When figs are in season I tend to use them any way I can. Figs are very nutritious and I simply love their succulent sweetness. With breakfast, I give them a slight touch of honey and in a lunch salad, they taste fantastic paired with a mild goat cheese. When we whip up a pizza, which occurs at least twice a week, I like them with prosciutto, gorgonzola and a touch of balsamic vinegar. It’s hard to remember how many different ways I have used figs in desserts. One thing I do know for sure, figs are simply great when paired with a syrupy type sauce and at making syrupy types of sauces, I am pretty good!
My neighbor has a fig tree which produces a mega crop every year and our trade off is a very simple one, I make the pizza and fig jam and they supply us with endless baskets of beautiful, ripe and delicious figs. And beautiful they are, to me, figs have an air of royalty about them. I’m not sure if it their shape, the color, or simply the way they look when cut in half. Whether you buy figs at the market or pluck them from your own tree, always get them as ripe as possible. Once harvested, they do not ripen.
The way I prepare the figs today, is one of my all time favorites and is a crowd pleaser. Every time I serve figs with a Port reduction, even some of my friends who are on the fence with figs, love them. When you get to this recipe it’s best to use your very best Ruby Port. Ruby Port does not only have a gorgeous color but its aroma reminiscent of red berries, plums and red apples compliment the figs perfectly. Reducing the port a bit with either sun dried cherries or dried cranberries, makes a delicious not too sweet syrupy coating. Serve this sauce with some fresh cherries over gelato and you have another dynamite dessert.
The other two components that we’re pairing with the figs and the Port reduction is a simple to make mascarpone sauce and some prebaked streusel. If you don’t feel like fussing with the streusel, crumble up some excellent, pure butter cookies. My favorite ones are made in my place of birth, Belgium, packaged in the white and blue boxes.
Getting it all together!
Get started by making the streusel, you can bake it easily a day ahead and keep it in a tightly sealed bag. Any leftovers you can use on gelato or baked fruit. The mascarpone sauce can also be made a day ahead as well as the Port reduction. All you have to do of the day of serving is reheat the Port reduction and either pour the reduction on cold figs or give them a quick bath in the simmering Port. Serve with the mascarpone sauce and crumble and voila, you’re done!
Crumble topping – Streusel
Yield: up to 8 servings
7 Tablespoons (3.5 oz) unsalted butter, cold 105 g
1 Cup (4.5 oz) all purpose flour 135 g
¼ Cup (2 oz) light brown sugar 60 g
½ teaspoon (0.1 oz) salt 2.5 g
2 teaspoon (0.15oz) cinnamon 4 g
1 teaspoon (0.15 fl oz) Vanilla extract 5 g
1. Cut the butter in small even cubes and combine with the remaining ingredients in a food processor or in a machine bowl fitted with paddle attachment. Pulse or mix until the mixture resembles coarse meal.
2. Sprinkle the mixture on a parchment lined baking sheet and place in a 375°F (190°C). Bake until light golden brown, about 8 minutes. Keep airtight.
Yield: up to 8 servings
½ Cup (4 oz) mascarpone cheese 120 g
½ Cup (4 oz) milk 120 g
1 Tablespoon (0.5 oz) extra fine granulated sugar 15 g
½ teaspoon (0.08 fl oz) Vanilla extract 2.5 g
1. Place the mascarpone cheese in a bowl. Bring the milk to a boil with the sugar and pour onto the cheese. Stir gently until smooth. Add vanilla.
2. Depending on the type of mascarpone used, add additional milk may be added to obtain a thinner sauce.
Figs in a Port reduction with sun dried cherries
Yield: Port reduction for up to 8 servings. Use one and a half figs per serving.
1 Cup (8 oz) Ruby Port 240 g
4 Tablespoon (2 oz) extra fine granulated sugar 60 g
3 Tablespoon (1 oz) sun dried cherries 30 g
3 figs per serving
1. Combine the ingredients in a sauté pan and boil on medium until slightly thickened. The reduction can always be adjusted by cooking more or adding some Port. Drop some port reduction on a plate to check for viscosity. It should be similar to maple syrup.
2. Place the figs cut side down in the low simmering port reduction for about a minute, if you desire the figs to be completely warm, leave in longer.
Eddy Van Damme