Licorice sometimes gets a bad rep as one of those flavors that people either love or hate, but chef Spencer Bezaire of L&E Oyster Bar can’t seem to get enough. We found him at the Santa Monica Farmers Market this week, gathering the last of this season’s anise and mint-scented hyssop plants to use in everything from mignonettes and salad vinaigrettes and even a brown butter fig tart at his restaurant in Silver Lake.
Chef Bezaire says every part of the shrubby hyssop can be used, right down to the stems that he steeps in honey to capture their essential oils. To add a touch of savory to balance the sweetness of his brown butter fig tart, he whips up an airy goat cheese speckled with flecks of tiny purple hyssop buds. He then finishes each slice with a drizzling of the hyssop honey and a sprinkling of toasted pine nuts.
If you have any hyssop honey leftover, Bezaire suggests pairing it with aged blue cheese or as a sweetener for hot or iced teas.
BROWN BUTTER FIG TART WITH WHIPPED GOAT CHEESE & HYSSOP HONEY
Chef Bezaire suggests using flowering Thai basil or chocolate mint if you can’t find hyssop at your local market.
Yield: Makes one 9-inch tart
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tbsps granulated sugar
10 ozs unsalted butter
5 tbsps ice water
½ tsp vanilla extract
A 9-inch tart pan
Pie weights or dried beans, to blind bake your tart shell.
Brown Butter Fig Filling (recipe follows below)
Whipped Goat Cheese (recipe follows below)
12 fresh green Adriatic figs, sliced to ¼-inch thick cross-sections
Pine nuts, toasted
Hyssop Honey, for drizzling (recipe follows below)
Using the paddle attachment of a mixer, cream the butter and sugar together in a large bowl until smooth. Add in the vanilla extract, followed by the flour. As the dough mixture begins to pull away from the sides of the bowl, slowly drizzle in the ice water. Continue mixing until a soft dough forms. Form the dough into flat disk with your hands and refrigerate for 1 hour.
Prepare the dough: Butter a 9-inch tart pan. Rub flour over your rolling pin and roll your dough out to approximately ⅛-inch thickness over a lightly floured surface. Then, drape the dough over the tart pan and press it into the bottom and sides, being careful not to tear it.
Blind bake the crust: Preheat the oven to 325ºF. Place a sheet of parchment paper over the surface of your crust and lay down pie weights. Transfer the crust to the oven and blind bake it for 45 minutes. Then remove the pie weights and parchment paper and return your crust to the oven to bake for an additional 15 minutes.
Bake the tart: Increase the oven heat to 350ºF.
Pour the Brown Butter Fig Filling into the pre-baked tart shell and bake for about 35 minutes or until the middle of the filling sets. You can test for doneness by inserting a toothpick. Transfer the tart to a wire rack to cool.
To serve: Spoon the Whipped Goat Cheese and sprinkled the toasted pine nuts over each of tart. Drizzle with Hyssop Honey and serve.
BROWN BUTTER FIG FILLING
2 ozs unsalted butter
1 vanilla bean pod, split
2 tbsps Pernod or another similar French pastis
1 cup fresh figs, sliced into cross-sections
4 whole eggs
¾ cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp Kosher salt
½ tsp almond extract
1¾ cups powdered sugar
1 cup almond flour
Make the filling: Melt the butter and scrape in the vanilla beans into a small saucepan over high heat. Stir constantly until the butter begins to brown, then remove from heat and add the 2 tablespoons of Pernod. Return the pan to heat and add in the chopped figs. Continue to heat for 2 more minutes to burn off the alcohol and then set aside.
Using the whisk attachment of a mixer, whisk the eggs and powdered sugar together in a bowl until frothy. Keep your mixer on a low speed setting as you slowly pour in the brown butter mixture. Next, add in the flour, almond flour, salt, almond extract and mix until evenly incorporated.
Preheat the oven to 350ºF.
Pour the Brown Butter Fig Filling into the pre-baked tart shell and bake for about 35 minutes or until the middle of the filling sets. You can test for doneness by inserting a toothpick.
WHIPPED GOAT CHEESE
2 ozs creamy goat cheese (not salty)
2 oz heavy cream
1 tbsp powdered sugar
1 tbsp hyssop buds, finely chopped
Whisk all of the ingredients together in a bowl until the mixture stiffens a little and medium-sized peaks form.
2 cups amber honey
1 cup hyssop stems and leaves, roughly chopped
Whole hyssop blossoms, for garnish
In a small saucepan, heat the honey until just before it boils. Add the hyssop stems and leaves and continue to simmer on low heat for another 5 minutes. Then, turn off the heat and allow to infuse for 1 hour before using.
Header image (top) of green figs by Bharat Mirchandani.