Savory Feta Fig Tart
9 1/2-inch tart
(12 tablespoons) unsalted butter, cubed
1 ⅓ c
unbleached all-purpose flour
whole wheat flour
fine sea salt
Feta Fig Filling
feta cheese, preferably in brine (about 1 1/2 cups crumbled)
pitted kalamata olives, rinsed
fresh figs (7-10 large)
sugar, for sprinkling
olive oil, honey, sumac, and chile flakes for finishing
This savory tart is just sweet enough. The scalloped fresh fig surface gets a tiny whisper of sugar to encourage caramelization. The fruit is set atop a salty, briny feta and olive spread baked in a nutty partial whole wheat crust, making this tart an appropriate treat for any time of day. Making pie dough is slow but steady work. It takes an extended timeline but minimal attention to make well. This pie dough follows the 3-2-1 ratio of flour-fat-water, and it incorporates a bit of whole wheat flour to maximize the savory edge.
- Measure butter and chill in the freezer for 10 minutes. The outside should be very cold. Measure the water and have it iced and ready.
- In a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat together both flours and salt to combine. Add the chilled butter and mix on low speed to break up for 2-3 minutes. You want some very small pieces and you want some bigger, flattened pieces that will look a bit like the smashed pennies you’d get at a fair. Stop and check with your hands occasionally to break up outlier large butter chunks, and always pay extra attention to the base of your bowl and along your beater where bits like to hide.
- With the mixer running on low, add 6 tablespoons of the water in a steady stream. Once all the water is in, stop the mixer and fold your dough over by hand, making sure to remove any that has stuck to the beater, and give it a squeeze—if it doesn’t clump together in a shaggy ball when pressed, add more water 1 tablespoon at a time, with the mixer running, stopping and checking as before. Finish by mixing for another 15-20 seconds from on low speed—you want the dough to be in a few large clumps with some dusty bits on the bottom.
- Remove the bowl from the mixer and clean off the beater. Fold dough onto itself with a little force in the bowl to gather it together, then dump onto a sheet of plastic and work it quickly into a rough rectangle that is about 1/2-inch thick. Fold the plastic over 2 sides to enclose the dough and using a rolling pin, roll your dough towards the open ends to thin it, sandwiched in between the plastic, until it’s about 1/2-inch thick. Refrigerate for 30-45 minutes, until firm but still pliable.
- While the dough is chilling, prepare the filling. In a food processor, blend the feta cheese to a paste, and stop and scrape with a spatula to ensure that it’s smooth. When smooth, add the olives and pulse to break up. Then add the egg and process once more, stopping to scrape if necessary. It will be thin, like yogurt, but uniform. Refrigerate until ready to assemble. The filling will firm up when chilled, so be sure to make in advance otherwise it’s difficult to layer on the figs. (If using feta that is not in brine the texture will be a little more like hummus, which will still work, but the brined cheese is preferable for flavor and texture.)
- Dust a work surface, the surface of the dough, and a rolling pin lightly with flour and roll dough to 3 times its original width. Fold it like a business letter. (If the dough feels too warm at this point, re-wrap and chill for 30 more minutes before proceeding—if it’s still cool but workable, continue to the next step.) Give the dough a quarter turn and repeat this rolling and folding process one more time. Enclose the dough in plastic like the first time, leaving two ends open and roll over with a rolling pin to thin out about 1/2 inch thick sandwiched in between the plastic. Chill an additional 30-45minutes in the refrigerator until firm.
- Remove dough from the fridge, and roll it out until it is about 1/8-inch thick and roughly a 12-inch-diameter circle. As you roll, rotate the dough a quarter turn every few strokes to keep it even and ensure it’s not sticking to the surface, using a little flour if necessary. Once it is the right diameter, relax the dough by folding in the side like the fins of a stingray, then flap them back out. It should noticeably shrink a bit, repeat this process with the other side, and then with the top and bottom. If it shrinks a lot, roll it out a little more and repeat this relaxing process. Roughly fold the top, bottom, and sides of the dough into the center, as with a bindle, and transfer to the center of your 9 1/2-inch tart tin with a removable bottom. Gently open each side out and let the dough slip deeply into the edges of the tart pan, guiding it gently into the grooves of the tin and letting the excess dough lay over the edges. Transfer to the freezer to chill for 10 minutes.
- Give the shell a little more attention (doing this in stages helps the dough relax, preventing it from shrinking when baking). Refit the dough into the edges of the pan, working around the entire tart. Then, with both palms, press down on the edge of the tin in front of you to shear off the excess dough along the hard edge of your tin. Rotate your tin in front of you repeating this shearing motion (if your tin does not have sharp edges, use a paring knife to cut around the tin at a 45° angle). Scraps can be worked together and saved for another purpose. Re-press the dough around the walls of the tin to secure and accentuate any grooves then chill the prepared shell in the freezer for an additional 10-15 minutes.
- Preheat the oven to 425°F.
- Slice the figs at a deep angle, 1/4-inch thick, keeping the slices together so you can lay them out decoratively across the surface of the tart.
- Remove the chilled shell from the freezer, and prick it a few times to dock it with a fork (this will keep the crust from bubbling up as it bakes). Spread all of the feta filling across the base of the tart, working it with a spatula around so it’s in an even layer.
- Layer the figs: starting on the outer edge, grab your first sliced up fig and fan it out wide in your hand, then lay it along the inside edge of the tart. Fan out and lay your next fig to intersect with the first, continuing around the circumference of the tart, building a spiral into the center. In the very center fan out your last fig in a circle and place in the center. Sprinkle the surface with a few pinches of sugar—this will encourage caramelization of the fruit and bring out its sweetness.
- Bake the tart directly on a rack for 40-50 minutes, rotating once after 25-30 minutes to ensure that it’s baking and coloring evenly. The figs should look caramelized, the feta filling will be puffed and the edges of the tart should be golden brown. If it’s coloring rapidly but the shell is not baking, cover it loosely with a piece of tinfoil and continue to bake until the crust is done.
- Remove tart from the oven and let it cool. Finish cooled tart by drizzling with a good spicy or flavorful olive oil, a light drizzling of honey, and a few pinches of your favorite whole chile flakes and sumac. Serve warm or at room temp. Refrigerate tart to store. Alternately, you can freeze slices, well wrapped, to reheat in an oven or toaster oven at 250°F, tented with foil, until warm throughout.