I have come to realize that baking is my favorite way to pass the time before going into labor. Part of this is purely practical: making lots of baked goods like muffins and breakfast breads to freeze makes for easy and nutritious mornings after baby is born. I also love freezing balls of cookie dough for fresh-baked cookies anytime! But there is something therapeutic and relaxing about the rhythm of measuring and mixing and the aroma of good things baking...and that's good for the soul!
This past week, I had a new challenge to keep me occupied in the kitchen. My mother's neighbor has a huge fig tree, and we were invited to pick all we wanted. So, with a huge bowl full of fresh figs, I had a dilemma: what to do with them? I had never even tasted a fresh fig before this ~ they are delicious just to eat! ~ much less cooked with them. My mom gave me a fig bar recipe that she had used with great success ~ like homemade fig newtons, basically. But, of course, I had to go off the beaten path and find a different recipe. It didn't turn out properly at all. The dough didn't hold together when I tried to enclose the fig filling, and we ended up with shapeless and ugly ~ though totally tasty ~ fig cookies. And it figures that I had doubled the recipe...I really should have tested it first. Bummer.
Undaunted, I decided to go the savory route with the rest of my bowl of figs. I found a recipe for a carmelized onion, fig, and goat cheese dip for crusty french bread on Food Network's website. Not having any crusty french bread on hand, I decided it would work just as well for a gourmet pizza topping. I tweaked the recipe to reflect what I had on hand: fresh figs instead of dried (no reconstituting needed), and fresh, raw sheep's milk gouda cheese (from the Benedictine monastery at Clear Creek) instead of goat cheese. Oh, Heaven. It was so delicious! I should have doubled the amount of carmelized onions, but it was so tasty. The gouda was just a bit smoky, the onions and figs sweet, the garlic savory and spicy...yum! I look forward to making this again and perfecting it ~ once I have it down, I'll post it here for you to try.
The motto from this week's experiments in the kitchen? Don't be afraid to try new things! Every experiment ~ even the ones that don't turn out (and sometimes especially those!) ~ is a learning experience. And me? I'm ready to go pick some more figs!