Juliana and I both adore a good cheese plate. Unfortunately the cheese plate’s allure—so easy to throw together and ever so fancy—threatens to be its very downfall. As Lazy Gourmets, of course, we love any fabulous culinary offering that can be pulled together with minimal effort, but we also always want to wow our friends with our mad kitchen skillz. An impressive assortment of fancy cheeses can be picked up at any cheese shop, and even many supermarkets these days, but a cheese plate consisting only of cheese—even with the addition of fresh fruit—is lacking that special something that says “Hey, we know our way around a kitchen. You should worship us.” To that end, we’ve been busily developing recipes for cheese accompaniments. You’ll find a few of these in our book—like our Plum and Currant Mostarda and Orange Spiced Pecans. But lately, I’ve been obsessed with those dark, sticky, nut-studded slices that sometimes adorn cheese plates in fancy restaurants. A bit of expert research turned up several recipes for a Spanish dish called Pan de Higo or “fig bread.” It’s a bit of a misnomer since, well, there’s really no bread to it at all. It is simply figs, spices, almonds (and sometimes sesame seeds), honey, and brandy mixed together into a sturdy paste, formed into a log or loaf, weighted down, and left to set. Thinly sliced, it is a perfect partner for a creamy, salty and sharp blue cheese like bleu d’Auvergne or strong hard cheeses like Parmigianno-Reggiano or Manchego.
The pan can be formed into any shape, really. Make several small ones using a standard sized muffin tin as a mold, wrap them in pretty paper tied with a rustic raffia bow, and it makes a great holiday or hostess gift.
Pan de Higo, can be stored, tightly wrapped, in the fridge for a month or longer.
- 4 ounces blanched almonds
- 1 pound dried figs, stemmed and halved or quartered if large
- ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 tablespoon honey
- ½ teaspoon anise seeds
- 1 to 2 tablespoons brandy
- Lightly toast the almonds in a skillet over medium heat.
- Pulse the almonds in a food processor to chop coarsely, place them into a medium mixing bowl, and set aside.
- Add the figs to the food processor (you don't need to clean the food processor or blade in between) and process until well minced.
- Add the cinnamon and continue to process to a paste.
- Add the fig mixture to the almonds along with the anise seeds and mix until well combined.
- Stir in the honey and the brandy, adding just enough of the latter to bring the mixture together.
- Lightly flour a clean work surface and dump the fig mixture onto it. Form the mixture into a loaf or log shape.
- Lightly flour a piece of parchment paper and wrap the pan de higo tightly in it, twisting the paper closed at the ends, and place it in a cool place and top with a heavy weight such as a cast-iron pot filled with canned goods or other heavy objects.
- Let sit for 2 to 3 days before serving.
- To serve, slice about ⅛-inch thick and fan slices out on a cheese plate alongside a selection of cheeses and fresh fruits.