September 01, 2006

Martha Stewart Is Still A Dirty Liar: Fig Tart with Cream Cheese Filling

I've mentioned before how I love Martha's Dessert book but that it is filled with inconsistencies, "missing" directions and flat-out lies. My theory is that it's because she doesn't want anybody to be able to re-create "her" recipes. That she can't stand the fact that anybody could be as "perfect" as her. Or it could just be that her editing and writing staff for this particular book wasn't paying enough attention. (FYI It's cheaply made too, the binding on mine has cracked and about a quarter of the pages are loose)

Either way, I love the imagery in this book but have resigned myself to the fact that if I make anything out of it, my product will look nothing like hers, and could also possibly be a horrible cosmetic disaster, as my Devil's food cake was, but still taste good.

On Wednesday, I decided to celebrate my first day off by making the partner a nice dinner because he's been particularly supportive and wonderful while I'm going through the transition of returning to school. I hit upon this for dessert, because C loves figs, but always objects when I try to do anything more with them than slice into quarters. I'm not a fan of super-sweet desserts but it wasn't as sweet as I would like, probably because the fruit wasn't as ripe as it ought to have been. I think as the recipe was written, it's more like a composed fruit and cheese course than anything else. If I make it again, I'll add a bit more sugar to the filling.

Fig Tart with Cream Cheese Filling, adapted from Martha Stewart's Desserts


6 TB unsalted butter, room temp
1/2 cup sugar
2 egg yolks
2 tsp orange peel, grated finely
1 cup AP flour
1/3 cup cornmeal (I used really coarse meal and didn't enjoy the extra crunchy grit, you might)
1/2 tsp salt

4 oz cream cheese, room temp
1/2 cup creme fraiche
1 1/2 TB powdered sugar (or more, see above)
2 tsp vanilla paste or extract
2 tsp orange juice
2 tsp orange peel, grated finely
2 tsp orange blossom water, or more to taste
1 pint black or purple figs, perfectly ripe, stemmed and quartered
1/4 cup fig or currant jam (I used currant)
2 TB port, or red wine


In the bowl of an electric mixer, or food processor, cream butter and 1/2 cup sugar until light and fluffy. Add yolks and 2 tsp peel and mix until just combined.

In a large bowl, whisk flour, corn meal and salt.

Add the dry ingredients to the butter mixture and mix until dough just barely comes together. Flatten dough into a disk and wrap with plastic. Chill until firm enough to handle, about 1/2 hour.

Butter a 4"x14" rectangular tart pan (I actually bought a kitchen gadget just for this one recipe, I'm relatively certain that you could use a standard sized tart pan and the proportions would still work out). Remove the cornmeal dough from the fridge and roll out between two sheets of plastic wrap (or two silicone liners, if you have them) to a 1/8" thickness (You will probably have a ton of dough left over, I did. I made mini-tarts out of it). Very carefully, transfer the rolled out dough to the pan. It will most likely tear. Not a problem, since it isn't traditionally flaky tart dough, you can patch it together easily. Press dough into the pan, making sure that the edges are flush with the pan sides. Chill 20 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350F. Prick the dough all over with a fork to prevent bubbles. Here was my fatal mistake. It is also important to line the dough with foil and fill with pie weights, or dried beans that you don't ever plan on eating (I have a bag of pintos for this purpose). Martha did not include this in her instructions ands the sides of my tart crust sunk to the center. She is a liar or at least an omitter! Bake your weighed crust for about 15 minutes, or until set. Then remove the weights (or beans) and foil and cook for another 3-5 minutes, or until crust is slightly golden. Remove from oven and let cool on a baking rack. When cool, free from the oppression of tart jail, or remove sides and transfer to a serving "platter". If you have one oddly shaped enough for the rectangular tart. I used a cutting board.

Meanwhile, beat cream cheese until smooth. Add creme fraiche, vanilla, orange peel, juice and 1 tsp blossom water. Mix until well combined. Cover and chill 30 minutes.

When the crust is cool, fill with the cream cheese mixture. Arrange the figs on top, pressing slightly into the filling.

In a small pan, combine jam and port/wine. Heat over medium-high heat and bring to a boil. Stir frequently. Reduce heat and let simmer until mixture is thick and syrupy, about 2 minutes. Let cool slightly and whisk in 1 tsp of orange blossom water. Brush glaze over the figs. Serve, finally.

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Blogger Garrett said...

Ooh gurl, I loves me some figs!
Whats an example of MS lying through her teeth though?
"Make sure yours figs are in their natural Newton form..."
*pan to Martha's shifty eyes*

September 07, 2006 8:07 AM  
Blogger Meredith said...

Well, for instance, she didn't say to weigh the dough so when it was baked the sides sank down to the center of the pan, another recipe of hers for chocolate cookies recommended that you flour the cookie cutter, but it left unsightly white spots on the cookies, I bet she used cocoa powder... Any recipe I've made of hers has not turned out, not because I wasn't following the instructions but because she leaves out important info. Some people love her though, so maybe I'm just not clever enough.

September 07, 2006 7:17 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think that Martha's most recent baking cookbook is for people who have considerable amount of experience (NOT TO SAY THAT YOU DON'T - I JUST THINK IT'S ASSUMED THAT THE READER KNOWS THINGS LIKE BLIND BAKING WITH WEIGHTS). The example of flouring the cookie cutters is a trial and error issue - I agree the tip would have been nice from Martha - she probably would have told you that if she was doing the recipe on her show. Good reason to try things first before a dinner party. I really learned in my advanced baking & pastry classes in school. I was amazed how much I learned after doing something the first time and was able to make it better when I did it again. There were things our instructor didn't tell us and the recipe didn't cover. We just learned from to do it faster, smarter, better... Keep on baking.

I love the photos in the book too.

October 22, 2006 8:33 AM  

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