Fig Tart. Work of Art.

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My in-laws have quite a large back-, front-, side yard garden that I often refer to it as a “farm”.  I don’t know the actual square footage of the land, but I can describe it to you so you have an idea.  They have about a dozen pomegranate trees; I can’t even count how many citrus trees they have; they have peach, avocado, guava, persimmon and plum trees; berry and grape vines; they grow different kinds of tomatoes, peppers, cilantro, onion, and the list goes on…

There are so many things I love about the farm.  One of the best things is my father-in-law (Baba) uses organic methods.  They have 2 cats that roam free out there, and he is his own scare crow– if he sees a bird trying to eat his fruit, he’ll make a lot of noise, clap his hands, or speak to it in farsi and it’ll fly away.  Baba’s farm is his pride and joy.  At 83 years old, he’s out there from sun-up to sun-down, tending to his plants, watering them, talking to them, touching the leaves and getting his plump fingers smothered in dirt.  I actually can’t recall a time when I haven’t seen a leaf either in his hair or somewhere on his shirt.  The farm is his life. And I’m so happy he enjoys sharing it with his family.

When I visit them, I like to walk the grounds.  He finds me and always offers me a piece of fruit or even a fruit tree, then he encourages me to grab a basket and to pick fruit/vegetables to take home.  You know that term farm-to-table? Well, when I’m out there foraging, it’s often farm-to-mouth. There’s nothing more fun than picking mulberries and peaches, blowing off the dirt and eating them fresh off the tree! It’s really a beautiful thing!

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It’s the end of summer and I guess that means it’s fig and peach season.  My in-laws have more than half a dozen fig trees and 3 or 4 mini peach trees.  Their peaches are so delicate and delicious that I can eat whatever I take home with me.  However, figs are a different story.  They are delicious, but they are a bit too sweet for me that I can only eat so many in a day.  Last week I baked a fig torte and shared it with Peyman’s family and my sister.  I was relieved that I was almost finished with my stash of figs.  Then last weekend Baba asked if I wanted to take home more figs.  I said, “Sure, but only a handful, 10 at most, please.” He came back with a box-full.  I ate as many as I could and contemplated making preserves (which would never get eaten because we don’t eat toast and neither do my sisters and my mother-in-law makes her own jam), so I decided to make what used to be my go-to dessert, a tart.  And I remembered that my former pastry chef, Breanne Varela (now Contreras), made a beautiful fig tart when we worked at Tavern.  I thought I’d create the same design and also make a frangipane filling.

If you’ve been a follower of mine on Instagram, you will have noticed that I haven’t made a tart since becoming vegan. That’s because in addition to becoming vegan, I stopped eating gluten and I wasn’t sure how a tart shell would turn out with both a gluten-free flour and coconut oil. (Mind you, I refuse to eat vegan butter…it kind of scares me. How do oils solidify to look like butter?  It looks a bit unnatural to me.  I think coconut oil is the best oil option, if you’re active. Love those medium chain triglycerides!)  Anyway, I was a bit fearful of making a gluten-free vegan crust, but now I am so happy I did because it came out beautifully and to my surprise, I have less guilt about eating a slice. Actually, I have no guilt at all!  I love that I can make a tart with no butter, eggs or processed sugar and yet it can still taste delicious! Also, instead of using dark rum in my frangipane, I simply used coconut palm sugar and cinnamon. It seems that I can use my old, tried and true recipes and sub out ingredients with new and improved staple ingredients; it seems to be working! Hallelujah!

If you’ve been following my blog for years, you know that tarts were my specialty in my pre-vegan days.  I never posted recipes of my tarts on my blog because I’d always wanted a cookbook (and still do) and I was afraid of plagiarism. (Nah mean?) Well, I still want a cookbook but I also like to share the goodness, and so you can get a taste of what my food tastes like.  It’s like being at the grocery store and tasting a grape before buying the $10 bunch; you need to be sure it’s good before you buy it.  A sample, if you will!  Well, believe me, this tart is really good.  And, great news, I have so many other great tart recipes up my sleeve!  So stay tuned and once my cookbook or whatever I put out is ready for the market, I hope you will want a copy!

For now, here’s my first vegan and gluten-free tart recipe!

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Fig and Frangipane Tart

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F

Essential tool: 9 inch tart pan with removable bottom

 

Ingredients

 

18-20 figs or 1.5 – 2 pounds of figs, quartered length-wise

 

Tart Dough

1/4 cup ice cold filtered water

1 cup plus 2 tbsp oat flour (gluten-free oat flour)

1/4 tsp fine sea salt (I use Himalayan)

6 tbsp (3 oz.) coconut oil (chilled and chunked into tsp pieces. doesn’t have to be perfect)

 

Frangipane Filling

3 tbsp coconut oil

1/3 cup coconut palm sugar

1/2 cup plus 2 tbsp almond meal

1 heaping tbsp arrowroot

pinch sea salt

1/8 tsp cinnamon

1/3 cup almond milk

1.5 tsp vanilla extract (no alcohol)

1/2 tsp almond extract

 

Directions

Tart Dough

1. Place oat flour, salt and cold chunks of coconut oil into food processor. Pulse until coconut oil pieces are pea-sized.

2. While continuously pulsing the oat flour, pour the cold water in (make sure no ice falls in. I just place the measuring cup in the freezer to make it ice cold). Pulse until it almost comes together. (about 3-4 times)

3. Lay out about 13 inches of plastic wrap on the counter (if you don’t have this, use parchment) and pour the dough and flour pieces onto the plastic. Form the dough into a disc shape, about 6 inches in diameter and wrap the sides, leaving about an inch of space when folding. Once it’s wrapped, use a rolling pin to roll out about an inch more.  Roll the dough from the center out. Place in the refrigerator.

4. Make the tart filling. Then spray non-stick cooking spray inside, all over the sides of the tart pan. Place tart pan on a half sheet tray, lined with parchment paper or a silpat (silicone baking mat).

5. When you’re done with the tart filling, remove from the dough from the refrigerator.  If it’s too hard, you will need to wait until it is soft enough to roll out without cracking. But you don’t want it too soft that it melts.  You will have to work quickly.

6. Open the plastic wrap, leaving the plastic on the bottom of the dough and either grab another piece of plastic wrap or parchment paper to place on top of the dough (or manipulate the plastic wrap you have to help you) and roll out the the dough to about an 11-inch in diameter circle.  The crust should still be a bit cold at this point so it’s easier to handle. Bring the sheet tray near you with the sprayed tart pan, and holding the dough circle from the bottom (or wrapping the dough on top of a rolling pin with the plastic on top), quickly flip the dough into the tart pan, then carefully peel off the plastic. Push the dough into the tart pan and onto the sides.  If the dough breaks, no worries, just press it together. If one side needs more dough, take some dough from a thicker side and press it into an area that needs more dough.  Do what you have to do to get what you see below.  If it starts melting and difficult to handle, put it back in the refrigerator to harden up a bit.  Again, make your dough look like below, with no wholes.

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7. Place the tart shell back in the refrigerator or even freezer so it sets a bit. Go to tart filling, step 3.

Tart Filling

1. In a medium mixing bowl, add the coconut palm sugar, salt, cinnamon and wet ingredients: coconut oil, almond milk, vanilla and almond extracts. Stir to combine and to dissolve the salt and sugar. The sugar won’t completely dissolve and that’s fine. Add the almond meal and arrowroot and stir well to combine. Set aside.

2. Go back up to step 5 of the tart dough directions.

3. After the tart shell is set (hardened), take it out of the refrigerator, give the tart filling one or two last stirs, then fill the tart shell with the filling, spreading it evenly to cover the bottom of the tart crust.  Place back in the refrigerator and cut up the figs in the meantime. Cut them length-wise, first in half, then cut the halves in half to get quarters.

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Assembling the the figs in the tart

Once the frangipane has been in the refrigerator for about 5 minutes, place the figs, pointy (stem) side up, round side down, pink side exposed, starting from the outside of the circle, just onto the frangipane, along the crust. The frangipane should hold it in place (but don’t push it through and into the frangipane. Just lay it gently in place). Let the figs touch shoulder to shoulder. For the second layer inward, stagger and repeat. Repeat the hird layer and so on until you get to the center.

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Once you’ve made your fig flower, take a photo because it’ll look awesome raw! Then place the sheet tray with the tart shell on it in the center of the preheated 350 degree F oven for about 45-50 minutes or until the crust gets golden-ish, or like my photos. Since there isn’t butter or cream in the crust, you won’t achieve a true golden color.

It may bubble over a smidge, and when you take it out of the oven, it will look wet.  Be careful not to spill the liquid. Don’t be alarmed. It will set once it cools. Once it is almost cool, carefully remove the tart shell tart pan touching the sides/crust, leaving only the base intact.  (Bottom/base of the tart pan will be intact until you serve the last piece.)  Using 2 spatulas, I placed the tart on a cake stand. You can just put it on a flat large plate to save space and to avoid accidents, if you’d like. Carefully place the tart in the refrigerator for at least 3 hours before serving. After 3 hours, the liquid will be set.

I had this with coconut whip for the first time and it was delish! But I also had it without the coconut whip and it was still luxurious.  Peyman has his hang ups with figs so I had to trick him into tasting a piece.  He said it was, “mmm…Good!”

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I hope you enjoy this as much as we did!  Please let me know how yours turns out!

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Fruit tart crust

My traditional fruit tart

My traditional fruit tart before being glazed

A few people have asked me how to avoid getting a soggy fruit tart crust.  Here’s a solution that will work for a couple days.

Once your pie dough has been baked and cooled, brush the interior of the pie crust with a thin layer of melted butter or melted chocolate with a tad bit of butter, cocoa butter or shortening in it.  Once brushed, let the butter or melted chocolate set in the refrigerator, then add your pastry filling and fruit.  The lining of butter or chocolate will act as a barrier between the crust and pastry filling, sort of waterproofing it.  I must say, the melted chocolate works best for my fruit tarts.  That’s because I like the combination of chocolate and fruit. Even lining the crust of a lemon curd pie with chocolate does wonders.

IMG_1832My Berry Delicious tart

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My Life. My Fruit Tarts.


Fruit Tart I made in class

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I just spent an hour briskly walking along Torrance and Redondo Beach.  It felt good being out on such a gorgeous day, breathing in fresh ocean air, and feeling the sunlight on my skin, not bothered by passersby.  During my moments of peace, I thought about my life and how I want to live, this day forward.  I’ve always believed that Love is for Life and that good, positive relationships are necessary to live a happy life.  

Since my last entry, much has happened in my life.  I now work a regular schedule at Tavern, in pastry – working during the day on weekdays and working the line (plating dessert) on weekends; I have been star struck at work many times, at the restaurant, and especially catering an Oscar party at the CAA president’s house; I have a much more modest yet powerful car; and I recently relocated near the ocean – for how long, I’m not sure.  

Ever since I relocated, I’ve been trying to figure myself out.  I want to love who I am more and live a happy and balanced life, so I can affect those around me more positively.  Today, on my walk, I was thinking about what makes me happy.  I’m most happy when I do things I enjoy most.  I was thinking, if I could have, on occasion, my alone time to reflect and enjoy beautiful scenery, be surrounded by and/or in touch with those I love most in the world, cook and eat deliciously, work where I work today, write, stay physically active and fit, and make money at the same time, I would be a very happy person.  Today, I have most of these things except for the money part.   

Going into culinary school, I didn’t realize how much money I’d actually make starting off in the industry.  My ultimate goal in the industry has been to open up my own shop, hopefully franchise it so I can eventually sell it.  Some of my family members would be my partners/investors in the business.  They’ve been watching me struggle financially, but they understand that working at the Tavern is a sacrifice I’m making for our future business – it truly is a great training ground.  I’m working with and learning from the best and that’s what makes me happy about staying there.  I am not going to start a business without the necessary skill and expertise.  In February, Suzanne Goin asked me to stay at least a year, if given a position to work for one of her restaurants.  I gave her my word and I don’t regret it.  I’m reaping the benefits –  I learned a ton from the Lucques staff in catering and in the savory side and I learn new things everyday at Tavern in pastry.  

The only thing is, I had been relying on others to help me keep afloat, financially, and it’s taken its toll on my relationships.  I need to be self-sufficient again.  I need to make this work, stay with this job and be financially independent.  I’ve been looking for a second job, waitressing at a restaurant or a bar, but I don’t really want to do that type of work – I’m afraid it will tire me out…plus, the last time I waitressed, in 2002, I got hit on by men all the time- I don’t need that right now.  Ok, maybe I’m just making excuses.  

Ideally, I’d want to have the morning shift at Tavern so I can do more Lucques Catering gigs, which happen on weekends in the evening.  That would help me out a lot, since catering jobs pay much more and I could probably sell real estate (build capital) with such a schedule.  Since the early morning shift is not available at this time, I need to do something today.  But I want to do something I love and enjoy.

Breanne, our pastry chef, once asked me, “what do you like making most in pastry?..at home?”.  I told her I love making tarts, not just any kind of tarts, fruit tarts.  I think they are delightful, delicious, and fun to make – plus, my oldest sister told me those were the best fruit tarts she’s ever had.  I believe her because she’s had a lot of experience eating pastries.  But seriously, I have been told that I make a good fruit tart by those with the most discriminating taste. 

If anything, one thing I have mastered is the mini fruit tart (which we served at my sister, Riva’s, Baby Shower tea party).  Now, I am working on mastering the regular-sized fruit tart.  I’m just about there.

During college, my best friend, Susan, introduced me to the best fruit tart ever.  From Santa Cruz, she’d drive to a farm in Watsonville, where she’d pick up this masterpiece.  I think I have the crust and filling down… I just need the ollalie (sp?) berries.  I’m making a fruit tart this week for Susan and hopefully we’ll recreate what we loved best about the fruit tart we had up north.

So, where am I going with all this fruit tart talk?  I have decided to specialize in fruit tarts in the Los Angeles area.  Maybe I’ll get somewhere with this, maybe Wholefoods will pick up my fruit tart line.  Maybe I’ll make tarts other than fruit tarts.  But for now, as a side gig, I want to make fruit tarts, large and small.  If interested, and if you’re in the Los Angeles area, I’m taking fruit tart orders today.  Mini, bulk, 6-inch, 9-inch, 12-inch mixed fruit tarts.  Please order 48 hours in advance.  Email me if interested for pricing and delivery.

I’m going to get ready for another night at work.  I’ll keep you updated with my fruit tart business and other food news.  

I hope you enjoy your day!  Bon Appetite!

 

 

The slice I had this morning

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Fruit Tart

Fruit Tart I made in class

Fruit Tart I made in class

Since today was a Staff Development day at school, I didn’t have class, which means I didn’t wake up at 4:20am to get ready for school.  Instead, I was able to wake up at a normal hour.  Before  Peyman walked to work, he and I shared a delicious cup of coffee and a slice of the fruit tart.  I made a huge dinner last night that left no room for a sweet dessert, so we had it this morning.  I was a bit surprised by the flavor and texture.  The crust wasn’t as sweet as I like and I didn’t love the filling either.  It’s a vanilla bean custard.

I had planned to spend the day with my mom and sister’s family, and they were expecting a delicious fruit tart.  I know they’re definition of a delicious fruit tart and if I had delivered the remaining tart that we sliced into already, they wouldn’t be satisfied.  In my family, we like crisp and sweet tart crust and rich and creamy filling…

The slice I had this morning

The slice I had this morning

I decided to make another fruit tart for the family, using my go-to recipe.  It’s a recipe that I will not share because I may sell these one day.  One thing I’ll let you in on is, it’s a spin off of a famous person’s recipe.  I call it MY recipe since I add my special love to it and a special ingredient, sour cream.  In the filling is cream cheese, sour cream, and a few other ingredients.. yum!  I try to make it like the folks do at The Farm in Santa Cruz.  They have one of the best tarts I’ve tasted and I know they put sour cream in their fruit tart filling.  I made a very mini version of my tart for Riva’s baby shower, and this is the biggest tart I ever made, at about 14 inches in diameter…. I think I still need to work on my selection and placement of fruit.  In time, I will figure it out.

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Riva's Baby Shower Tea Party

Riva's Baby Shower Tea Party

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The only pictures I have of my mini fruit tarts are pictures from a distance.

The only pictures I have of my mini fruit tarts are pictures from a distance.

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Baking 110

Going into culinary school, I didn’t expect to enjoy the baking aspect much since baking requires a lot of waiting around.  I’ve baked before, using family recipes, cookbooks and online recipes from the Food Network, and whenever yeast was involved, I dreaded waiting around for dough to rise and sitting in a hot kitchen.  Many, many moons ago, Grandma Rosita (my dad’s mom’s twin) taught my mom how to make her husband’s, Grandpa Floyd’s, great grandma’s Southern pecan rolls.  My mom busts out the recipe every year during the holidays, so they’re something to always look forward to.  Southern, old school recipes require a lot of love and care, which means a lot of time, so they usually taste better than the baking powder/soda quick-bake, no butter, kind of recipe.  It’s a yearly tradition for me to watch my mom make pecan rolls, and I have never been a fan of waiting around, twiddling my thumbs, as we waited for the dough to proof (rise), not just once but twice.  And one thing I don’t look forward to is the scrubbing and scraping of the sticky pans.  Because of this, I’d been drawn to quick, easy, no fuss baking recipes.

In high school and in college, I loved to entertain friends with food.  Some of my parties would be pure dessert parties.  In high school, my sisters and I would bake up a variety of sweet treats and our friends would come over to enjoy them along with conversation.

In college, along with the many dinner parties I threw, were cookie-baking parties where, surprisingly, more males showed up than females.  When a friend would walk through the door, I’d hand them a recipe, show them the ingredients and tools used for baking, everyone would bake, and we’d have a ton of cookies to enjoy with our coffee klasche.  Baking and cooking with friends is such a blast, especially since my friends always offered to do the dishes!

In school, we do things the old-school way – we bake bread using fresh yeast, we mix ingredients with a whisk and bowl scraper, and we knead the dough with our hands.  To my surprise, I love my baking class!  Especially since we have a proofer which rises the dough in no time, we get very creative with the aethetics of some of the baked goods, and there are less dishes I have to wash since I use plastic wrap to hold my ingredients.  There’s always something to work on.  Again, I am in an accelerated culinary program and we have much to cover within a short period of time, so there is no time for me to stand around and pick my nose, much less to use the restroom.

Even though I may have a weaker bladder, I really appreciate baking now.  I consider myself to be more of an artistic manual laborer, and baking (and cooking) is a perfect outlet for me.  Today I finally learned how to waterproof or moistureproof a fruit tart shell.  I sort of figured it out when I made the mini fruit tarts for Riva’s baby shower.  I thought back to Marie’s wedding – the dessert was excellent… it was a fruit tart with chocolate brushed inside the pastry shell.  When making the tarts for the baby shower I thought, the Hyatt chefs must have done something to keep from getting the tart soggy from the pastry cream and fruit – they have to make and keep 200 tarts from getting soggy… I thought the chocolate was the barrier and I was so right.  About 3 years ago, Marie and I catered a tea party, and our fruit tarts came out soggy… wish we knew how to moisture proof the shell back then.  Thank God for school – I am aware of much more food science.  Here are secrets to keeping the fruit tart crust crisp and not soggy.

1) Before completely browing the pie crust/tart shell, brush a coating of egg whites inside the shell (not too thick of a coat..you don’t want scrambled eggs).  Place back in the oven to finish (lightly) browning the sides of the crust.  Cool completely before placing the pastry cream into the crust.  Place in refrigerator for quick cooling.

2) Once pie crust/tart shell is browned (lightly), cool completely.  You can put it in the refrigerator or freezer for quick cooling.  Brush a light coating of melted chocolate inside the crust.  Cool completely before adding the pastry cream.

If you ever have any questions about this or other baking questions, please do not hesistate to ask.  I may know the answer.  If not, I have the resources to figure it out.

In this posting, I have pictures of the many baked goods I made this week only.  I made my own laminated dough, a danish dough, which was very time consuming but very rewarding.  So as to not morph into a butterball, I share my goodies.  I dropped off all my baked goods to my family and they are very happy that I chose a career in culinary – they are benefiting greatly from my education already.  If you want any of my recipes that you see on my blog, simply ask!

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