I remember that when I was training to be a chef at Leiths, we seemed to spend an inordinate amount of time learning how to make puff pastry from scratch. It was, quite frankly, a pain in the arse. All that rolling, smearing pats of soft (but not too soft!) butter, the folding, turning, more rolling, chilling, repeating, falling asleep through the boredom of it all.....Why oh why oh why were my course fees being spent on such a pointless skill? Many people probably find making pasta at home a pointless thing to do, given you can buy fresh pasta fairly cheaply at most supermarkets these days, but at least making a pasta dough the traditional way and then rolling it through an Imperia machine is a fun way to spend an afternoon.
Making puff pastry is not fun. It's frustrating, laborious, and when included as an element of your final exam, to be made in the heat of a kitchen in July, it is the stuff of nightmares. 6 years on and I have never found the need to make my own puff pastry again and I doubt many of my fellow students have either and that's because, as foods go, Jus Rol All Butter Puff Pastry is the definition of convenience. If Mary Berry admits to using shop bought puff then that's good enough for me.
If you do buy shop bought pastry though, make sure you go for the all butter stuff. Standard puff is made with margarine and isn't half as nice, and steer clear of the shortcrust too -it's pretty horrible, shrinks like crazy, and making your own is easy and quick to do, especially if you have a food processor.
These fig tarts are really quick and easy to make (if you don't make your own puff!), and the fruit can changed according to the time of year or your personal preference. Try plums pre-roasted with a bit of Armagnac, or greengages if you can get hold of some. Change the ground nuts in the frangipane to classic almonds and pair with apricots or pears, or try a combination of cherries and pistachio, or walnut and banana. They're best served warm with a nice scoop of icecream - a goats cheese ice cream would work well with the fig tart if you can be bothered to make your own, if not look no further than a ball of shop bought vanilla sprinkled with a pinch of cinnamon.
FIG AND HAZELNUT FRANGIPANE TART
350g all butter puff pastry
6 small ripe figs, cut into 6
65g unsalted butter
65g caster sugar
25g plain flour
65g ground hazelnuts
Icing sugar for dusting
Egg for glazing
First make the hazelnut frangipane. Cream the butter and the sugar together and then beat in half the egg. Add half the ground hazelnuts and then beat in the remaining egg and second half of nuts. Stir in the flour.
Roll out the pastry to the thickness of just under a pound coin. Cut out 4 circles of pastry, 18cm in diameter, and place on a baking sheet lined with baking paper. Place in the fridge to chill for 30 mins.
Meanwhile, turn the oven on to 200°C.
Remove the pastry from the fridge then score a 1 cm border around the edge of the pastry, being careful not to cut through the pastry completely. Place a dessert spoon of hazelnut frangipane into the centre of the pastry and smooth gently out until half a centimetre from the scored line. Arrange 9 wedges in a circle around the centre of the pastry, gently pressing them into the frangipane so they resemble the petals of a flower.
Carefully glaze the outside 1cm on the pastry with beaten egg, Turn the oven down to 190°C then bake in the oven for 20 mins or until the pastry is golden brown and the frangipane a light brown. Dust with icing sugar and serve warm with ice cream.
Warning: This is a dessert with no real nutritional value. Fine to eat every now and again, but don't eat too many!