Fig and Ricotta TartPosted: 10 October 2011
OMG. I started writing this post before I’d actually made the tart. I knew I was going to make it and I just knew it would be good, so what’s the harm in getting a head start, right? Well. I didn’t know how freaking amazing this little gem was going to taste. No clue. I cut a piece to take pictures and quickly gobbled the whole thing up. The piece. Not the whole tart. I haven’t fallen that far. Yet.
Let me tell you – figs are delicious and sweet. Graham cracker crust? Everybody likes that. And a no-bake ricotta filling? To die for. Like cheesecake but not nearly as sweet nor as rich and heavy. Still creamy, smooth and cool. Tastes appropriate (and delicious) at the breakfast hour. I really didn’t know how this would turn out having never used figs or ricotta in a dessert. I’m SO HAPPY it worked so well.
Figs have quickly worked their way up the list of my favorite fruits and are nestled at the top along with giant blueberries, pineapple and strawberries. They might even beat out some of those. I eat figs every morning in my yogurt. I snack on them when I get home. I tell myself to try wrapping them up with bacon and cheese and roasting them, knowing it’ll be delicious. But I haven’t gotten past the point where all I want to do is shove as many fresh figs into my face as humanely possible. It’s hard to make a recipe with something you can’t stop eating.
How is it possible that I’d never had a fresh, raw fig before this summer?! I don’t know how it happened but now I can tell you, I understand completely why someone would want to be given their figgy pudding. What I don’t really understand about that song is that fig season is nearly over now. In early October. Clearly not time for Christmas yet! I really wish it was a longer season.
Last weekend though at Whole Foods I encountered a new friend. Green figs. Previously I had only been seeing black figs. These green friends were neon bright and looked like a spring blossom. Immediately I purchased a pint of each. And I swore to myself that I would make at least one actual recipe with figs in the next seven days.
Clearly my obsession with my tart pan was going to direct me towards some sort of figgy tart. Finally I settled on a ricotta and fig tart. I wanted to make a batch of ricotta anyway and this was the perfect excuse. Feel free to use pre-made ricotta. Or, if you don’t know how to make ricotta, follow along below. It is super easy and pretty much required heating up milk and buttermilk, then straining it. Done.
I will say, a tart pan + graham cracker crust is maybe not the tidiest thing in the world. It is worth all of the crumbs though, I promise. If you really want to, you can use a regular pie plate, a spring form, or God-forbid, one of those pre-made graham cracker pie shells.
Fresh, creamy ricotta atop a graham cracker crust is the perfect base for sweet and juicy figs. The slightest drizzling of honey over each piece gives this fresh dessert a decadent feel, without being too heavy or complicated. Perfect for a warm fall day when you’re trying to convince yourself it’s still summer. There are a lot of instructions, mainly because you can make your cheese from scratch. This really didn’t take long though, and if you use a premade crust and ricotta, you’re down to maybe 10 minutes for the entire thing. So easy and so dang tasty.
Fig and Ricotta Tart
to make your own ricotta
1/2 gallon whole milk
1 pint butter milk
1 tablespoon salt
Combine buttermilk and milk in a stock pot. Heat over medium flame, stirring occasionally. Be sure to scrape the bottom to prevent sticking or burning. When the the mixture has curdled, turn off the heat. Stir and scrape the bottom to make sure nothing is stuck. Pour the entire mixture into a cheesecloth-lined sieve. Use four layers of cheese cloth for best results. Sprinkle salt on the curds. Toss lightly. Tie the cheese cloth and hang it from your kitchen faucet into the sink to drain. (You can tie it anywhere with a pan under it. The kitchen sink just seems the most efficient to me.) Let drain for one hour or until any sitting water is gone.
for the tart shell
1 1/2 sleeves of graham crackers
4 tablespoons butter
Crush the graham crackers into extremely fine pieces. Melt the butter. Pour the cracker crumbs and the melted butter into a large bowl. Mix with a spatula until the graham crackers are coated in butter. Press the crumbs into a well-greased tart pan, pushing the crumbs into the corners and up the sides of the pan.
Bake the crust for 25 minutes at 350º. The crust should be golden brown and will smell amazing when it’s ready. Take it out and let it cool before adding the filling.
for the filling
1 pint fresh ricotta
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 cup milk
1 tablespoon sugar
14 figs, quartered
8 teaspoons honey
I used the ricotta that I made from 1/2 a gallon of milk and a pint of buttermilk. This yielded just about the same amount of cheese as one of those store pints of ricotta. It was, however, a bit denser and dryer than traditional ricotta in a store. If you’re using store ricotta, buy the whole-milk variety.
The filling should look like a stiffly beaten whipped cream when it’s ready. Start by whipping the 1/2 cup of cream into your cheese. If it seems too thick or a bit dry, add milk, 1/4 cup at a time and continue to beat on high speed. The filling may not get completely smooth, this is okay. You do not have to beat it until it’s completely bump free.
Once you have the right consistency, add the sugar and blend it in. Give it a taste. If you used unsalted ricotta you’ll want to add a pinch of salt now too.
assemble the tart
In the cooled tart shell, pour the ricotta mixture. Spread it evenly. Place the quartered figs evenly around the tart.
Cover and refrigerate the tart for 4 hours before serving to allow the ricotta to set and firm up.
When serving, drizzle a teaspoon of honey over each piece.