I loved figs as a kid. Well, the dried variety. The only figs I knew. Specifically, the chewy Turkish figs on a rope that you pulled off one by one. That was a favorite snack, as were Fig Newtons.
It wasn’t until I moved to Los Angeles in 1987 that I tasted a fresh fig. It was love at first bite. And quite the difference between the fresh and the dried variety!
While I usually eat the fresh variety right out of the basket, I do sometimes have a few left to slice into a salad.
Last week, when I saw the overflowing baskets of both fresh green tiger stripe and black mission figs at the Nicholas Family Farms table, I knew that it was time to get baking with these beauties. I asked Penny which were the sweeter for a dessert recipe and she suggested the green tiger stripe. She was right! I bought 3 baskets knowing I’d have enough to use in a recipe and a few to snack on.
My first inclination was to make a classic fig tart. But making vegan pastry cream seemed a daunting task to create and offer instructions to my readers. I then thought about other cream fillings, and an almond ricotta cheesecake seemed the perfect option. I’ve made almond ricotta for other dessert recipes and it’s been fabulous. It would be a great pairing with fresh figs.
Using a homemade graham cracker crust made the assembly so much easier than making pate sucree, the classic tart dough. If you think you can’t bake, this might just be the recipe for you.
Please note that you want to use ripe figs. While they soften as they ripen and are more difficult to cut, they are so much sweeter than the firm ones. It makes all the difference in this dessert. Just be patient while you slice them. I used a serrated bread knife.
This dessert does take 2 days to make, so plan ahead. Don’t’ panic! It’s just that the almonds need to soak overnight to soften for the ricotta. Ready-made vegan ricotta is available at the market, but tends to be very savory and the containers are expensive. I do recommend making your own if you have a food processor. Otherwise use the store-bought. In addition, you’ll need to chill the pie several hours, if not overnight, before serving.
The result? This dessert was extraordinary! The crispy, buttery crust, the dense almond ricotta filling, the creamy sweetness of the fruit glazed with fig syrup…. Nirvana. Definitely a grown-up dessert as its not too sweet.
Below the recipe, I’ve pictured some of my favorite products for this recipe, to make it easier for you to shop. I do hope you’ll try it!
Fresh Fig and Almond Ricotta Pie
Makes a 10 inch pie
12 graham cracker sheets
2 T organic granulated sugar
8 T salted vegan butter
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees with the rack in the bottom third of the oven.
In the bowl of a food processor, pulse the graham crackers until they are fine crumbs.
Pour them into a medium sized bowl and stir in the sugar.
Pour in the melted butter and stir with a fork until fully mixed and all crumbs moistened.
Press the buttered crumb mixture evenly on the bottom and sides of the pie plate.
Bake for 10-12 being careful not to brown too much.
Let cool before filling.
Almond Ricotta Filling:
Makes 3 cups
2 ½ cups raw (untoasted) slivered almonds that have been soaked in water overnight, then drained and rinsed
1 5.3 oz. container vanilla flavored almond yogurt
1/2-3/4 cup unflavored full fat oat milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
¼ tsp almond extract
1 T organic sugar
½ tsp salt
1 T fresh lemon juice
In the bowl of a food processor, add the almonds. Process the nuts for about 2 minutes until broken down to a paste, scraping down the sides intermittently.
Add the yogurt and ½ cup of oat milk and process another minute, again scraping down the sides. If the mixture seems very dry, add in a bit more oat milk.
Add the rest of the ingredients and process another 2-3 minutes, again scraping down the sides, until everything is well blended and a similar consistency to ricotta cheese.
Taste for sweetness and flavoring, and add what you like.
If it seems a bit gritty, some of that will melt down when the pie is baked.
Pour the entire filling into the cooled graham cracker crust and smooth out evenly.
Bake in the bottom third of the oven at 350 degrees for 30-40 minutes. How much bake time will depend on your oven. The top should feel baked but not be browned. Let the pie cool completely, and then refrigerate several hours before topping with the figs.
About 12 fresh figs of choice, depending on size
½ an 8.5 oz. jar fig spread
1 T Dark agave syrup
1 tsp water
Zest of one large lemon
Mint sprigs, optional
Gently wash and thoroughly dry the figs. Using a serrated bread knife, slice the figs lengthwise about 1/8 inch thick. Nibble on or discard the outer slices. Set aside.
In a small saucepan, heat the fig spread, agave and water over medium low heat until hot, stirring the whole time to prevent burning. Press down on the fig bits with the back of a spoon to try to break them down.
When the mixture has the consistency of pourable syrup, remove from the heat and press through a fine mesh strainer over a small nonmetal bowl to separate out the seeds.
Brush a bit of the syrup onto the top of the pie to cover the surface. This will moisten the cake and help the figs adhere. Arrange the figs in a circle, starting with the outside working your way to the center. Use the larger slices on the perimeter of the pie.
Brush the tops of the figs with the fig syrup. If the syrup has congealed a bit, melt it in the microwave a few seconds. Sprinkle the figs with the lemon zest.
Decorate with a few sprigs of fresh mint, if desired.
While you can serve immediately, its best to let it chill an hour to really set the figs for easier slicing.
About Deborah Brooks
Deborah is currently a documentary film producer. She is also a former certified personal trainer and fitness nutrition coach. The shutdown of business due to Covid-19 and the implication of an animal wet market connection caused her to rethink her high animal protein food lifestyle. She has spent the last year exploring the world of plant based eating for her own health as well as the health of the planet and all of its sentient beings. Her recipes can be found on Instagram. She would love you to follow along on her journey.
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