Fig Mascarpone Tart

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Living in San Francisco has brought on so many small and large lifestyle changes. For example, I no longer have daily access to a car like I did in Los Angeles so I’ve had to rely on public transportation to get to places. Although it takes longer to get to my destination, I can use my commute time to nap, listen to music, peruse instagram/pinterest/blogs or read magazines. It’s also cheaper and more environmentally-friendly so for the most part, it has been a welcome change! Another small lifestyle change is the way I shop for my food. Working at the Ferry Building Farmers Market once a week has opened my eyes to the plethora of beautiful produce and artisan products that the Bay Area has to offer. It’s wonderful to know where your food came from and to know that it wasn’t sprayed with smelly, potentially cancerous chemicals and then driven hundreds of miles in the back of a truck that passed through dust and manure particles. Okay I may have just described a fictional scenario but I’m pretty sure it actually happens sometimes! I’ve resolved to buy organic and local products when my budget allows me to, especially if I’m eating something raw. I’m also trying to learn about what’s in season and buying seasonal produce. (How SF of me, right?!) Well, guess what’s in season right now? FIGS! They’re incredibly delicious on their own (if you pick the right ones), but are also great and beautiful in tarts, so naturally I did some experimentation in my kitchen and came up with this tasty fig mascarpone tart topped Marcona almonds!

different figs
Small confession: I’ve never had a fresh fig before until about a month ago. I grew up in the Philippines where figs are unheard of and my only experience with them involved imported Fig Newtons which my undeveloped, inexperienced palette thought were disgusting. I actually didn’t know that a fig was a fruit! I came across some fresh figs while strolling through the Inner Sunset Farmers Market one morning and fell in love. Pictured above are the two types of figs that I’ve tried, the brown turkey (left) and the black mission (right). I personally prefer the brown turkey fig, which is less earthier and a tiny bit subtler than the black mission. I decided to use a mixture of both in my tart.

I’m not much of a tart baker and wanted a crust that was simple and easy to make. After searching online, I came across a simple French tart dough recipe on David Lebovitz’s site. I made it twice and the second time around, I made some small changes that yielded a crust that I was happy with.

crust
The ingredients are simple and the instructions are straightforward. I used 170 grams of flour and left my butter mixture (butter, oil, water, sugar, and salt) in the oven for 20 minutes. I might go even a little longer next time to brown the butter more. Brown butter is one of my favorite things!

crust bubbles
Pouring the flour in the butter mixture brought me back to my organic chemistry days of bubbly reactions.

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Mix them well!

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Once cool enough to handle, I used a spoon to spread the dough on a 9 inch tart pan with a removable bottom.

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Make sure to really cover the edges and don’t forget to reserve some dough for patching little holes later. Bake in the oven until golden brown and use the leftover dough to patch up the some holes and then let cool.

Throughout the butter boiling and crust baking process, I prepared the figs.
fig shower
I gave them a nice little shower in the sink and then pat them until they were completely dry.

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Then I sliced them to about 1/4 inch thickness like so.

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And then snapped a bunch of photos because they are just so darn beautiful and photogenic!

I made two fig tarts in three days and the second time around, decided to experiment and come up with my own filling. It was so much fun experimentally whipping creamy substances and adding sweet things into my filling. Honey and mascarpone is such a classic combination and the one that I used for my first fig tart. However, I wanted something a bit richer so I came up with the following concoction:

Mascarpone Brown Sugar Filling
1 cup mascarpone
2/3 cup sour cream
1/4 cup whipping cream
1/4 + 1/8 cup brown sugar

Whip the whipping cream until you get soft peaks and set aside in the refrigerator. Whip the mascarpone and sour cream together until creamy and blended together. Add the whip cream and mix with a spoon or spatula. Add the brown sugar and mix until combined. Use your taste buds to adjust the flavors to your liking! Keep inside the refrigerator until ready to assemble tart.

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Assembly time!

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Spread the filling generously. I didn’t use all of the filling and stored it in my refrigerator. It’s a good dip for the leftover figs and strawberries!

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Feel free to place the figs on the tart however you want to. This is where you get complete creative freedom.

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I arranged the figs with the stem side facing outwards and starting with bigger, brown turkey figs on the outside.

marcona almonds
My coworker suggested sprinkling some chopped up Marcona almonds (which can be found at markets like Whole Foods, Andronico’s or Bi-Rite) on the tart for added crunch and saltiness. It was a brilliant idea and definitely elevates the tart!

fig tart outside
The tart is best served chilled, preferably outside just before the sun sets for perfect photography lighting because you’ll want to snap photos of this beauty. It’s creamy but not too heavy, with the right amount of sweetness, saltiness and crunch. I hope you have a figgin’ good time making this tart, because I sure did!

Spring Hummingbird Cupcakes

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This past Sunday was Easter Sunday and my mom asked me to bake for her church because she was in charge of food & hospitality for the month. I gladly obliged since I love any excuse to bake large quantities of baked goods that are specially decorated! It’s easy to bake on any given day, but it’s hard to be motivated to actually decorate something. I really enjoy frosting cakes and cupcakes because it makes me feel like an artist, like I’m actually being creative. If you know me, you know that I lack skill in other forms of art. Stick figures are about the closest I can get to drawing humans and my drawings of animals resemble deformed aliens. So though I’m not an expert at it, I find joy and excitement in decorating cakes and cupcakes. 

I had a cupcake obsession phase during sophomore year of college and I would often go to Love at First Bite in Berkeley because their cupcakes were always moist, not too sweet, and had a good frosting to cake ratio. It was there that I found my favorite cupcake, the hummingbird cupcake. The hummingbird is a banana, pineapple and pecan cupcake, topped with cream cheese frosting. It’s probably the cupcake that I made the most frequently throughout college (aside from red velvet, which I don’t even really like, but everyone else seems to). This is my favorite hummingbird cupcake recipe. It’s simple and foolproof — I don’t change anything in the recipe. Throughout the years, I’ve also developed the perfect cream cheese frosting:

Cream Cheese Frosting
1 stick butter (room temperature/softened)
2 8 oz. blocks of cream cheese (room temperature/softened)
3-4 cups of powdered sugar (depending on the sweetness of your teeth)
1 tsp. vanilla extract

The most important thing when it comes to making cream cheese frosting, is making sure that the butter and cream cheese are soft. Always take it out of the refrigerator and let it come to room temperature for at LEAST an hour. You can slice them into smaller parts to allow them to soften quicker. DO NOT microwave it! Even if you microwave it quickly, some water will separate from the butter and will change its structure. Beat the butter and cream cheese with a mixer for a few minutes until creamy. Get rid of those lumps! No one likes lumpy frosting! Add the vanilla and incorporate. Add the powdered sugar in 1 cup increments, beating after each addition. Voila! You get creamy cream cheese frosting!

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Design #1: eggs on a bed of grass
For this cupcake, I added some green dye to my cream cheese frosting and just kept mixing until I liked the color (about 6 drops per one cup of frosting). To make the grass, I used my 8 in. piping bag and a Wilton grass tip #233. If you use Ateco brand tips, it’s #133. The Wilton link above has great tips on piping technique. Pipe the grass upward in the middle and then start piping outward as you move away from the center of the cupcake. The key is to first stop applying pressure to the piping bag, then lift the tip off the cupcake. Don’t lift while still applying pressure, or else it gets everywhere and ruins the precise grassy shape. Then top it with chocolate eggs! I wanted to use M&M eggs but Target ran out :(. Luckily, just about every other chocolate company makes eggs around Easter time so I used whoppers!

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Design #2: the rose
There are many different techniques for piping roses, and this is probably the simplest one. To make this color, I added 11 drops red and 3 drops yellow to one cup of the frosting. I used the Wilton 1M open star tip (Ateco #826) and started piping on the CENTER of the cupcake and then piped around it until I covered the entire cupcake. I’ll have to try other techniques and piping tips and definitely practice before I can say that I’m totally satisfied with my rose-piping!

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Design #3: drop flower tip
I only made one of these and because I just wanted to switch the tip and practice with my other ones. I believe I used Wilton #190 and piped it using the same technique I used for the grass. I started in the middle and piped upward. To create drop flowers, I believe you’re supposed to stop applying pressure and then pull the tip away. BUT I kept applying pressure as I pulled the tip away, hence the taller peaks on each flower (I hope that made sense. I’m new to piping talk! :/).

Well enough of the baking talk, here are more pictures!
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I thoroughly enjoyed making these, and it brings me even more joy to know that others appreciated them as well! Hope you all had a joyful Easter!