At the beginning of the year, I decided I wanted to make some new friends and also to read more. Because January is apparently a time when I like to lie to myself by not setting resolutions, per se, but still trying to change everything about my life in one fell swoop. To kill two birds with one stone, I started a book club: Bookish Bitchez Be Brunchin’.
I consider myself a pretty responsible person. I pride myself on my attention to detail and ability to manage my own schedule. I get my projects done on time. I plan parties. I remember to put on deodorant most days. But for some reason, when it comes to my book club, I have never really gotten my shit together. I have completed maybe half of the assigned books. There have been last minute cancellations and venue changes. I haven’t even developed a method for choosing the monthly reading. It’s just a frantic scramble with everyone throwing out names of books at the end of every meeting until I hear one I like.
This month, we decided to read Bitter Brew and go to a local brewery in the Ohio countryside, rather than to a brunch spot in the city. They don’t serve food at the brewery, but you can bring your own. So I was just like, “Hey, everyone! Just bring your own food to eat!” And then didn’t think a single other thought about it for another month.
Approximately four days before we were supposed to meet, I realized that I had nothing planned and that I had read about 6 pages of the book. My life was in chaos that week, because I have the singular ability to take activities that normal humans can handle with ease and make them a thousand times more difficult. It’s a gift. And while I had intended to make some kind of delicious brunchy treat to share with my fellow Bitchez and make them love and adore me at last, that sooooo did not happen. Moments before I set out in my car, I slapped some leftover pulled pork from the previous night’s dinner between two pieces of bread, wrapped it in Saran, and shoved it into my bag. And gently whispered, “That’ll do, pig,” to it.
My sister then arrived with a Whole Foods bag brimming with five kinds of cheeses, a baguette, and some kind of fancy cured meat. I was like, “Pft. Joke’s on her. She just spent a buttload of money on communal food when obviously everyone is going to bring individual meals, like my awesome sammich.”
Halfway there, I started to panic internally. As I stared at my sister’s Gouda, it became clear to me that I would be the only one with a single-serving dish. My sister was rambling on about something in the passenger seat, but I wasn’t listening. I was too distracted by my impending social humiliation. When there was a break in her speech, I blurted, “I have a pulled pork sandwich in my purse!” She stared at me for a minute. “…Where did you get it?”
When we arrived at the brewery, we located the other book club members, and, to my horror, they had spread the table with scads of homemade communal food. And there were two new members who had brought shareable food without any instruction from me, their so-called leader, to do so. To all outward appearances, I had arrived empty-handed. Only my sister and I knew about the sandwich tucked furtively into my bag. If I just didn’t say anything, no one would know. I could pretend I brought that wrinkly-looking sausage in Anna’s grocery bag. But I could feel myself blushing. And before I could stop myself, the words started falling out of me. I confessed my selfish sandwich sin.
Thankfully, they did not make me go sit at another table and eat my lonely pork sandwich, and, instead, graciously shared the food they had slaved over in their respective kitchens. One of our new members, Mike, had made a fig almond tart that made me want to kidnap and torture him for his secrets. To avoid the jail time, though, I just did a Google search and attempted to recreate it by following Giada De Laurentiis’ recipe. I even made my own mascarpone cheese!
I think this tart was pretty darn close to the one I ate at the book club last month. It’s certainly not a looker, but it makes up for its ugliness in delicious, almondy goodness. And, in the spirit of not being a greedy pork-sandwich-smuggling jerkface, I even shared it with my husband, in-laws, and sister.
- 1½ cups (180 grams) all-purpose flour
- 2 tablespoons (25 grams) granulated sugar, plus 1 tablespoon
- zest from 1 lemon
- ¼ teaspoon sea salt
- 10 tablespoons (140 grams) unsalted butter, chilled and cut into cubes
- 3 tablespoons ice water
- 3½ ounces (100 grams) almond paste, cut into ½-inch pieces
- ⅓ cup mascarpone cheese, room temperature
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 tablespoons (42 grams) honey
- 10-15 fresh, ripe figs, stems removed, sliced crosswise
- 2-3 tablespoons apricot jam
- 1-2 tablespoons milk
- ¼ cup sliced almonds
- In the bowl of a food processor, combine flour, 2 tablespoons (25 grams) sugar, lemon zest, and sea salt. Pulse to combine, then sprinkle cold butter cubes over the top of the flour mixture. Pulse a few more times, until you have a coarse meal. Add one tablespoon of ice water at a time, pulsing just until clumps start to form. Turn out dough onto a piece of plastic wrap, quickly press the dough into a disk, wrap, and chill in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour.
- Position rack in the center of the oven and preheat oven to 400°F.
- In the clean bowl of a food processor, pulse remaining 1 tablespoon of sugar, almond paste, mascarpone cheese, vanilla extract, and honey until smooth.
- On a lightly floured surface, roll chilled dough into a 12-inch circle. Transfer dough circle to a parchment-lined baking sheet. Spread almond filling over the dough, leaving a 2-inch border. Lay sliced figs in concentric circles over the almond filling. Fold the edges of the dough over the filling, creating pleats as you go. It doesn't need to look perfect.
- Gently spread apricot jam over the top of the figs and filling. Brush the edges of the dough with milk and sprinkle sliced almonds over the dough, lightly pressing them down so they stick.
- Bake for 40-45 minutes, until crust is golden brown. Allow to cool on the baking sheet on a wire rack before transferring tart to serving dish.
- Use storebought mascarpone cheese, or make your own with this helpful recipe from Pastry Affair.