A weekend off...much like the day off, I plan days ahead about what I'd like to cook or bake. It hit me huge this past weekend, having all that time on my hands, just how much cooking and/or baking really does an amazing job of quieting my mind. Better than therapy. And free...well, save for any ingredients that need to be purchased.
Pan de Higo....according to the lovely folk at The Gilded Fork, is Spanish in origin...a flourless 'cake' of figs and almonds. I was introduced to it by a friend a few months ago, paired with olives and a good aged Parmesan...I was instantly in love...chewy, nutty, figgy, spices playing on the tongue...I vowed to give it a try instead of paying a lot of money for it at Whole Foods. (Don't get me wrong, I LOVE Whole Foods...it's a great big candy store of fun for me...but financially, not a good idea.) Upon finding both the Gilded Fork's recipe and a slightly altered version here, I decided that the weekend off was the time to try it. I had everything I needed. Well, except for brandy. Happily enough, I knew that BevMo! carried an extensive collection of minis...so a Friday night visit after work, $4.00 plunked down on the counter, one tiny bottle of Remy Martin in my purse later and Pan de Higo could be made!
I used a 14 oz. package dried figs...since they were crystallizing, I soaked them in warm water for a few minutes to soften them (when you mix your ingredients, don't forget to squeeze as much water from them as possible)...also adding two ounces of dried Mission figs which were much softer. I substituted most of the almonds for almond meal, but used about 1/4 cup of roughly chopped toasted almonds...not having a food processor lead me to using my trusty pastry blender...it worked well...and works out your arm to boot. I divvied up the mix into a muffin pan and made a small loaf. I let it set for 3 days. Pleased with the results, but on the next try I'm going to stick to using moister dried figs, because it's not as dry as I would like and I think soaking them definitely contributed to it. That also lead to me using only 1 tbsp of brandy to bring it all together. I will tell you, the Pan de Higo paired beautifully with Asiago...AND even went well with a thin smear of cream cheese atop my addictive thin Wasa.
Pan de Higo
(adapted from The Gilded Fork and Apple Pie, Patis & Pate)
1 pound dried figs
1/2 cup almond meal
1/4 cup almonds, roughly chopped
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
2 tablespoons sesame seeds
1/2 teaspoon anise seeds
1 tablespoon honey
pinch of cinnamon
2-3 tablespoons of brandy
Chop the figs into small pieces, removing the stems. Toast almonds and almond meal for about 5 minutes. Toss all ingredients, except for brandy, in mixing bowl. Using the pastry blender, mix and mince until you have the consistency of a rough paste. Make sure all the ingredients are being incorporated. It's a matter of working it all together. Like a fig dough. Feel free to use your hands to really mix it well. Add the brandy, tablespoon by tablespoon, as needed. Once it's all mixed into a dough-like consistency, you can either spoon it into a muffin pan to make little cake forms or roll it into loaves. I like the serving size of the muffin pan. Flatten the mix into each portion. Cover and set in a cool, dry place for 2-3 days. It gives the mixture a chance to mingle and mellow out. To remove from muffin pan, run the tip of knife along the edge to loosen from the mold. I used an angled icing knife which worked like a charm.