a tale of two tarts

baked cheesecake & fig tart

Well, this week folks, I had planned on telling you the tale of two tarts. Two equally succulent but very different gals who had one thing in common, apart from both being a lovely way to end a meal: a topping of ripe, fragrant figs. But sometimes fate gets in the way of a good story and well this week I come to you with a tale of joy and a tale of woe.

For those of you in the mood for something positive and uplifting, I suggest you skip straight down to the recipe section and feast your eyes on the best dessert to come out of the stonesoup kitchen in ages; my baked cheesecake & fig tart. And for those of you who don’t mind the odd hard luck story, gather round.

Over the weekend I came to realize something about myself. You see I’m what you’d call a kitchen optimist. The type of cook who’s willing to give most things a try and is fool hardy enough to expect them to be mostly edible. Just the type of sunny outlook that is required to sign up for and even tackle such crazy projects as cooking  a Turducken or hosting a mid week Valentine’s Day dinner for 12.

But sometimes even a positive vision isn’t enough to result in something half edible, let alone delicious. Sometimes things just don’t work out.  As I was well and truly reminded of yesterday, there are times when the more you think about things and concentrate, the more you seem to yield increasingly dismal results.

My Dad and I were hosting a dinner for the lovely relatives and neighbours who had been so welcoming in inviting my Dad over for meals during the past few months. I had planned on whipping up a tart loosely based on one I’d read about recently. A burnt butter, pistachio and fig number that I’d even gone out and purchased a long-wished-for rectangular tart tin especially and convinced my dear old Dad to patiently shell a pile of pistachios.

First attempt had the egg whites refusing to whip into any thing even remotely resembling ‘peaks’ firm or otherwise. So I carefully ditched that and with pristinely cleaned tools and an eagle eye on my egg separating gave it another go. Things were looking much better as I delicately folded through the ground nuts, sugar and butter. And my tart looked so good before going into the oven with it’s backbone of luscious figs that I almost took a quick pic.

After about 20mins in the oven, I decided to sneak a peak and well my tart had gone from picture-perfect to an over-flowing witches cauldron mess that had mostly oozed onto the tray below. We’re talking a serious mess.

After taking stock of the situation, I realized that much to my Dad’s dismay, the only solution was to give the chooks a figgy pistachio treat and start again from scratch. With no hope of talking Dad into any further pistachio denuding, plan B reared it’s head. Prunes and almonds, not exactly as glamorous as their predecessors but good friends none the less. With more nuts and less egg white things finally took a turn for the better….all good things.
baked cheesecake & fig tart
serves 12

Classic baked cheesecake is one of my all time favourite desserts whether they be full sized or little individual ones, but I think I may have just found a new favourite version. With a crispy crust to add contrast to the creamy cheesy filling and lovely fresh figs baked into the top, we’re talking one very more-ish tart. definitely a good idea to have 11 of your closest single mates on hand to share it with you, lest you over-indulge.

1 x 28cm sweet crust tart shell, baked & cooled
250g cream cheese
300g ricotta
2 eggs
165g (3/4C) caster sugar
9 – 10 ripe figs, halved lengthwise
2T fig, peach, nectarine or apricot jam
double cream, to serve

Preheat oven to 180C. Combine cream cheese, ricotta, eggs & sugar in a food processor and whiz until just combined and smooth. Pour into prepared tart shell and bake 10mins.

Arrange fig halves cut side up, prettily over the tart. Return to the oven and bake for 20- 30 mins or until cheesecake filling is starting to brown and if just firm in the center. Allow to cool.

When ready to serve, warm jam and brush over the surface of the tart to gently glaze.

 

prune, almond & burnt butter ‘tart’
serves 8

Inspired, or rather born as a result of a desperate need to find a substitute for Emma Knowles’ fig, raspberry and pistachio burnt butter tart from the Feb 08 Australian Gourmet Traveller. Although I’m sure if I wasn’t trying to mess around with it and make it gluten free by replacing the flour with extra nuts it would have turned out brilliantly first time.

125g unsalted butter
3 egg whites
150g icing sugar, sifted
200g almonds, finely ground
1t vanilla extract
200g pitted prunes, rinsed with boiling water and halved lengthwise
50g extra almonds, roughly chopped
natural yoghurt, to serve

Preheat oven to 180C. Melt butter in a small saucepan then bring to a simmer and cook until nut brown. As Emma says, you need to listen to the butter and when it stops simmering noisily it’s time to remove it from the heat. Allow to cool thoroughly.

Generously grease a 11 x 35cm tart dish with butter. Whisk whites with a pinch of salt until firm peaks form. Add icing sugar, almonds, vanilla and cooled butter and continue to beat until well combined. Pour into prepared tart dish. Spread prunes down the center and scatter over almonds.

Bake for 20mins then reduce heat to 160C and continue to cook until tart is firm to the touch and golden brown approx 20-30 mins. Allow to cool in tin.

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