One of my favorite childhood memories is of climbing the large fig tree in my family’s yard every August to gather the sweet fruit along with my two cousins. We enjoyed the “adventure” of climbing the tree to pick the figs while our parents, grandmother and aunts indulged in eating the ripe fruit. My husband and I recently bought a one family home here in New York and much to our delight the yard contains a number of fig trees. This being our first summer in our new home, we were delighted to see that dozens of figs sprouted on the dense branches of our fig trees beginning in late July and were even happier to see how well they ripened by the end of August. I brought in a fresh batch today and seeing the quantity, wanted to do much more than just eat them as a snack. My first inclination was to make a traditional Greek spoon sweet, that way we can savor the fruits of our garden for weeks down the line. As I’ve been too lazy to venture out and find cooking lime though, I decided to make a phyllo dessert filled with custard and ripened figs. And as there were still plenty more figs to consume, I tried my hand at a fig jam shared by Ivy over at http://kopiaste.org/. It all turned out just figgy.
I made this using more of a Greek custard for the filling, which comes out fairly thick, and which I love. A slightly thinner custard may work more to your liking.
1 Box of Phyllo Dough (preferably #7)
4 cups of whole milk
1 ½ cups sugar, plus one tablespoon
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
4 tablespoons plus 1 ½ sticks of butter
¾ cup fine semolina
3 eggs, lightly beaten
One tablespoon cinnamon
Powdered sugar, for dusting
12 ripe figs, rinsed and dried
2 tablespoons of brandy
Heat the milk, 1 cup of sugar, lemon zest and 4 tablespoons of butter in a saucepan to a simmer. Add the semolina while whisking and allow to thicken slightly. Remove the saucepan from the heat and add the beaten eggs, whisking briskly. Place the saucepan back on low heat and continue whisking briskly for a minute or so. Remove from heat and set aside to cool to room temperature, stirring occasionally.
Combine one tablespoon of cinnamon and ½ cup sugar and set aside.
While custard is cooling, remove stems from figs and slice in half. Place in a sauce pan with brandy and one tablespoon of sugar and cook until heated through.
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Once custard has cooled to room temperature, melt the remaining butter. Coat a 10 inch round cake pan with butter and begin layering phyllo starting by placing the corner of one sheet in the middle of the pan and allowing its remaining corners to overhang. Continue placing the corners of three more sheets of phyllo in the center of the pan. Brush the sheets liberally with butter and dust with the cinnamon/sugar mixture. Repeat this step making two more layers of phyllo, brushing each layer with butter and dusting with the cinnamon sugar once completed (you should have used 12 sheets total).
Pour custard into pan and top with figs. Begin folding over the layers of phyllo, making sure to brush each with butter and sprinkle with any remaining cinnamon sugar.
Bake until golden (my oven seems to take longer – needed almost an hour to get adequate color and crispness of the phyllo right). Sprinkle with powdered sugar once removed from the oven.
Serve warm or at room temperature.