About 30 years ago LeVar Burton ate a fig. I was just a chubby-cheeked kiddo watching Reading Rainbow but I remember it like it was yesterday. I had never seen a fig and I wanted one desperately. LeVar made them look so heavenly. Pretty purple. Jammy. Sweet. I longed to try one myself. Maybe while reading a book. Figs were so special. So unattainable. So mysterious. So lovely. I might have also had a little crush on LeVar.
Thinking back, I can’t image why figs were so out of reach. I’m sure my parents would have found me some if they knew I wanted them so badly. But I can’t remember trying one until I was much older. For most of my childhood I assumed figs were a luxury item akin to caviar, diamonds, and champagne. You know, like ponies.
Fast forward about 20 years to life in New York. Out of all the things this city had to offer, the sidewalk fruit vendors were the very first to win my heart. (Here is a lovely New Yorker video about one if you're curious.) I really loved those guys. What's better than buying your fruit as you walk to work? No detours. You don't even really have to stop walking. Those intrepid produce heroes work hard to bring fruit to the people
- sometimes in neighborhoods where supermarkets are scarce. Heaps and
heaps of inexpensive fruit. The over-flowing street corner stands felt very New York to this supermarket-loving Connecticut girl. So guess what I used to buy myself in those early New York City days? Cartons and cartons of figs. Figs for days. I'd take them back to my apartment and enjoy them standing at the kitchen sink, alone (never sharing), just reveling in the joys of my new city life. That was a significant growth marker for me– the ability to buy myself the fruit of my dreams. Adulthood began with fresh figs. Luxurious. For that reason, figs will always be kind of magical to me. A sign of good fortune and happiness. They’re also a sign of fall. Or at least that fall is nigh. (Scarf weather and fresh figs = pure joy.)
So let's get into this transition period! The weather’s changing. School’s back in. My hair is finally moving into a less awkward length after that unfortunate 10-inch mistake back in January. Time to transition our desserts!
I want to make it easy for you. I won't just rip all those fruit pies and ice creams out from under you. Remember strawberry shortcake? Summer dreams. You probably got cozy with a shortcake or two back in June. I want to move that old summer fav into something more September appropriate. Aaaand we're back to figs. Trust me. Let's just keep eating shortcake right up until it snows. And while we’re swapping the fruit for something seasonal, let’s jazz up the biscuits, huh? A little hazelnut? I happened to have some hazelnut flour kicking around in the freezer. Hazelnut biscuits! Sweet, nutty, crunchy outsides, and tender insides. You’ll like these. They’d make a mighty fine breakfast all on their own but if you decide to go all the way and jazz them up with this honey and orange fig filling, you won’t be sorry.
I think even LeVar Burton would approve. But you don't have to take my word for it...
Honeyed Fig Shortcakes with Hazelnut Biscuits
For the biscuits:
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup hazelnut flour
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1/4 cup whole milk
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon heavy cream, divided
1 tablespoon sanding sugar
1 tablespoon honey
1 teaspoon orange zest plus 2 tablespoons juice
16 ripe figs, cut into 1/8ths
1 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar
1. Make the biscuits: Preheat oven to 425°. In a large bowl, whisk together all-purpose flour, hazelnut flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Using a pastry blender, cut the butter into the flour until the mixture resembles coarse meal. In a small bowl, whisk together egg, milk, and 1/4 cup cream. Add egg mixture to flour mixture and gently mix with a fork until combined.
2. Divide dough into 6 1/2- cup portions, gently shape into rounds (try not to handle them too much), and transfer to a parchment lined baking sheet. Chill 20 minutes or freeze for 10 minutes. Brush tops with remaining tablespoon cream and sprinkle with sanding sugar. Bake until golden brown and puffed, 12 to 14 minutes. Let biscuits cool on sheet on a wire rack.
3. Make the filling: Whisk together honey and orange zest and juice. Stir in figs and let stand 10 minutes.
4. To serve, whip cream and confectioners’ sugar to soft peaks. Halve biscuits (a serrated knife works well) and top with cream and fig mixture and drizzle with juices.