As soon as fresh figs appear at the farm markets I start buying them greedily. It seems I can’t get enough. With their season so short I rush to cook and bake what I’ve visualized in my head before. As much as I love figs fresh and unadorned I’m eager to experiment as well. Below is one of my experiments and at the same time my entry to Meeta’s “Fruit & Chocolate” event.
I stuffed the fresh Mission figs with the chocolate marzipan balls, then wrapped into the staggered thin sheets of phyllo brushed in between with a mixture of melted butter, cocoa, star anise and cinnamon, and sprinkled with ground almonds and sugar for adding some crunch and sweetness. The baked purses were served with caramel-chocolate sauce infused with star anise and cinnamon. The sauce is versatile and wonderful. You can warm and pour it over ice cream, fruits, berries or a slice of pound cake. It makes a great topping for the same figs, but unbaked, for less complicated dessert. Cut the figs in half vertically and serve them in pretty bowls. Sprinkle some nuts (perhaps, pistachios or cashews, or any other of your choice) over the sauce and serve. Nothing is simpler but both the flavor and presentation are amazing.
Makes 6 servings
For the phyllo wrapped figs:
- 65 g marzipan (1/4 cup, packed)
- 2 tsp unsweetened cocoa powder
- 6 large ripe but firm Mission figs
- 1 ½ sticks unsalted butter (12 tbsp)
- 6 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted
- 1/8 tsp ground cinnamon
- ¼ tsp ground star anise
- 6 tbsp granulated sugar
- 6 tbsp lightly toasted ground almonds
- 6 sheets of phyllo dough, defrosted overnight in the refrigerator
For the sauce:
- 1 cup whipping cream
- 4 star anise pods, whole
- 2 cinnamon sticks
- 1/8 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1 ¼ cups granulated sugar
- 1/3 cup water
- ¼ tsp Fleur de Sel
- 2 oz bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
- Confectioners’ sugar for dusting
Make the sauce:
Since the sauce can be made up to a week in advance and kept in the refrigerator, it makes sense to start from the making it first.
In a small saucepan combine the whipping cream and spices. Heat over medium heat to a boiling point. Take off the heat, cover and let steep for an hour. Strain through a double layer of cheese cloth and set aside.
In a heavy medium saucepan over moderate heat, stir together the sugar and water. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the sugar dissolves, then raise the heat to moderately high and boil without stirring, occasionally brushing down the sides of the pan with a wet pastry brush, until the sugar is deep amber brown. Remove from the heat, stand back and carefully add the cream. Return the pan to medium heat and whisk until the caramel is completely smooth. Stir in the fleur de sel. Let cool for 5 minutes. Add the chopped chocolate, let stand for a minute, then slowly whisk until the sauce is completely smooth. Cool, keep in the refrigerator tightly covered. Gently warm the sauce before serving.
Make the phyllo wrapped figs:
Center an oven rack and preheat the oven to 325F. Put one large baking sheet on top of another (to protect the pastry bottoms from heat). Cover the baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone mat. Set aside.
Knead the marzipan and cocoa powder together until smooth and uniform in color. Divide the marzipan into 6 equal portions and roll each portion into a small ball.
Cut the stems from the figs. Make an X incision on the top of each fig without cutting all the way to the bottom. Gently insert the marzipan ball into the center of each fig. Cover the stuffed figs with plastic wrap and set aside.
In a small saucepan melt the butter over medium heat. Skim the foam. Add the cocoa powder and spices to the hot butter and stir well until combined. Set aside to cool slightly.
In a small bowl combine the sugar and the ground almonds. Set aside.
Work with one phyllo sheet at a time. Cover the rest of the phyllo with plastic wrap first and then with a damp dish towel (avoid direct contact of the phyllo with a wet towel to prevent the phyllo from getting soggy). Cut the phyllo sheet into quarters. Brush one quarter with the cocoa-butter mixture, sprinkle with about ½ tbsp of the sugar-nut mixture. Place another quarter of the phyllo on the top of the first one rotating the second quarter slightly so the corners are not aligned, and repeat the brushing and sprinkling procedure. Repeat with the third and fourth quarters finishing with brushing and sprinkling again. Place the stuffed fig at the center of the phyllo stack and pleat the dough around gathering it over the top of the fig. Brush the formed purse lightly with some cocoa-butter mixture and place onto the prepared baking sheet. Cover loosely with plastic and repeat the process with the rest of the phyllo and figs making 5 more purses.
Bake the wrapped figs for about 35 minutes, until crispy and golden brown (you’ll be able to judge the pastry color despite the cocoa-butter mixture brushed over). Cool the figs on a cooling rack until warm. Sift some confectioners’ sugar over the pastries and serve with the caramel-chocolate sauce.