Figs are one of those fruits you either like or don’t — personally, I’ve loved them all of my life, and I will eat them any way that I find them. The more traditional way you generally find them is dried, especially around the holidays, but I’ve also had the great pleasure to enjoy some fresh ones that were as big as my fist, and bursting open with sweetness.
Over the past few years, I’ve found smaller ones at conventional grocery stores packed in those clear plastic clam shell containers. That’s about the size that you will find in colder climates, like here in Maryland. Occasionally, I do come across a mature fig tree here in Maryland but they can be a bit temperamental — but if the conditions are right, you will definitely reap a nice harvest throughout the summer.
Last year I attended an event during the holidays where small trays of mini pastries were being passed around. I was surprised to see these small fresh figs dipped in chocolate next to the many other delicious pastries on the tray. Little did I know that my real surprise was yet to come.
First of all, they looked beautifully plump and were dusted with gold – a perfect 2-bite alternative to the other pastries. As I bit into the fig, the dark chocolate couverture exterior snapped to reveal a rich, dark chocolate truffle filling inside of the fig. It took every ounce of restraint I had not to drop everything and go running after the server. I really wanted to find him and confiscate every remaining fig on his tray. As I left the function, the figs were still on my mind. I left there with one goal in mind — to make them this holiday season…lots of them.
Each November, I start prepping for my holiday baking and cooking. I will usually make a visit to my favorite international stores and stock up on ingredients I can’t find anywhere else. I also make a big batch of my double chocolate nut fruit cake, make my candied orange peel, and I also start stocking the freezer with some of my favorite cakes, like the pumpkin cream cheese cake, all of my cookie dough, especially my mother’s kourabiethes (Greek shortbread). I’ve never been one to buy gifts during the holiday season, but I do like to buy beautiful serving plates/platters or cookie jars and fill them with all sorts of homemade goodies. I’ve been doing this for years, and people really seem to appreciate the gesture.
So this year, I wanted to experiment with these fresh figs and find out the best way to make them. Make a bunch of them and serve them by themselves or add them to a tray of mixed pastries for your own holiday table or for the platters of goodies you plan to share as gifts. I found my figs at the store, but there are many online sources that you can check with if you need a larger quantity.
I discovered that using dark chocolate is preferable to semi-sweet chocolate to make the truffle filling which goes inside the fig. I like to use Guittard dark chocolate chips and there is a huge difference in texture and flavor compared to semi-sweet chocolate. You also need a really good quality dark chocolate that you can melt (or temper) for dipping. If you need a dipping chocolate that does not require tempering and is a little easier to work with, try something called Prima Coating made by Cacao Barry. This is the only non tempering chocolate that I recommend because it tastes OK and is easy to work with.
I hope you have a chance to make these over the holidays because they are not only real show stoppers, but also make a unique alternative for those special guests you really want to impress.
Chocolate Truffle Holiday Figs
½ cup heavy cream, heated in microwave
1 3/4 cups Guittard dark chocolate chips
1/4 cup Meyers Rum (or a good brandy, whiskey or cognac)
First you need to make the truffle filling a few hours before you plan to use the filling. I actually make it the night before and cover the bowl with plastic and let it set up at room temperature. It should be a perfect spreadable consistency. Heat the heavy cream in the microwave and then add the chocolate a little at a time until it has all melted. You may need to reheat it slightly as the mixture cools down with the addition of the chocolate chips. Once it is completely smooth, add the liquor and stir well until it is combined into the truffle filling. Cover and set this aside at room temperature and allow the filling to set up. You do not want to put it in the refrigerator because it will be too firm to pipe out.
Once the truffle filling has set, grab yourself one of those gallon size ziplock bags which make a great pastry bag. This quantity of filling will fill quite a few of the small size figs, so use your judgement as to how much to add to the bag. Once you have added the quantity you need, set this aside and prepare the figs.
The next step is to prep the figs. Since they are so small and ripe, you have to be careful in how to handle them. I do not recommend washing them, but simply wipe them with a small, damp towel.
Using a sharp knife and make 4 slits on the bottom of the fig in the shape of a square.
Remove the bottom carefully, and carefully trim away any of the inside part of the fig. Be careful not to damage it, and set it aside for the time. Make sure to keep the figs and their bottoms together!
Next, take the ziploc bag filled with the truffle filling, and cut a small piece off one of the corners to create a tip. Fille each fig until they are full, and replace the bottom piece of fig. Some of the chocolate might ooze out around the edges, so just wipe this clean with your finger. Place each fig onto a plate or tray (bottom down) and refrigerate for a few hours until completely set. If you have a piece of parchment paper, place the paper on the plate or tray, and put the figs on the paper. This will help in preventing the bottom of the figs from sticking to the plate.
After they have set for a few hours, you can melt the chocolate in a microwave safe container and dip each fig into the chocolate. Make sure to wipe the bottom of each fig of any dripping chocolate, and again, place them back onto the parchment paper. Since they were previously chilled, the chocolate coating will set fairly quickly — so make sure to work fast. Put them all side by side on a paper lined tray and then use a little gold dust to add some shimmer. They are truly irresistible in every way.