Love Jam? Then You’ll Love This Tart.
I love jam. I always have about a dozen different jars in my cupboard – jams that I brought back from my travels (jam and chocolate – always in my suitcase!), homemade jams, or homemade just not in my own home – those from friends or especially my mother-in-law. I eat a few spoonfuls every day, mixed into a Greek yogurt (usually with Medjool dates too), or slathered on crusty bread with salted butter from Brittany. I’ve had an urge to make raspberry jam lately, since I miss eating fresh raspberries straight from the market. Making jam from frozen berries will tide me over until berry season once again. But before I do that, I figured it was a good time to empty one of my mason jars and make room for the new jam to come.
So I grabbed an extra jar of confiture mi figue mi raisin from the back of my pantry, not sure how I ended up with two of those. The name literally means half fig, half grape in French (more on that in a minute). I grabbed this thick, syrupy mixture and decided to use the whole thing in one fell swoop: in a jam tart. So I got right to work making the pastry shell (pastry you do not have to pre-bake or roll out no less!). It’s a very easy dessert to make, and you can play with the pastry on top for the presentation you’d like – a lattice top as in Maggie Barrett’s Crostata con Marmellata di Frutta, streusel-like pieces as Luisa Weiss does in her version of the same crostata, or small disks of dough as David Lebovitz does in his Easy Jam Tart. I had fun with it, as you can see above, and made three different shaped circles of pastry all over the top. Whatever you choose, this tart is perfect for the cold winter months when you have had your fill of apple and pear desserts. You get to pick your fruit despite the season, and have a light summery end to a meal. Apricot, raspberry, strawberry… even if the snow is falling outside.
Now, back to those figs and grapes. Mi figue, mi raisin is a well known expression in French, meaning half good, half bad. It first appeared in 1487 as moitié figue, moitié raisin, the figs being the “bad” half. Apparently, when the Corinthians sold bags of currants (raisins de Corinthe) to the Venetians, they would cheat them by putting heavier, cheaper figs in the bunch. Hence the expression. But then Madame de Sévigné later wrote “moitié figue, moitié raisin, moitié de gré moitié de force” – meaning you do something whether you like it or not (half voluntary, half forced)!
The meaning has certainly evolved over the years, more towards half serious, half joking, but all in all maintains this sense of ambiguity. Clotilde Dusoulier recently gave a good explanation on her blog, Chocolate & Zucchini, with a few examples translated into English.
If you can find this “half and half” jam, or make your own using a recipe online – and especially if you make the tart with it – there will be no ambiguity whatsoever. Nothing half bad about it!
9 Tablespoons (110 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup (100 grams) sugar
1 egg yolk
1 1/2 cups (190 grams) flour
1/2 cup (70 grams) polenta/cornmeal
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 3/4 cups (450 grams) jam of your choice: fig, raspberry, apricot, etc.
2 Tablespoons Demerara sugar (or other coarse raw sugar)
In a large bowl, beat the butter and sugar until well combined. Mix in the egg and extra yolk. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, cornmeal, salt and baking powder. Gradually add the dry ingredients to the butter mixture, just until it all comes together. Shape the dough into a ball, wrap in plastic and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
Remove the dough from the refrigerator and allow to warm slightly. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Take 2/3 of the dough, and with the heel of your hand, press into the bottom and sides of a 9″ (24 cm) tart pan with a removable bottom. Pat smooth. Fill the crust with jam, spreading it evenly. Roll out the remaining dough. Cut into narrow strips and weave into a lattice pattern on top of the tart, or break into little pieces in your pattern of choice. Sprinkle generously with coarse raw sugar (or as David Lebovitz says, very generously!).
Bake until the pastry is light golden brown, about 25 minutes. Let cool, and serve at room temperature.