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Fig Upside Down Cake

Fig Upside Down Cake

 Yes, I know my last post was a cake and here I am back again so soon with another cake. Well, truth be told, I do have a weakness for cake. But more importantly, with figs in season for such a short time more, I figured you needed this cake recipe. Besides, swimsuit season is over — go for broke. (OK, I can hear all you folks in the Southern hemisphere right now as you squeeze into your Speedos – Just eat a smaller piece, alright? Life is too short.) 

The figs in the cake were from my friend Ellie’s fig tree. I wish I could say they were from my yard. But the fig below is, in fact, from my very own fig tree. It’s the only ripe fruit I’ve harvested from it this year — and it’s a biggie. With any luck, the other figs will ripen before the frost hits. I’m keeping my fingers crossed.
I used a cast iron skillet to make this cake. If you don’t own one, you should. They transmit heat so uniformly and they’re such versatile pans, you can cook anything from omelets to cakes in them. Plus they last forever. This one is 42 years old. Yikes, that sentence just gave me the willies. I have pans older than most of my readers? Oh well, at least I’m still here to write about it. moving on…..
 Melt the brown sugar and butter and place the figs cut side down.
 Mix the batter (it will be thick) and place it carefully over the figs.
 Bake at 350 degrees and flip it immediately (and carefully) onto a large plate. This cake is best enjoyed when warm, so gather some friends around and dig in.
For another great version of a fig upside-down cake, check out Greg’s blog post on SippitySup here.
Upside Down Fig Cake
8 T. butter
1/2 cup sugar + 2 T.
2 eggs
2 cups all-purpose flour
3 t. baking powder
1/2 t. salt
1/4 t. ground cinnamon
a few gratings of nutmeg
1/2 cup milk
 
For the top part (it will become the top when flipped)
4 T. butter
1/2 cup brown sugar
figs, cut in half (the amount depends on how large they are – I needed about 1 1/2 dozen for this one)
In a 10-inch cast iron skillet, melt the butter and brown sugar. Arrange the fig halves over the sugar and butter, cut side down.
For the cake batter, beat the butter and sugar until light. Beat in the eggs. Sift dry ingredients together. Beat half of dry ingredients into creamed mixture and beat in half of milk. Repeat, beating well. Batter will be thick.
Pour into the pan over the fig/brown sugar/butter mixture. Bake in oven at 350 degrees for about 30-35 minutes. Serve warm if possible.
Lemony Fig Olive Oil Cake

Lemony Fig Olive Oil Cake

  I know, I know. I just posted a grilled fig pizza, but figs are still in the market for a short time, and for those of you with fig trees, you may be up to your ears in these sensuous beauties and looking for ways other than fig pizza or fig jam to make use of them. This lemony olive oil cake will not disappoint. It’s the best version of an olive oil cake I’ve ever eaten (caveat – it does contain butter also). If you don’t have figs, use other fruit, like peaches, plums or apricots — even apples.

It has a tender crumb, a delicious citrusy flavor (boosted by a lemon olive oil sent to me by Nudo) and it’s easy to prepare. A sprinkling of powdered sugar on top (and a stencil of a fig leaf is nice too) is all the decoration you need.
Pardon me while I get a little crazy on my “pop art” attempt.
 After making the cake, I wanted to see how that lemon olive oil would taste in a savory dish, without any cooking involved, but straight out of the tin.
So I grilled some grape tomatoes on one part of the grill, while on the other side, I placed some flounder on a piece of tin foil that had been smeared with regular olive oil, not the Nudo al limone. I splashed the flounder with a bit of white wine, then seasoned it with salt, pepper, slices of shallot, lemon slices and bits of fresh thyme. I closed the lid for five minutes and came back to a perfectly cooked piece of flounder. I plated it, strewing the tomatoes around the fish and finished it with a healthy drizzle of the Nudo olio d’oliva al limone. The fresh lemony flavor was evident in every bite and I think it’s the best possible use of this olive oil. The cake was delicious, don’t get me wrong. I plan to make it again and again. But with the lemon zest and citrus juice already in the cake recipe, I’m not sure the lemony olive oil really stands out. In this fish dish, however, the oil is a star.

Lemony Fig Olive Oil Cake
printable recipe here
adapted from Lottie and Doof blog, but originally from Chicago’s “Floriole” restaurant
amounts were given in grams, and I find that method of baking much more accurate. But I’ve converted the measurements for U.S. cooks who don’t have a scale.

  • 200 grams granulated sugar (a little less than 1 cup)
  • zest of 2 lemons (I used the zest of an orange because I had already zested the remaining lemon in the fridge for another recipe – either orange or lemon zest is great)
  • 100 grams melted butter (about 7 T. butter)
  • 200 grams olive oil (1 cup – I used the Nudo al limone brand olive oil)
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 250 grams all-purpose flour (about 1 3/4 cup)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 4 large eggs
  • about 1-1 1/2 cups fruit (raspberries, blackberries, blueberries, peaches- whatever is in season!)
  • (I used figs cut into halves)
Pre-heat oven to 350° F. Butter and line the bottom of a 9″ cake pan with parchment paper.
Combine lemon zest and sugar in a bowl, rub zest into the sugar to release essential oils—set aside. Combine melted butter, olive oil and lemon juice in a medium bowl. Sift together flour and baking powder.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, combine eggs, sugar mixture and salt. Beat at high speed until very pale yellow in color and has about doubled in volume. You are looking for the batter to hold a “ribbon”. With mixer still running slowly add oil mixture to egg mixture. You are slowly emulsifying the oil into the egg mixture. If you do this properly the mixture will not break.
Remove the bowl from the stand mixture and fold in the dry ingredients, being careful not to over mix.
Pour about 2/3 of batter into bottom of the prepared cake pan. Sprinkle whatever fruit you are using on top. Cover with remaining batter and bake for approx. 35-40 minutes or until the cake is set. You can use a toothpick to test, it should come out clean. I like a sprinkle of confectioner’s sugar on top.


 Filet of Flounder or Sole with Lemon Olive Oil
Place some cherry or grape tomatoes on an aluminum foil container on the grill, into which you’ve smeared a little olive oil. Cook at high heat until they burst open and/or caramelize. On another burner, on low heat, place another aluminum foil container, onto which you’ve smeared a little olive oil. Place the filet of sole or flounder on the oil. Splash with a little white wine. Then strew the fish with sliced shallot, slices of lemon, sprinkle with salt, pepper and fresh thyme. Close the lid on the grill and check back in five minutes. The fish should be done or nearly done. Remove to a place and scatter the tomatoes all around, then drizzle with the lemon-flavored olive oil.
Grilled Pizza With Figs And Other Delights

Grilled Pizza with Figs and Other Delights

Whoever thought of making pizza on the grill deserves a medal from the culinary medal committee. The grill can get much hotter than my inside oven, delivering that crunchy, nearly burnt crust that’s so loved and so authentic. I’ve made it several times in the past, always placing the pizza dough directly on the grates. This time, I wanted to heat up my pizza stone on the grill and toss the dough onto the stone. It really does produce a more even browning, and it’s much easier to handle when it comes time to flip it over. The only problem is that until you recognize just how hot the pizza stone can get, you’re likely to burn your first attempt. That’s what happened to the first round of dough I placed on the stone. It burned in only one minute. That didn’t keep my neighbor’s daughters, Janie and Annie, from munching on the burnt offering while we were putting together round two of the pizzas.
Get all the toppings ready ahead of time because the cooking goes really fast. In this case, we were making a couple of pizzas – first the pizza with figs, prosciutto and other goodies. I posted about this pizza in my early blogging days when I had no readers other than my family, and it’s so delicious I thought it was worth a repeat here.
Stretch out your pizza dough (purchased or home-made – this one is from a local pizza shop). Toss it on the grill or pizza stone and keep a close watch on it. It will take only a couple of minutes to brown.
Flip it over and cover with the cheeses, chopped walnuts and the sliced figs.
Remove it from the grill and add the sliced prosciutto and arugula. Last time I posted about this pizza, I added all the toppings and cooked them together, but now I much prefer to layer the prosciutto and arugula after the pizza is cooked. They taste much fresher that way. Drizzle with a little extra balsamic “essenza” or glaze if you’ve got it. If not, don’t fret. It’s delicious even without it.
Figs and gorgonzola not your favorite? Just go with a classic topping of tomatoes – in this case grape tomatoes from the garden – mozzarella cheese and basil. A grinding of salt also enhances.
Grilled Pizza
Buy pizza dough or make your own.
Heat up the grill to highest setting. As it turns out, the highest setting on my grill was too hot and burned the first batch of dough. Experiment to see what temperature works for you.
Cook the first side of the dough directly on the grates or on a pizza stone that you’ve heated on the grill.
Flip it over and add any toppings you like.
In these two cases:
Pizza with Figs, Prosciutto and Gorgonzola
Cook the first side of the dough as described above. Flip it over onto the grill or pizza stone. I placed figs, chopped walnuts, about two ounces of gorgonzola and four ounces of mozzarella on top and let the cheese melt. It took another two to three minutes and the other side of the dough gets cooked and browned.
Remove to a platter and top with slices of prosciutto and arugula that’s been tossed in some oil and vinegar.
Pizza with Grape Tomatoes and Mozzarella
Cook one side of the dough on the grill or pizza stone. Flip it over and top with grape tomatoes, about four ounces of mozzarella, fresh basil and a sprinkling of salt. If I had thought about it ahead of time, I might have cooked the tomatoes whole to caramelize a bit before placing on the top. Either way, it’s pretty irresistible.
Chicken With Olives And Figs

Chicken with Olives and Figs

If you’ve ever eaten Chicken Marbella from “The Silver Palate Cookbook,” this recipe is somewhat similar in flavor, but with far fewer calories. It uses only two teaspoons of oil, rather than the 1/2 cup called for in the well-known recipe for Chicken Marbella. A few other things are different here. There’s cilantro, rather than parsley, balsamic vinegar instead of red wine vinegar, and most noteworthy – figs rather than prunes. Unless you’re Stacey, from Stacey Snacks, (a real figaholic if ever I met one) the jury is still out on the figs. I think the prunes melt more into the sauce, lending a sweetness that the more sturdy figs don’t. But change is good sometimes. Both recipes are great for make-ahead meals, since they can be assembled and marinated ahead of time, then baked right before serving.

I made this with boneless chicken breasts that weighed a total of about 1 1/4 pounds. It would easily have served three people. However, you can use as much as two pounds of chicken with the quantity of ingredients in the recipe below.

Chicken With Olives and Figs

Adapted from a recipe in the Oct. 2004 issue of Health Magazine

about 10 olives, sliced in half (I used kalamata olives)
about 10 dried figs (slice some in half)
3 T. light brown sugar
3 T. chopped fresh cilantro
2 T. balsamic vinegar
2 t. dried basil
2 t. extra-virgin olive oil
4 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
boneless chicken breasts, cut into large pieces
1/4 cup dry white wine
1/4 c. chicken broth

1. Combine all the ingredients in a zip-lock plastic bag, except the white wine and chicken broth. Let it marinate in the refrigerator at least four hours, turning bag occasionally. Leave it overnight if you want.
2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
3. Remove chicken from bag. Place in a casserole or baking dish. Pour broth and wine over mixture and bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes or until done.

Fig And Lemon Olive Oil Cake And A Photo Tip

Fig and Lemon Olive Oil Cake and a photo tip

After conversing over the blogosphere with her for the last several months, I finally met Stacey of “Stacey Snacks” face-to-face.
Stacey’s recipes and photos gets me drooling first thing every morning, and I borrowed this recipe for fig and lemon cake from her blog. Lucky for me she lives in New Jersey and comes to Princeton fairly often for business. She was also kind enough to teach me a new function on my little point and shoot Canon camera that I’ll share with you now.

This shot of a bowl of frozen figs thawing out was taken indoors in my kitchen at night, with regular tungsten light bulbs overhead. Little did I know that you could change your camera’s setting to adjust for the light source, including florescent lighting. Here’s what my photo looked like before I changed it to the tungsten light bulb setting. It had been set on the default setting that came with the camera and doesn’t look so great with that yellow-y overtone does it?
A couple of little clicks on the back of the camera where you set it to a little icon that looks like a lightbulb and you’ve got this instead. What a difference. Thanks Stacey.
Now that it stays light longer into the evening, I will try to use natural light more often, but it’s great to know that my camera has this function for those times when I’m relying on indoor lights. If you’ve got Photoshop (which I don’t), you may also be able to change the white balance in the editing.

On to the cake! Stacey used dried figs for her cake, but I had stashed some fresh figs in the freezer last September and I figured it was time to use some of them. I had both the purple and the green kind put away and used a little of each variety. The cake was delicious with the fresh figs, but I have a feeling that for this recipe, the dried figs might be even better, with their concentrated sweet flavor and chewiness.Here’s the finished cake. Stacey’s recipe follows.Fig & Lemon Olive Oil Cake: (inspired by Martha Stewart)
Stacey’s recipe calls for a removable bottom tart pan, but I used a ceramic tart pan instead. Just make sure to grease it thoroughly first.

2/3 cup olive oil, plus more for pan
1/2 cup milk
1 large egg

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt

8 oz. package of dried figs, chopped (I used about 1 1/2 cups of frozen figs that had been thawed)
zest of one lemon
1 tsp of fresh chopped rosemary

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Brush a 9-inch tart pan with a removable bottom (or a cake pan lined with parchment paper) with oil; set aside.

In a medium bowl or liquid measuring cup, whisk together oil, milk, and egg; set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt; add milk mixture, and stir with a rubber spatula just until smooth (do not over mix).

Gently fold in figs and lemon zest and rosemary.
Spread batter in prepared pan; set pan on a rimmed baking sheet.
Bake until golden and a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, 35 to 40 minutes.

Fig Crostata

Fig Crostata

Most Italians living in the U.S., no matter how much they love their adopted country, yearn for the familiarity and beauty of the landscape in their native homeland. Who wouldn’t miss the majestic Alpine peaks, the sparkling Mediterranean Sea or the rolling Tuscan hills of the Italian peninsula?
But so many of my Italian friends grow something in their gardens that evokes the Italy they know and love: a fig tree. Granted, they have to insulate it every winter to keep it from freezing. But the payoff is worth it. Come the end of summer, the trees produce succulent fruits that are hard to beat — perfect for eating out of hand or with a slice of prosciutto, and perfect for making jam that can be used as the filling in a crostata – or pastry tart. The pastry used in Italy — a “pasta frolla” — differs from American pastry due to its inclusion of egg yolks and sometimes a whole egg too. In mine I use only one egg yolk and a full stick of butter. It’s almost like a rich cookie dough. The trick is to handle the dough as little as possible so that the butter doesn’t completely assimilate into the dough. What you want are small bits of butter solids that will melt into the pastry as it bakes, giving it a tender bite rather than a tough crust. I mix it all in a food processor to avoid excessive handling. The recipe is for a 9 or 10 inch tart pan with a removable bottom plate, but if you have a larger tart pan, you can easily make 1 1/2 times the recipe for the dough and add more jam as well. If you don’t have homemade fig jam, you can purchase it in jars in specialty shops and even some supermarkets. If figs are not your thing, crostata can be made with any kind of jam. The ones most commonly found in Italy are made with either plum or apricot jam.

Fig Crostata

1 recipe for pasta frolla
1 1/2 cups fig jam

Pasta Frolla

1 1/2 cups flour
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 stick of cold unsalted butter
1 T. grated lemon peel
1 large egg yolk
1/4 cup ice water

Place flour, sugar and baking powder into food processor and pulse for a few seconds. Add the butter in small pieces and pulse again, along with the lemon peel, until it resembles coarse sand. Beat the egg yolk slightly with the water and add to the food processor, pulsing until the mixture starts to form a ball. Add more water, a teaspoon at a time, if necessary. Remove from food processor and refrigerate for at least a half hour. Divide the dough into 2/3 for the bottom and 1/3 for the strips. Roll the bottom onto a floured surface and fit it into a buttered tart pan, letting any excess hang over the edge.
Fill the crust with jam. Roll the remaining 1/3 of the dough on a floured surface and cut into strips. Place them lattice-fashion over the jam, attach them to the dough along the rim, then trim the edges of the crostata. Bake in a 375 degree oven for about 25 to 30 minutes until the dough is golden brown.