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12 September 2012

Hazelnut Pancakes with Roasted Figs & Reduced Marsala Sauce and Hallstatt, Austria


There's a question that has been bugging us for years.  Should we take it down or not? 

We have a full-grown fig tree that is too close to the garage wall that we share with our neighbor.  When we moved in to our house, it had already been big and had been yielding a lot of figs in summer.  I love figs so I am against taking it down.  My husband will save anything that lives so he is also against cutting it.  


Our neighbor, the practical one, tried more than once to convince us to take it down because it will eventually destroy the wall.   We are all aware of that possibility.  There is already a starting of a small crack so the issue is becoming more imperative to be decided on.  I would still like to hold my ground and say leave the tree alone.  Perhaps wait for a bigger crack?  Can you hear a slight desperation in my voice?  This reminds me of the unique way the pear trees are grown in Hallstatt, Austria They are planted against the walls and are grown flat against them.  I didn't notice any cracks in THEIR walls. 


We tried planting a couple of black fig trees a few years ago but well, we were not born with green thumbs so ahem...they died.  Both of them.   We were hoping to have back-up trees in case the existing one's fate of being taken down arrives.  


Out at Eataly recently, I spotted the last few pieces of some late-harvest black figs.  I got all of them in the nick of time because there was a man right behind me who was going for them too.  What is this big demand for black figs?  I also grabbed myself a pack of hazelnut flour which is rarely available in the regular supermarkets. 


I had been thinking of making a hazelnut cake but the figs and the sudden thought of reduced Marsala sauce kept on lighting up in my mind.  I had been lazy to create a cake so I thought of making some pancakes instead using the hazelnut flour.  I roasted the figs without putting anything to take out their sweetness.  Then the reduced Marsala.  I finally found a reason to put it to test.  The sauce made immediate friends with the roasted figs and hazelnut pancakes.  They were spectacular together!  Enjoy them as dessert or breakfast.  


My husband and I visited Hallstatt a long time ago, in 2002, when the first few models of digital cameras were still a big luxury to have.  So we were lugging around our cameras using film when we still didn't have the freedom to click a hundred pictures in one sitting.  Do you still remember how limited we were with the films before?   The pictures I posted here are scanned copies of  the original photos.


Hallstatt is known for its prehistoric salt production.   In fact, the world's oldest salt mine is located in the area.   Some of its first archeological evidence are from the Celtic civilization.  The town is very small, which can be toured on foot in less than half an hour.  One of the interesting places to see is the small ossuary where the village keeps the elaborately decorated skulls of the inhabitants.  The part I liked most is the quaint square with the colored houses surrounding it.  The walk itself around the town is visually rewarding.

Enjoy the rest of your week!




Hazelnut Pancakes with Roasted Figs & Reduced Marsala Sauce

Ingredients:
Makes about 4 pancakes or about 5 servings
  • 1/4 cup flour 
  • 1/2 cup hazelnut flour (You can make your own by grinding the hazelnut in a fine and strong grinder like a coffee grinder.)  
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup + 1 tablespoon white sugar
  • 1 teaspoon soft butter + some for buttering the skillet
  • 1 egg
  • 2 figs, wedges (1 whole sliced to 8 wedges)
  • 1/2 cup Marsala
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • fresh mint leaves (optional)
Directions:
  1. In a bowl, mix the flours, baking powder, milk, salt, 1 teaspoon butter, egg and 1 tablespoon sugar in a bowl.  Mix until smooth.  Let it rest for at least half an hour in the refrigerator.
  2. While the pancake batter is in the refrigerator, prepare the Marsala sauce and the figs.
  3. In a small saucepan, mix the water & sugar.  Let it boil.  When it boils, add the Marsala.  Simmer until the volume is diminished by half and it becomes syrupy.  Set aside.
  4. Warm up a non-stick saucepan on the stove.  When it's warm. put the fig wedges and roast both sides quickly, about 1 minute each side.  Set aside. 
  5. On low - medium heat, warm up a medium skillet.  Rub a knob of butter so that the pancakes won't stick.  Ladle some of the pancake mixture on the skillet.  When it starts to move easily on the skillet, cook the other side.  Repeat until mixture is finished.
  6. If you prefer to make smaller round shapes like what I did, use a food shaper or a cookie cutter with a 7.5 cm. diameter.  One pancake yields 4 smaller pancakes.
  7. Pile 3 small pancakes alternating with a little bit of Marsala sauce.
  8. Top with 3 roasted fig wedges with a couple of fresh mint leaves sandwiched in between the figs.  Pour Marsala sauce on top.
  9. Best when served warm.