Michelle Darmody: How to use figs when baking

Michelle Darmody shares some of her favourite fig-based recipes

I got seduced recently in our local fruit and vegetable shop by a large tray of figs. They looked so good I bought the lot and realised on returning home that I may have been a little over zealous. I had to create fig based recipes for the rest of the week. But figs are a handy ingredient that crosses over from sweet to savoury very well.

A fig salad with a balsamic reduction is very tasty, or a tart made with ricotta, similar to the one here but omitting the sweetness and adding some Parma ham instead, is a great pre-dinner starter.

The simplest thing I like to do with a batch of figs is to make an incision in both directions, not quite to the base but enough so it allows you to pinch the fig open slightly. Then place a wedge of brie or some goats cheese into the hollow that is formed. Place these onto a baking tray, then place under the grill until the cheese is melted and the figs are oozing.

The fig and apple cake recipe included here is a great Autumn treat and can be made in a two pound loaf tin instead of a round cake tin, if you would prefer. That way it is easier to slice for school lunches or afternoon snacks.

Fig rolls have to be one of the world’s most recognisable biscuits and ones I admit to loving. This homemade version is satisfying to make.

You can play around with the ingredients in the filling if you wish and add raisins or some more nuts.

Fig and apple cake

100g of slivered almonds

210g of golden brown sugar

225g of butter, softened

225g of self-raising flour

2 tsp of baking powder, sieved

3 eggs, lightly beaten

100g of golden raisins

1 tsp of vanilla essence

100g of chopped fresh figs

300g of grated apple

Preheat your oven to 180 degrees and line a 9 inch spring form, or loose base, cake tin with parchment.

Set aside a handful of the almonds and brown sugar for the top the of the cake.

Mix everything except the apples and figs in a mixer on a low setting with the paddle attachment.

Scoop just over half the cake mixture into the tin and spread it flat with a warm, wet knife.

Spread the grated apple and chopped figs on top, then top this with the rest of the mixture. Again you will need to dip a fork or knife into warm water to help spread the mixture as it is will be sticky.

Scatter the remaining almonds and brown sugar on top of the cake.

Bake for an hour and five minutes or until a skewer comes out clean and the top is golden.

Allow to cool for ten minutes in the tin then gently remove and place on a wire rack to cool fully. Decorate with more fresh figs if you wish.

Mini fig tarts with orange blossom creme fraiche

450g of puff pastry

100g of ricotta

100g of greek natural yogurt

2 tsp of icing sugar

zest of two oranges

6 fresh figs, halved

1 tbs of honey

4 tbs of creme fraiche

1 tsp of vanilla essence

1 tsp of orange blossom water

Preheat your oven to 180 degrees and line a baking tray with parchment.

Roll the puff pastry on a lightly floured surface and cut into squares, three millimeters in thickness and about six centimeters square.

Whisk the ricotta, yogurt, icing sugar and zest together.

Spoon a blob of the ricotta onto each square and place half a fig on top, cut side down.

Bake for 20 minutes until golden. Drizzle with half of the honey when you remove then from the oven and allow to cool.

Whisk the rest of the honey, the vanilla and orange blossom water into the creme fraiche.

When the tarts are cool, spoon a generous teaspoon of the creme fraiche on top of each. It is best to do this just before serving.

Homemade fig-rolls

200g of dried figs, chopped

1 tsp of cake spice

zest of an orange

zest of a lemon and the juice of half a lemon

20g of muscovado sugar

20g of slivered almonds, chopped

150g plain flour

75g of spelt flour

1 level tsp of baking powder

pinch of sea salt

10g of golden sugar

140g cold butter, diced

1 egg yolk

2 tbs of milk

Place the figs, cake spice, zest, lemon juice and the muscovado sugar into a saucepan and add 6 tbs of water. Allow to slowly heat until the mixture is simmering, then allow to simmer way, with the lid off, for about fifteen minutes or until it is sticky. Stir in the almonds and set aside to cool.

Place both flours, baking powder, salt, golden sugar and the butter into a mixer and pulse until the mixture looks like rough breadcrumbs. Add in the egg yolk and the milk and bring the mixture into a solid ball with your hands. Place onto some clingfilm and wrap it up. Place into the fridge for at least an hour.

Preheat your oven to 180 degrees and line a baking tray with parchment.

Roll the pastry into a long rectangle and then cut it in two so you have two narrow sheets. Each sheet should be just less than one millimeter in thickness.

Place a line of filling down the side of the pastry and roll the pastry around it and press to seal. Cut into about four centimeter lengths and arrange these on the baking sheet with the seam facing down.

Bake for 20 minutes until golden. Allow to cool on a wire rack.


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