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September, is it really September already?! It’s the month of transition; from Summer to Fall, from long hot days to crisp cool Autumn ones, from vacation to the rentree here in France, and “Back to School.” This is also the month where I am transitioning from a beautifully busy season to a slower one and getting back to the blog. I apologize for my absence in these last months, but I’m back and I have much to share from my many culinary adventures this year from the South of France to the South of Italy. Let’s start with September at the market in Provence and this fig dessert.
While all the Autumn fruits and vegetables make their way onto the market stands this month, figs came in mid-August and are now at their peak. Those who’ve been following on Facebook or Instagram already know that we’ve been getting our daily dose of figs during our cooking classes in Provence. Quite popular both with cooking class guests and those of you who’ve seen the photos has been this: figs baked in almond cream with a salted butter caramel sauce.
The figs are local from the southeast part of Provence in the town of Sollies-Pont, located between Toulon and Hyeres. The town is so tied to its famous figs that it calls itself the “Capital of Figs.” Every last weekend in August you can enjoy figs in all forms at the annual Sollies-Pont fig festival. Local chefs even create entire meals around the fruit. The squat round figs are dark purple outside and a vibrant red inside. They are sweet, but not too sweet, and go marvelously with both almonds and caramel. They’ve made a memorable ending to our full-meal cooking classes these last few weeks, too.
This is a simple recipe that showcases the sweetness of these figs. Baked with the French classic, almond cream, and topped with an oh-so decadent salted butter caramel sauce, this is a very easy to make, and prep ahead, dessert. It’s a perfect end to any dining experience. Make sure to bake them until they are golden brown so the crust of the almond cream gives a crunchy texture contrast to the softness of the baked figs.
Figs Baked in Almond Cream with Salted Butter Caramel Sauce
12 – 14 figs, quartered or cut into sixths (depending on size of figs)
For the Almond Cream:
2 1/2 cups (225 grams) ground almonds, (also called: almond flour or almond meal)
1 1/2 cups (200 grams) powdered sugar
3/4 cups + 2 tablespoons (200 grams) butter, at room temperature
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1 vanilla bean
In a stand mixer, cream together the butter, sugar and almonds and cornstarch. Add the eggs and vanilla and combine. Refrigerate until ready to use.
Fill 8 individual-sized ramekins a little more than half the way full with the almond cream. Place the figs in a circular manner in the ramekins, pressing down just slightly so that they sit in the almond cream. Bake for about 25 minutes, until the almond cream is a light golden brown. Serve warm with the salted butter caramel sauce.
Salted Butter Caramel Sauce
3/4 cups (150 grams) granulated sugar
4 tablespoons water
1/2 cup (110 ml) heavy cream, at room temperature
4 1/2 tablespoons (50 grams) butter, cubed
1 teaspoon of sea salt
Place the sugar in a heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium-high heat. Cook without stirring until the sugar dissolves and gets a caramel (amber) color. Remove the pan from the heat and add the cream. It will bubble a little bit. Whisk until the cream is incorporated and any any hard pieces of caramel have dissolved. (Place back over a low heat if you need help to dissolve the hard bits of caramel.) Bon Appetit!