Finding the Favor of the Friends

September 2009

I can imagine it so clearly- the three of them in a Brillobox booth, drinks in hand, breaking down the reasons why I was a risky bet versus why I might be worth it.  I was younger and fresh from a broken relationship.  I was also intelligent and interesting and born in Nebraska.  His head was spinning, and he thought these friends would set it straight.  “So this Nebraska girl, how did you meet?”  “So this Nebraska girl…” they said.  They said it until it stuck.  Then they invited him and his new “ladyfriend” to their Sunday foodie brunch.  This man meant something to me, and I intended to make a good impression.  Nothing makes an impression quite like homemade pie on a warm, Sunday afternoon.

I captured the sentiments and flavors of summer:  tart lemons and refreshing figs with a burst of almond flavor in the crust.

Then I put on my Nebraska shirt and joined my man in the red ‘yota.  Once the protective friends saw the shirt, they had to confess to having nicknamed me on the night when he had been so confused.  They had been trying to keep it a secret, but my shirt was my way of saying, “I respect your concern.  No need to erase the new habit.  I want your nicknames and your friendship.”  That’s exactly what happened.  I was embraced!  How appropriate for my Midwest roots that there was a Wall Drug mug of coffee awaiting me at dessert time!

My summer flavors were on the same page as the other baker in the circle.  Erica had also prepared a fig tart.

Pie Crust

4 oz cream cheese
14 Tablespoons unsalted butter
2 1/4 cups + 2 Tablespoons Whole-Wheat, Pastry Flour
1/4 Teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
8 Tablespoons ice water
1 Tablespoon Cider Vinegar

Directions

Place mixing bowl and flour in freezer to chill.

Place the flour, salt and baking powder in a medium bowl and whisk to combine.  Add the cream cheese, and rub the mixture between your fingers to blend the cream cheese into the flour until it resembles course meal.

Cut the butter into small pieces and add to mixture.

Add ice water as needed until the mixture can be formed into a ball.

Form into two discs, cover in plastic and chill in refrigerator.

Remove the chilled discs and roll into 1/8” to 1/4” disc shapes.

Press the dough into pie pan and prebake until lightly crisp (about 10 minutes)

Lemon Custard

3 large eggs
1/2 cup pure cane sugar
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
2 large egg yolks
1+ tablespoons grated lemon peel
1/2 cup (1 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1/4 cup half and half
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon almond extract

Directions

Combine first 5 ingredients in heavy large saucepan and whisk to blend.

Add butter.

Whisk over medium heat until filling thickens and leaves path on back of spoon when finger is drawn across, about 13 minutes (do not boil).

Mix in half and half, vanilla extract, almond extract and zest. Whisk until filling is very thick and smooth and just begins to bubble, about 6 minutes.

Transfer to bowl. Cool 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Cover; chill until very cold, about 4 hours. (Can be made 3 days ahead. Keep chilled.)

Fruit Topping

Slice purple and green figs
1 slice lemon

Assembly

Preheat oven to 350˚F.

Pour lemon custard into the pre-baked tart shell.

Arrange the figs in a circular pattern with a lemon slice in the center.

Bake until custard sets.

Serve to new boyfriend’s friends on a sunny Sunday afternoon.  Impress the friends.

Foster new friendships while recovering from fullness.

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