There is something about blogging that is quite exceptional. I don’t mean all the wonderful friendships, mail exchanges, meetings, packages and other benefits of creating strong bonds over the internet. There is something in the air it seems, whether we get inspired by the same author, recipe or share our discoveries of the “in” food item of the moment. It has been happening to me lately, I come home from the market with a fruit, type of chocolate or a load of yeast and flour. I turn on the computer, check out my favorite blogs, discover new ones through comments left here and elsewhere and find delicious pictures that incorporate exactly what I just brought back in my basket. What has put this sort of cosmic/kismet feeling over the top recently is when I just pulled out something from the oven, set it out to cool on the countertop, read a few blogs, waiting impatiently before things cool enough for me to take a bite, and found that someone has just posted about it…and I made it without even knowing. When it comes to seasonal produce I can understand but a specific item….makes you wonder what water bloggers are drinking…(insert Twilight Zone music here).
Let me illustrate that thought. I was slowly working my way through a giant bag of figs when my favorite Cream Puff, Ivonne announced she was hosting Sugar High Friday “The Beautiful Fig”…Uh, it’s not like she is my neighbor and she is trying to help me go through my loot, but in this case her post was received with both a sigh of relief , “Yes! Something I have, and plenty of it!” and excitement “Yes! I have another excuse to make something fancier than jam on toast!”.
I knew exactly what I wanted to bake. From the day I got Richard Leach’s book last year, I have been wanting to make every single dessert in it. Not only are the pictures exceptional, but the quality of his work is outstanding. I want to push it as to say that I equate him to my sugar daddy Pierre Herme: talented, innovative and funky. I have had my eye on one particular page in the book where one simple item, the Black Mission fig, becomes three impressive creations. Had I had the luxury of time last week, I know I would have tried to put my spin on them but I had to rely on my own creativity to capture the essence of the pages before me and come up with my own interpretation.
The goat cheese cake is so easy to make and so fragrant, I want to make it every single Sunday brunch. It would be fantastic with egg dishes such as omelettes and Benedict but also perfect served as is with a good drizzle of maple syrup. It has a nice crumb, made with both semolina and all purpose flours, and don’t be tempted to skip on the orange zest in it, it really enhances the flavor. The figs on top are simply sliced and drizzled with a little bit of local wild flower honey. Instead of paring the cake with fig sorbet and a fig flan as suggested by Leach, I went for something that would enhance the fresh figs instead of pulverizing them (nothing against sorbet) or cooking them. They were perfectly ripe and very tasty so I just made a little mascarpone cream and pomegranate and cardamom syrup and layered them in a “verrine”, and the spice instantly puts it in another dimension. A bite of cake, a bite of cream and we were in heaven. It may seem like a lot of work, but you can make things over several days as I did: the cake was made early in the week then cut and frozen, the pomegranate sauce keeps easily for a week and the verrine comes together in five minutes top. Eating it took even less time!
Goat Cheese and Fig Cake with Fig Mascarpone Verrine in Pomegranate Syrup:
For the Cake (serves 8)
1 cup all purpose flour
1 cup semolina flour
1 cup sugar
1 Tb baking powder
½ tsp. grated orange zest
½ tsp. salt
4 egg whites
½ cup milk
1 cup fresh goat cheese
1 cup unsalted butter, melted
6 to 8 Black Mission Figs, sliced
¼ cup honey (your choice)
Preheat oven to 300F.
Using an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, combine flours, sugar, baking powder, orange zest and salt. In a small bowl, combine the egg whites, goat cheese and milk. Whisk until smooth, then add to the dry ingredients. Whisk in the melted butter. Pour the batter into a buttered and flour 9×9 inch baking pan. Bake for 15-20 minutes, until firm and lightly golden. Allow to cool. With a 4 inch cookie cutter, cut out 8 rounds, cover with fresh fig slices. Drizzle with the honey.
For the Pomegranate Cardamom Syrup:
In a saucepan set over medium heat, bring 4 cups of pomegranate juice to a boil with 3 whole cardamom pods, reduce heat and simmer until reduced by half. It will thicken as it reduces.
For the Fig and Mascarpone Verrine:
6-8 Black Mission figs, diced
1-11/2 cups pomegranate syrup
8 oz mascarpone cheese, at room temperature
½ cup heavy cream, kept cold
¼ cup sugar
Whip the heavy cream to soft peaks with the sugar and fold it in the mascarpone cheese.
In a 8 glasses, layer the cream, fresh figs, syrup twice, finishing with the figs and syrup. Refrigerate until ready to use.
To serve: pour a small pool of remaining pomegranate syrup on a large plate, set the goat cheese cake on top and serve it with the verrine on the side.
Ivonne, are you seduced yet?…