Madeleines of tonka beans, or the art of the offhand shortcut! It would be an insult to assume that a dessert chez Marquet could consist of nothing more than a few skinny madeleines set on a plate and sprinkled with beans. The pastry was hardly more than a pretext, that of a psalm – sweet, honeyed, fondant and dripping – where, in the mad confusion of sponge, candied fruits, icings, crepes, chocolate, sabayons, red berries, ice creams and sorbets, a progressive passage from hot to cold was being explored by my expert tongue; it clucked with compulsive satisfaction, it danced a devilish jig at the merriest of balls.
– The Gourmet, Muriel Barbery
When we were young, on special occasions, my mother made a seemingly simple, yet mouth-wateringly luscious dessert, Stewed Apricots with Cream. I waited for those times. Textured, silky, syrupy combination of the apricots (served warm) with heavy cream, made for an eye-catching presentation. Understated and elegant. And the smell, so tantalizing! Recently, I came across another version of this dessert in Brooklyn, Wine-stewed Prunes with Mascarpone, a grown-up version of my childhood favorite. Equally delicious.
I have my own take. Although you can use most dried fruits, I prefer figs. The seeds provide a crunchy component and, more importantly, my kids love figs. Instead of wine, the taste of which I found a little too present, I stew in water with bitters, cardamom and just a drizzle of honey as the natural sweetness of the fruit tends to come through.
- Dried figs, 1 pound
- Mascarpone, 2 8oz. containers
- Angostura aromatic bitters
- Cardamom, seeds of 6-8 pods, extracted and crushed
- Combine figs, cardamom, 4-5 splashes of bitters, a drizzle of honey (about 1-2 tbsp) and enough water to cover the figs in a pot over medium-high heat. When mixture boils, reduce to simmer and cook for about 45 minutes or until the liquid turns syrupy.
- Remove from heat, and rest for 15 minutes or so. Add some of the syrup to a helping of mascarpone cheese and mix to get a smooth texture, almost yogurt-like. Spread on the plate, add figs and drizzle with more syrup. Serve warm.