Originally Posted: 25 Aug 2009 06:06 PM PDT
When I posted the Ginger-Chocolate Pot de Crème recipe, I stated that recipe was my number one ‘go to’ dessert in a pinch. This fig and goat cheese tart is my number two (I have three!). For 3 episodes of Top Chef, I would rule on desserts. I wouldn’t blow away the judges or any pastry chefs, but the general public, those willing to try anything a little different, love this simple little tart. Not including the dough, this recipe is only three ingredients, and the flavor is rich, deep and almost over the top.
From my own experience, chefs in general don’t want to deal with desserts. They would much rather have the dishwasher or some eager beaver student in the kitchen go to town, at least I know I would. Chefs think about flavors such as salty, sour, bitter and earthy. And while these flavors generally do need a touch of sweetness to bring them out, it’s not the actual ‘sweet’ we are focusing on. When I am forced with the task of dessert, I generally rely on those flavors that I know while trying to up the ‘sweet’ factor. I use herbs, spices, and cheese, in this case, goat cheese, and there is nothing at all sweet about goat cheese.
Fresh figs in a tart shell with goat cheese filling.
But what goat cheese does offer is a great tart flavor to act as a counterpoint to whatever sweetness you want to add to it, much like lemonade. The idea isn’t to overpower the lemon flavor, but to enhance it, so it is with goat cheese for a sweet dessert.
I’ve had many requests for this recipe because it is simple and extremely flavorful. But to me, the star of this recipe is the tart dough. Lightly sweet, soft yet crunchy at the same time. If goat cheese isn’t your thing or you just can’t imagine this as a dessert you would enjoy, at least try the tart dough, it really is phenomenal.
Sweet Tart Dough
• 1 lb. butter, at room temperature
• ¾ lb. sugar
• 2 eggs, at room temperature
• 2 lbs. flour
• 1 tsp kosher salt
1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.
2. Using a paddle on an electric mixer or by hand, cream the sugar and butter until light and fluffy.
3. Add each egg one at a time until each is fully incorporated.
4. Add the flour and salt and mix on low speed just until the dough comes together. The dough should be soft and malleable.
5. At this point, you can use the dough or freeze for up to 6 months. You can portion the dough into smaller amounts or press it into your shells and freeze those.
6. Press the dough into a 9″ or 10″ tart shell until it covers the bottom and comes up the sides. The dough should be about ¼ of an inch thick all around. If you need to add more, you can easily press more dough in with your fingers. The butter makes it soft enough to work with without having to roll out the dough.
7. Bake the shell with pie weights or rice to keep it from rising too much for about 30 minutes or until the shell turns a golden brown..
8. Remove from the shell from the oven and gently press the dough to push out any air that may have formed while baking to ensure your dough is flat and firm.
9. Set aside to cool and fill.
Goat Cheese Filling and Figs
• 1 ½ lbs. fresh goat cheese
• 8 oz. or 2/3 cup of honey
• 2 pints cleaned figs, halved
1. Combine the goat cheese and honey in a mixing bowl, whisk till smooth.
2. Spread your goat cheese mixture into your tart shell generously.
3. Place the figs in rows on top of the goat cheese.
4. Chill and serve.
It should be noted that the ratio of goat cheese to honey is only my preference. If you prefer yours a littler tarter or sweeter, adjust the goat cheese and honey ratio as you see fit, keeping in mind the figs themselves will be fairly sweet.
If you’re a little adventurous, you might also want to try different honeys. I’ve used lavender honey, chestnut honey and even truffle honey, they are a little more expensive, but the accolades you receive will be more than worth it.