9/05/2009

#13 Fresh Fig and Grape Pie

Posted by Chrisi

I contemplated a fig pie for weeks. It sounded like a good idea, but was it? Sadly, my familiarity with figs was pretty much limited to Fig Newtons. After a little research, I learned that figs are, technically, not a fruit and the seeds in the middle are, technically, not seeds but a cluster of nearly 1,500 minuscule flowers that turn into tiny fruits call drupes. I also learned that figs have a naughty side. Because a fig houses both male and female parts, it has long been viewed as an aphrodisiac and a symbol of fertility and physical love. If you take a moment to examine one, inside and out, you will begin to see the connection. But I digress… 

I finally decided to make a fig pie during a Slow Food potluck when someone brought a fig dish that didn’t, in any way, resemble a Fig Newton. The fresh figs were quartered, opened up like a tulip, and a dollop of goat cheese placed inside. The dish was then finished off with a drizzle of peppered honey. Add a little prosciutto and you could have yourself a romantic appetizer. Again, I digress… (I am beginning to see why the Greeks had a penchant for figs).

After the potluck I began to survey fig recipes and found in the Pie Bible (see Resources) a Fig and Grape Pie. The recipe, which used dried figs, inspired me but I decided to chart my own path with fresh California Mission figs and black grapes from the Farmer’s Market. The results were surprising…

Like a fine wine, this pie improved with age. Initially it was very “figgy” and the seeds (or drupes) distinctly noticeable. The tartness of the grapes nicely balanced the sweetness of the figs, but I wasn’t entirely convinced that I liked this pie. The next day, I tried another slice and it was… different. On the third day, I tried it again and again, it was… different. The texture softened (no detectable “seeds”) and the flavors melded. It was, in fact, a very pleasant pie… a promiscuous pie. A pie to offer to Dionysus—the Greek god of wine and ecstasy.

Pie Filling: 
• 4 cups of fresh Mission figs, washed and quartered (skins retained); figs with the softest skins were selected
• 2 cups of black grapes, halved
• 1/4 cup of raw cane sugar
• 1 1/2 teaspoons of tapioca
• Splash of orange liquor

Crust: Double 9” crust made with 50:50 Spectrum shortening-Plugra (butter)
 
Directions:
Wash and cut the fruit to give a total of 6 cups (the proportion of figs to grapes can be modified according to individual taste). Combine the remaining ingredients and allow to “juice” while the crust is prepared.  

Note: For this pie, I slightly modified the standard crust recipe. I replaced 1 cup of all-purpose flour with 1 cup of Arrowhead Mills organic pastry flour (3 cups of flour, total) to see if the use of pastry flour would produce a flakier crust. I believe that this particular pastry flour, however, is whole wheat and so the crust had a different flavor but was no more (or less) flaky. Next time, I’ll try regular cake flour.  As much as I like whole wheat, I’m not convinced it has a place in pie crust.

Assemble the pie and bake at 400⁰F for 50 minutes.  

Note: While waiting for my pie to bubble (which it never did), the crust browned more than I would have liked. (The whole wheat pastry flour likely contributed to the browning). An aluminum foil collar should have been used to protect the crust during the last 15 minutes in the oven.


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