When I visited Lisa last year in October, I kept marveling at the coming of Fall, the changing nature of the landscape and the foliage. Those deep reds, perfect greens and deliciously rich golds…they were making me happy and dreamy. She got quite amused by my attitude toward something so natural as Fall and asked what on earth was going on deep in the South for me to act as if I had not seen Fall in ages? Didn’t leaves change colors down there? She was stumped when I told her that they turned from green to brown. No luscious displays of colors, just brown…and if we were lucky a little beige-orange. Nothing like the landscape that was unfolding in front of my eyes as we were driving along.
It becomes difficult to start cooking with pumpkins, pears and apples when you are still wearing shorts and tee-shirts in the middle of November. Granted the evenings are chilly but nothing that a light cardigan can’t fix. Stores and floral shops do their best to put us in the mood by displaying the right colors and adding sweaters and buckled shoes into their window displays but food…I have to close my eyes and pretend I am experiencing Fall in my kitchen. As much as I dislike the heat and humidity of our summer I do realize how lucky we are to be grilling out late in the year without a coat on and not shoveling snow in February. So, yes I am torn…I relinquish saying goodbye to the bounty of summer fruits but I am also eager to cook with more seasonal ones when we can’t quite experience Fall like others up north.
To celebrate the arrival of mellower days, I decided to make a “transition dessert” including berries, figs and apples. When I was a little girl growing in Apt, Provence, we used to have a small fig tree next to the driveway and I remember coming home from school in late September, early October and picking up the fruits as soon as I would hop out of the car. Summer was picking up cherries from our giant tree and as soon as school would start it was figs and juicy apples from the next door neighbor. The seasons were milder there too but you could clearly feel the changes in the air. Although I grew up eating figs, we rarely cooked with them, that came later when I truly appreciated the virtues of a good fig puree, enhanced by a little caramel.
The other day I was on the phone with my mother and we started to reminisce about grandma and her cooked fruits, her compotes rather. She made the best apple one and her cooked berries were always one of our requests for breakfast. I hung up with mom and told myself that it was exactly what I was going to do and layer them in a “verrine” and serve them with some cookies. The weather was clement, there was even a light chill that morning so the cookies turned into a crumble and the figs got mixed with the berries….What is Fall without a little crumble on top?!! A few spoonful of it the other night and we almost wanted to build up a fire!!
The verrine did not start that way actually. I had a small basket of figs that I needed to use rather fast and decided to dip them into caramel before roasting them briefly in the oven. We enjoyed some hot or warm on a few scoops of vanilla ice cream and I was left with just enough to add them to something else. I put that thought away and moved on to other things….not for long though! It is preferable to serve this warm or room temperature, thus it is better to start by making the crumble part, so once you have all the other elements ready, all you have to do is layer them in glasses. Before you think there are too many elements to make this an easy desserts, let me tell you that you can prepare everything over a couple of days. Make the compotes ahead of time (freeze them if you want), then reheat them just before serving. The crumble can be kept in an airtight container for up to 4 days (can be frozen also), and just pop it in the microwave or the oven before serving.
Roasted Caramel Figs, Berries and Apple Compotes Verrines:
For the crumble:
1 cup (140 gr) all purpose flour
1/2 cup (100 gr) light packed brown sugar
1 stick (113 gr) butter, softened
In a medium bowl, combine with your fingertips or a pastry blender the flour, sugar and butter and form large clumps of dough. Lay them on a parchment lined baking sheet and bake at 350F until golden brown. Let cool to room temperature before breaking the clumps into smaller crumbs.
For the caramel figs:
3 Tb ( 42 gr) butter
1/4 cup (50gr) packed light brown sugar
6 fresh figs, halved.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and place the half figs on it, set aside.
Preheat the oven to 375F.
In a medium saucepan, combine the butter and brown sugar and cook them over medium heat until the sugar is dissolved and the butter is melted (2-3 minutes). Remove from the heat.
With a spoon, divide the caramel over the figs and roast them in the oven for about 3 to 5 mintues or tunil they become tender and wrinkly. Set aside to cool and puree them in a food processor, set aside.
For the berry compote:
1/2 cup (120gr) raspberries
1/2 cup (120gr) strawberries
1/4 cup sugar (62 gr) sugar
zest and juice of one lemon
Combine all the ingredients in a heave saucepan over medium heat and cook for about 5 minutes or until the fruits start to release their juice and become soft. Let cool.
Add this compote to the caramel fig puree. Set aside.
For the apple compote:
4 large apples (your preference) peeled, cored and diced
1/4 cup (50gr) packed light brown sugar
2 Tb water
1 tsp cinnamon
Combine all the ingredients in a saucepan and cook over medium heat until the apples become soft and almost mushy. Remove from the heat and let cool.
To assemble: layer the berry-fig compote at the bottom of 6 glasses, top with a layer of apple compote and top with the crumble. Serve warm or at room temperature.