As my school life resumes, I’ve finally fallen back into routine, and life has picked up its pace once again. Gone are the days when the only recurring structure to my day was waking up and falling asleep. I can’t plan my activities on a whim any longer, nor can I decide to change the course of my day well after it has started. I’m now bound to schedules and after school activities, to homework and long hours spent in the confines of a classroom. But surprisingly, I quite like it.
Around the end of August, I fell into sad resignation at the realization of how quickly the days were passing by. As the first day of school crept closer, each fleeting night became a rerun of the last. Just like every evening before, I found myself snuggling my face into my pillow, breathing away the melancholia and trying to suppress my anxiety at the thought of starting my sophomore year of high school.
I had grown comfortable with my leisurely days, and by no means did I want them to end. I tried desperately to soak up the last drops of vacation, to capture the summer air and all it carried with it and bottle it up in ludicrous hopes of saving it for later enjoyment, but to no avail.
It was only as I was walking back home after the first day of school, fall already making itself apparent, that I realized I’d been wrong for wanting summer to last forever. Though at the time I couldn’t imagine anything better than waking to a room bathed in the golden sunshine of August, I’d completely overlooked the reasons I adore fall.
I’d missed the way the whole earth seems to transform itself right around September 21st. Concentrated sunlight becomes slightly more diffuse, and in the morning, light breezes carry the sweet scent of the previous night’s rainfall. Outside, dry leaves crunch quietly underfoot, and fallen flowers form a vibrant yellow carpet beneath the aging sycamore tree. The sun no longer takes its time setting. Instead, it douses the whole world in darkness minutes after it begins its descent. Fall is a time when the entire world is alive and breathing in its new autumnal décor, giving life to an array of squashes, tiny beaded cranberries, and plum-colored figs.
And along with these seasonal changes comes school. School, which I had deemed the bane of my existence just a few months back, is definitely not the prison I’d made it out to be.
On the contrary, high school is just as exciting as it was last year. But this year I’m treading charted waters. So far, my sophomore year is shaping up to be the best one yet. I’m enrolled in clubs I’m passionate about: the Go Green campaign, the afterschool orchestra. I’ve been forced to pick up my momentum once again as my schedule has rapidly become inundated with assignments and tests to study for, but I know to make the most of it, because soon enough, it’ll be summer vacation once again.
I made this tart soon after the first week of school. Despite feeling confident about high school, I was still in need of familiar territory.
I’d like to tell you that the slight tartness of the filling was the perfect contrast to the honey-sweetened figs and that the pistachio crust complimented the citrus-scented yogurt in every respect. But I found the flavors to be too different from each other to pair well, the crust too lacking in sweetness.
Despite not being perfect, the tart was so beautiful it didn’t really matter. Slices were cut and passed around the table as we sat outside, the soft sound of the forks clinking against the plates drifting into the quiet autumn evening.
I’ll definitely be making this tart again soon, while figs are still in season. But the next time around, I’ll substitute the pistachios with almonds and skip the orange zest in the filling entirely as to make the taste of the figs more pronounced.
The original recipe called for mascarpone cheese in the filling, but I substituted it with strained yogurt in favor of a lighter tart.
adapted from Desserts for Breakfast
makes one 9″ tart, or six 4.5″ tart, or ~32 mini tartlettes
240 gr (2 cups) AP flour
65 gr shelled raw pistachios
50 gr (1/4 cup) sugar
7 Tbspn butter, cold
1 egg yolk
3-4 Tbspn water, cold
In a food processor, combine the flour, pistachios, and sugar and process until the pistachios are finely ground.Using the food processor or a pastry cutter, cut the cold butter into the flour mixture until the size of small peas.
Add the egg yolk and gradually add the water just until a dough begins to form when you press it between two fingers. Do not overmix.
Form the pastry into a ball and refrigerate for at least one hour. (or stick it in the freezer for a shorter amount of time.)
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.
Remove the pastry dough from the fridge and press the dough into the tart pan. Prick the bottom of the dough all over with a fork, cover with parchment paper, and weigh down using dry beans or pie weights. Return to freezer for a few minutes if the dough has softened.
Bake for ~13-15 minutes until the edges just begin to turn golden. Remove the beans and parchment paper and continue to bake for 3-5 minutes more, until the crust has completely turned golden brown. Remove from oven and let cool.
450 gr strained yogurt
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 tspn vanilla extract
freshly grated zest of 1 lemon
In a mixer bowl with the whisk attachment, whip the yogurt, brown sugar, and heavy cream on medium high until soft peaks.
Add the vanilla extract and lemon zest and continue to whip just until stiff peaks. Do not overmix.
Spoon the filling into the cooled tart shell, and smooth with a spatula.
2 punnets figs
2 Tbspn honey
2 Tbspn raspberry jam (or fig or apricot, or any mixture thereof)
Cut the figs into quarters and arrange on top of the mascarpone tart filling.
Warm the honey and jam together, either over the stove or in the microwave. Brush over the arranged figs.
(filling recipe adapted from Donna Hay.)
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