When the mixture is cool, add 1 cup of slightly beaten heavy cream.  Spoon into the tart shell.  Cover with quartered fresh figs and a few raspberries.  Serve immediately.

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