Figs: is there anything more symbolic? Wealth, plenty, good fortune, hope, spirituality—figs have come to mean these and so much more for cultures and religions the world over for eons. Not only does the fruit carry rich meaning, evocative of its flavor, but the tree itself has come to mean eternal goodness. The leaves, conversely, were not only written to be used by Adam and Eve to cover themselves, and their shame after eating the forbidden fruit, but have also come to mean something of a cover-up or concealment of wrong-doing in more modern contexts.
But to taste an obscenely ripe fresh fig is anything but a wrongdoing—it’s, and forgive me, a religious experience. Deeply flavored and jammy, with notes of the light sweetness of plums, perfumed with intoxicating headiness, and their meltingly softness contrasted by their seeds-aplenty, they’re such a joy to find. When you see bits of what looks like crystalized sugar on the trimmed stem of the fruit you know you’re in for a honeyed treat. There’s nothing like them.
There’s something about cutting open those midnight-hued teardrops, revealing a blushing and flecked pink, that leaves me reeling. Usually you’ll find figs popping up in markets and grocers sometime in June, but I tell myself to resist—you don’t need it, addict—and hold out for the real bounty: now. August to September is when the real showstoppers are ushered in. Trust me, they’re worth it. Sure, ripe figs do have their drawbacks. They don’t have a long shelf life, so they require great care or immediate use to avoid them going moldy. They’re also incredibly hard to transport, and this extends to your travel, too; I treat these the same as I do eggs, giving them the royal treatment of riding shot gun solo on my way home (I need a “Figs are my co-pilot” bumper sticker for this time of year… just kidding. Bumper stickers are gross).
To me, figs mean celebration. I think back to old paintings or films depicting ancient times; figs were ever-present on lush tables at huge celebratory banquets. With such a short season, they’re a cause to celebrate in and of themselves when they appear in markets. When they’re good—much like other certain produce, like tomatoes or strawberries—they’re good, so you don’t want to smother them with other flavors, but, rather, kiss them gently with them. This recipe is perfect for this exact purpose.
You may be surprised to see that the “filling” of this galette—a rough, rustic version of something more refined, like a pie—consists of nothing more than figs, vanilla sugar, and pistachios. You’re not missing out on anything here at all, though; no need for fussiness here. If your figs are perfectly ripe, this highlights them effortlessly so that you can taste all that they have to offer; if they’ve been picked a little premature—a sad, but realistic, truth—they still taste fab, with the aid of a bit of brown sugar.
The sweet perfume of the vanilla sugar accentuates that of the figs, while the meatiness of the pistachios brings out the figgy flavor more so—there’s a reason figs are often used with meats and offal.
So, now’s the time. If you see them in the market, stems sticky with syrupy sugar, grab them. Grab them all. And if you don’t have 6 – 8 to feed for an evening don’t worry—just eat whatever is left over breakfast. You know that I am.
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|6 - 8||15 minutes|
|Cook Time||Passive Time|
|35 - 45 minutes||2 hours, or more|
- 1-1/8 cup flour (1 cup plus 2 tablespoons)
- 2 tablespoons almond meal
- 2 t-spoons sugar
- 1/2 t-spoon kosher salt
- 1/2 cup butter cut into small cubes and chilled (1 stick)
- 3 - 5 tablespoons cold water
- 1/8 t-spoon ground cinnamon
- 1 to 1-1/4 pounds fresh black mission figs halved or quartered, depending on size
- 1-1/2 tablespoon vanilla sugar (see note)
- 1 ounce shelled pistachios slightly crushed if desired (lightly salted preferred)
- To start the crust dough, cut the butter into tablespoon sized pads and then all in half lengthwise. Stick them in the freezer for at least an hour.
- Load the dry ingredients in a food processor and pulse a few times to combine everything. Drop in the butter and pulse 10 – 12 times, breaking the butter into small pea-sized pieces.
- This is where I tip the crumbly contents of the processor into a separate bowl and stir in the water, starting with 3 tablespoons—this way the butter doesn’t get too small or heated by further pulsing, and I find it easier to do the stirring in a separate bowl as opposed to the bowl of the processor. The dough should come together for the most part as you stir.
- Turn out onto a floured surface and kneed for just a minute or two so it completely comes together like a crust dough. Form into a round disk, wrap in plastic wrap and stash in the fridge for at least 2 hours, until perfectly chilled.
- Preheat the oven to 375°
- Roll the dough out to about 14” in diameter on a lightly floured surface. Transfer to a parchment lined baking sheet. Arrange the cut figs on the dough, leaving a 3” border around the edge. Sprinkle the figs with the vanilla sugar and scatter them with pistachios.
- Fold the naked crust border over onto the filling, creating overlapping creases with each fold.
- Brush the crust with the beaten egg, brushing a little in between the folds of the dough. Sprinkle with a little turbinado sugar and bake for 35 – 45 minutes, until the dough is bronzed and crisp and the figs are caramelized and slightly jammy.
- Remove from the oven and let it rest at room temperature for 15 minutes before slicing into it. Serve as it is, with soft-whipped cream or with a few scoops of good, seedy vanilla ice cream.
- If you don't have vanilla sugar, first know that it's incredibly easy to make: fill a sterilized glass jar with white sugar, plunk in a whole vanilla bean or a seeded one the you've scraped the cavier from, and fill the rest with sugar. Seal it and let it sit in your cupboard for 1 week, give it a shake, and let it sit another few days. Viola. After that, all there is to do is add more sugar as you use it, plunking in another vanilla pod after you notice the aromatic perfume lessening over time. If you don't have it, though, carefully dot vanilla extract over the figs before sprinkling with plain white sugar.
- If your figs are slightly under ripe, substitute about a t-spoon of vanilla sugar with brown sugar to help intensify the jamminess of the fruit.