If You've Never Tried Figs, You Need to Make This Recipe
Scott Conant has turned me into a self-proclaimed "fig person."
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As a Croatian-American, my childhood was filled with a lot of unique and delicious foods. While other kids had their lunch boxes filled with bologna sandwiches and fruit roll-ups, mine was crammed with baggies full of čajni kolutići (tea rings), bananko (chocolate-covered bananas), kiki (fruit chews) and napolitanke (cream-filled wafer cookies.) And though I absolutely loved all of those, and still do, there were other Croatian staples — like punjene paprike (stuffed peppers), brudet (Fisherman’s stew) and bakalar (salted cod fish) — I just couldn’t get behind. This was never more evident than when I would go to Croatia every summer and someone would offer me a bowl of freshly picked smokve or, in English, figs.
My aversion to the syrupy fruit got so bad that it's now a running joke in my family that I’m “the worst Croatian ever.” And though my parents have tried to incorporate figs into everything from paninis to pizza, I just couldn’t bring myself to actually sit down and eat anything with figs in it.
So you could imagine everyone’s shock — and dare I say near elation — when I came home a few weeks ago and proclaimed that figs were my new favorite food. I don’t think I’ve ever seen my father so speechless. Seriously, it was as if I had come home and told him I just had won the lottery. My mother’s reaction was even more priceless. After sitting at the kitchen table in stunned silence for about five minutes she looked up at me in awe and asked, “How did this happen?” My two-word answer shocked her even more: “Scott Conant.”
I’ve been a super fan of Scott Conant since I first saw him as “the tough judge” on season one of Chopped. So you could only imagine how devastated I was when I found out that Scott had been filming live cooking classes in our test kitchen and I had missed the opportunity to see him. To say that I was pretty bummed out would be a total understatement; I was so sad I walked around our entire office, wallowing the whole time with a pout on my face. I was on my second lap around when a co-worker of mine stopped me and asked if I wanted to try a fig cake that had been baked the day before by none other than Scott Conant himself.
Figs or no figs, I wasn’t going to pass up the opportunity to eat something that had been made by one of my idols. Truth be told, I was fully prepared to take the petite cake back to my cubicle and pick the figs off before eating it. But there was something about the beautiful, near candy-like fig slices on top that had me second guessing what I had felt about figs my entire life.
Grabbing a fork, it was finally the moment of truth. With just one bite, my entire world turned upside down. I was so dumbfounded, I think I even squealed out loud. From the light sweetness of the batter to the fig topping’s crunchy texture, the cake was everything I wanted figs to taste like in the past but never got to experience. Gone was the overtly moist, drippy-texture I had come to loathe and it’s its place was a balanced blend of subtle sweetness and roasted berry flavor.
Naturally after my shock wore off, I had to see how this magical cake was created and tuned in to Scott’s Fig Cakes with Sweet Ricotta class on the Food Network Kitchen app. And what I found there had me loving the simple cake recipe even more. What I found so ingenious was that Scott places his fig slices at the bottom of his cupcake trays and coats them with two teaspoons of brown sugar before covering them with his batter mixture. This not only enhances the figs natural sweetness by helping with the caramelization process, it also makes inverting your cakes after baking them super easy. Literally all you have to do is flip over your pan!
Though fig season doesn’t officially start until May, I can’t wait to make these luscious cakes every weekend this spring. And though my parents are still skeptical about my new found love of figs — “We’ll see what happens this summer when you get to Croatia,” my dad keeps telling me — I’m really excited to now be an actual "fig person."