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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

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.