Brie & Fresh Fig Crostini

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Fresh figs are such a rare and charming treat, perhaps even the rarest and most charmed. We only find them in our grocery store about once per year and, even then, they’re only available for a day or two at most. The first thing I buy after moving into a house that I know I’ll be living in for a sustained period of time is, without a doubt, a fig tree (and they were, actually, one of the first cultivated fruit trees ever). My friend had a Figure 8 pufferfish that was later given to me, and then gifted from me to my neighbors, that I called ‘little fig’, and I thought ‘wow there is no more adoring of a name I could give something’. After getting these figs yesterday, in the car on the way home I was already picturing next year’s Valentine’s day cards..”is it possible I dreamt you up? are you just a figment of my imagination?”, with a poorly drawn but reasonably coherent illustration of a heart-shaped fig. So, yeah, you get the idea…I’m crazy about figs (nothing compared to Burton though. Honestly, my appearance of sanity whenever in close proximity to him is how I’ve gotten this far. He’s non compos mentis, I’m just a little rough around the edges). Next to persimmons, I think figs are the most well-rounded single food item there is, containing more layers/undertones of flavor, and suggestion, than all others. A recipe to recreate the flavor of a fig would need a cast of ingredients (like apple blossom, pear, honey, vanilla, both the nut and wood from a walnut tree..and the list goes on). They’re deceptively rich and a single bite into one meets 3 textures (the taught but smooth, thick skin, then the soft and meaty fruit before, finally, the crunchy seeds). They’re just, I don’t know, really cool and I’m happy they exist. Yeah, definitely.

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Read more after the juuuuuuu

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My kitchen was too dark, due to the incredible storms we’ve been having lately, so I had to take most of the pictures in my living room. Placing the fig odd places kind of reminded me of how when I go to my friend Kiefer’s house, to walk his dog while he’s at work, I hide this little rhino figurine/toy. Then he finds it and sets it on the table for me to hide again. Such fun. I also tuck this Madame Butterfly record I gave him, the cover featuring a lady just staring, in conspicuous places like peeking out from behind his TV. Madame Butterfly is always watching.

fig-7 Making your own bread is incredibly easy and, as long as you don’t have exceedingly high expectations, shouldn’t be approached apprehensively. While I’m obviously not making artisan-quality bread, what I make with as little effort and knowledge as possible is still worlds better than any you can get at a grocery store. The bread I make is better than any I’ve gotten from a specialty bakery, too, but that shouldn’t be surprising as I live in Milwaukee (the only things we’re good at making here is beer, bad decisions and the antidote to the impact of beer and bad decisions: bloody marys). I had been meaning to do a bread post for a while now, after a few respectable ladies asked for my help on Facebook, but, man, I don’t know anything about making bread. I’ve been doing it for 10 years, consistently with results I’m happy with, but putting my technique into words feels like describing to someone how to wipe after using the bathroom. Just, like..yeah, probably best to figure it out yourself and develop your own method.

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While there are many bries that I like, and even more that I don’t, the only one I’ve ever really loved is Délice de Bourgogne. It’s the fluffiest, lightest cheese imaginable but holds its own with its strong, nutty flavor. It’s sharp yet delicate all at the same time and unbelievably rich. Seriously…unbelievably. I can hear its sirens call all the way from the opposite side of Whole Foods, wherein it calls out ‘have you forgotten that I’m absurdly delicious, nearly unreal?’ and I, defenseless, rush over to it and whisper ‘how could I?’ Generally with brie, it’s recommended to eat the rind but for this application, I don’t.

Brie & Fresh Fig Crostini with Rosemary

ingredients

3 fresh figs (I used black mission)

1 small baguette

1/2 cup of brie, or 1/6th of a pound..not sure the conventional way of measuring brie..

zest of one lemon

2 tbsp rosemary leaves

pinch of salt

Preheat the broiler. Mix the rosemary, lemon zest and salt and set aside a few minutes to bring out some of the oils. Cut the baguette in the center both ways, both horizontally and vertically, to make 4 flat/long pieces. You’ll want each piece to be about 4 inches long, so if using a bigger baguette, just use 2/3 or half of it. Dollop on the brie evenly, about 2 tbsp per piece. Cut the figs into very thin slices and layer on top of the brie however heavily you’d like. In pinches, apply the lemon/salt/rosemary mixture. Set under the broiler for 5 minutes or until the brie is completely melted.

Baguette

(this recipe makes 3 small baguettes. I often split the dough into two portions and refrigerate half for up to 4 days)

ingredients

1.5 cups of lukewarm water

1 tsp active dry yeast

3.5 cups flour of choice (I use half bread, half all purpose) plus more for dusting

salt

ice cubes

In a large bowl, lightly stir the yeast into the water until combined. Proof your yeast (as in, wait 10 minutes until it’s foamy) if you’re not sure of its quality. Add the flour, being sure to sift it well before measuring, and stir to combine using a large, sturdy spatula. Let sit about 15 minutes for the flour to rehydrate, covering with a wet towel, then stir it again. I form it all into a ball, adding more flour if necessary (it should be wet but not too sticky, add as little extra flour as you can), and then sort of pull one side over the other. With my spatula, I grab the right side of the dough and tuck it under the left side and keep repeating several times, until it looks elastic-y and well combined. Re-cover and let it sit about an hour, then repeat the process of pulling and tucking the dough.

Lightly dust your table or work surface with a layer of flour, rub your hands with olive oil and then grab your dough from the bowl and place it onto the flour. Flip it over a couple of times, then separate it into 3 equal pieces. Stretch or use a rolling pin to roll each piece into a small rectangle, then fold it in half horizontally. Once it resembles a long, thin rectangle, start to roll it into a cylinder using as little pressure as you can (spread your fingers far apart), making sure the entire piece is even. Place it on a long baking sheet, likely the biggest available in stores, then continue until all 3 baguettes are laid out. Dust the tops very lightly with flour and salt, then cover with plastic wrap.

Preheat the oven to 475 degrees and place an oven-safe skillet on the bottom rack. Once the baguettes have nearly doubled in size, or nearly 30 minutes, put them in the oven and add about 1/2 cup of ice cubes to the skillet (this create steam, which causes the bread to develop a hard crust while keeping the inside moist). Bake for 25 minutes or until golden brown. Wait until cool to cut or you’ll release all the air.

 

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