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December 2011

In Late Late Summer

I should have dug this recipe out a month ago, but what a late summer it has been in Vancouver. These first three figs will not make it into a cake, but here's hoping that they signal the ripening of a few more (I am still sceptical). If you are luckier, here is recipe that is inspired by my Russian Mennonite grandmothers and by the plethora of fig trees planted by Greek and Italian families in Vancouver, BC Canada.

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FIG PLATZ, Lois Klassen - From Flavours of Vancouver: Dishes From Around the World, Sheila Peacock and Joan Cross, ed., Douglas & McIntyre and CBC, 2005.

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

2 tsp baking powder

1 1/2 cups granulated sugar, divided

1/2 tsp salt

1 cup butter, cold & cubed

2 large eggs

1 tsp vanilla extract

3/4 cup milk

2 tsp orange or lemon zest

ripe fresh figs (about 20), cut in half (top to bottom)

PREHEAT oven to 350' Prepare a 10x15 in jelly-roll pan by greasing and flouring it lightly (or use a non-stick pan).

In a large bowl mix flour, baking powder, 1 cup of the sugar and alt. Cut in butter until the pieces are size of small peas. Set 1 cup of the crumbled mixture aside for the topping. In a small bowl, mix eggs, vanilla and milk. Stir the wet ingredients into the crumb mixture. Stir in the zest. Spread mixture in the pan.

Arrange the figs with the open side up in rows. They should be close together but not touching, so that the cake can be cut into individual pieces after baking. Make the topping by mixing the reserved crumb mixture with the remaining 1/2 cup sugar. Sprinkle the topping evenly over the fruit.

Bake for 40-45 minutes, or until browned and a toothpick comes out clean. Once cool, it can be served with ice cream or yogurt sweetened with a little brown sugar. I have drizzled a tiny bit of brandy into the centre of each fig before baking, with pretty good success, but it is not necessary.

The green figs that grow in my back yard have a surprising effect when they are baked - they produce a smoky flavour that does not come out otherwise. They also turn a beautiful deep purple and seem to moisten the rest of the cake perfectly - not soggy, like platz made from other fruit seems to get on day two. This cake looks fantastic on the plate and holds its shape for a few days.