Easy, summery fig galette
As the heat from the dog days of summer beats down, perhaps sending you indoors for the relief of central air and a frosty beverage, fig trees around the South are ripening their sweet payload. Many folks have the good fortune of a fig tree in the backyard, or at least know someone who does, often leaving the unanswered question: Just what in the heck do I do with all these figs?
With their soft texture and subtle sweetness, figs frequently require a flavor assist to turn them into something memorable. In the savory world, a fig’s sugary notes often gain a boost from a salty dance partner, such as prosciutto, country ham, tangy chèvre or a mild blue cheese. Figs also play beautifully with gamier meats, like duck, quail or venison. However, the most popular application for late summer figs is in a variety of desserts. While cakes, compotes, jams and puddings benefit from the low moisture content of the fig, I firmly believe that a galette, a.k.a. a giant free-form tart, truly showcases the fruit’s sweetness and texture.
While the name may sound exotic, galettes are actually one of the easiest pastries to make at home. The crust has more in common with a sugar cookie than traditional pie dough, and even if it rips or tears, you're virtually guaranteed a rustic-yet-still-stunning dessert. Plus, my recipe requires only a few quick steps between fig harvest and dessert.
The first step on your galette journey is making the pâté sucrée, or, for non Francofiles, a sweet dough. I like to make mine in a food processor. Simply pulse together flour, sugar and salt, and then add cold cubed butter (the higher fat content of European butter works best) and pulse until the mixture looks like coarse crumbs. Add egg yolks and pulse again until combined. Eggs help keep the dough pliable and easy to work with, and they also make it ultra rich and tender. Finally, add ice water, one tablespoon at a time, and continue pulsing until the dough just comes together. Remove the dough from the food processor and form into a ball. Wrap the dough tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. This would be a great time to go out and harvest a bushel of backyard figs.
While the dough is chilling, heat the oven to 350 degrees. Slice the figs across into 1/2-inch rings. Toss in a bowl with brown sugar and a pinch of salt and let sit at room temperature for the remaining time the dough is in the refrigerator. This will allow the figs to lightly macerate and give off some of what little water they have.
Once the dough is chilled, place on a lightly floured work surface and use a rolling pin to roll out dough into a circle that is 1/2-inch-thick. Carefully lift the dough and transfer it to a baking sheet that’s been lined with parchment paper. If the dough tears, just treat it like Play-Doh and patch it back up — no big deal.
Place small pieces of cream cheese in the center of the dough, working toward the outside. Be sure to leave a 2 1/2-inch border from the edge of the dough since you’ll be folding it inward to create a packet of fig and cream cheese goodness.
Mound the figs in the center of the dough on top of the cream cheese. Work your way around the circumference of the dough, folding it toward the center of the figs and gently crimping the edges to form a seal.
Place in the oven and bake until the pastry is golden brown and any liquid from the figs has evaporated, about 45 minutes or so. Let sit at room temperature for 10 minutes before slicing.
And with that, your fig galette is ready to eat.