chocolate and fig shortbread (2) 

“So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.”

I read the The Great Gatsby when I was in high school. Curiously, I have no memory at all of this beautifully melancholic, metaphoric closing line. It’s a line wasted on youth. At least, it was wasted on me.

At the moment I’m working on a project about Sir John A. Macdonald, Canada’s first Prime Minister. He is a fantastic character – whose remarkable intellect and sense of humour was only exceeded by his many foibles including an addiction to alcohol and a penchant for women of ‘dubious distinction.’

If I wasn’t in the middle of all this writing and researching about Sir John A., I’d down tools and start re-reading The Great Gatsby immediately. It’s first up on my reading list as soon as I get through my work. And next after that is a Hemingway binge. For the past few years, I’ve been revisiting literature that I either skipped entirely or was wasted on me earlier – Steinbeck, Emily Bronte, Virginia Woolf, and Sylvia Plath. My favourite book from my recent reading list was Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar followed closely by The Diving Bell and the Butterfly by Jean Dominque Beauby. But I also loved Steinbeck – especially The Grapes of Wrath and Travels with Charley. If I didn’t have so much reading to do – I’d read them all again, immediately. So many books, so little time…

Which brings me to figs. Another thing wasted on youth!

When I was very young, I was given a dried fig at a very posh, adult Christmas party. I was wearing a red velvet dress with stockings and black patent leather shoes. A pearl headband in my hair. Before we went in, I was read the riot act about how to behave. So when I was given a fig, I took a small bite and then nearly died trying to eat the mouthful of horrible dried, seedy pulp. I had nothing else to eat for the duration of the entire party because I had the remainder of the fig clutched in my hand and didn’t know what to do with it. I held it there throughout the party and then all the way home in the car, my hand folded up inside my mitten, clutched around the fig which was melting into my warm little hand – a big brown gooey sticky blob. I was afraid to tell anyone. So I kept quiet, and when I got home, I went straight to the bathroom and scrubbed my hands. I thought I’d never eat a fig again so long as I lived.

Then I went to live in Australia. And I discovered fig trees and the joy of eating fresh figs plucked straight from the tree. Now I love figs – one of my favourite fruits – fresh or dried. The season for fresh figs in Canada is short. They are imported though according to this story in The Toronto Star – you can grow figs in this climate – even here in Ontario where winters can be long and harsh. One curious fact about figs – strictly speaking, they’re not considered to be vegan because in the process of pollinating figs, the female wasp can be absorbed into the fig, where it is broken down by enzymes.

This recipe was inspired by a dessert served at Le Chien Noir in Kingston. It’s a dark chocolate coated shortbread base, topped with whipped cream and fresh figs and finished with a swirl of balsamic reduction. I made my own version at home – a simple and elegant dessert. Fit for a party. So I’m taking it over to Fiesta Friday at The Novice Gardener.

Chocolate and Fig Shortbread


For the shortbread crust:

  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • I cup brown sugar
  • 2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 tsp salt

Mix together the butter and brown sugar. Stir in the flour and salt. The mixture will be crumbly but should hold together with pressed.

Press into a buttered 9 inch pie dish. Bake at 325 for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from oven and let cool.

To finish:

  • 1 cup pure semi-sweet chocolate pieces
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 4-6 ripe fresh figs, washed and quartered
  • 1 cup of whipping cream, whipped with a teaspoon of liquid honey
  • a few tablespoons of balsamic reduction – you can use a commercial one or reduce your own by cooking a cup of balsamic vinegar over medium-low heat for about 30 minutes or until it is reduced by half.

Melt the chocolate and butter in the top of a double-boiler or by whatever means you like including low power on the microwave. Spread the chocolate over the shortbread and let set. Cut the shortbread into wedges. Top with a generous spoonful of whipped cream, a couple of quartered figs, and a drizzle of balsamic reduction.

chocolate and fig shortbread

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41 thoughts on “chocolate and fig shortbread

  1. What a story about the big brown gooey sticky blob! You poor thing having to endure the whole party with a fig in your hand. You were a very patient child. 🙂 My son just finished The Great Gatsby and I think he’ll never forget it. His Literature class microscopically studies every book they read. It is good for him because as very physical person reading is not one of his favorite pastimes. I am sure he would “speed read” or is it “not read it at all” if he could get away with it! Nice to see your post this morning. I adore figs and serving them with chocolate and balsamic reduction is such a unique way to have them. 🙂

    1. How wonderful that your son just finished The Great Gatsby and studied it properly. I’m sure I speed read it “way back then” and then watched the movie! It’s wonderful though to go back to the classics again now. If only there were more hours in the day…. sigh. 🙂

  2. This looks so delicious! Very interesting about figs not being strictly vegan – reminds me of the strangler figs we saw in Australia. Creepy! xoxo

    1. Stephane – the original version in the little French restaurant served the shortbread with a marscapone and whipped cream mixture. It was wonderful but almost insanely rich. Still I can be tempted by rich…. 😉

  3. Oh Lindy… you made me so sad for that little girl holding on tight to that fig.. I just want to give her a big hug, take the fig and throw it in the trash for her, and make sure she gets something that she actually likes, to eat at the party! Sweet little thing… ❤

    Welcome to Fiesta Friday my love!! I'm so happy to see you…I'm always happy to see you… And what a fabulous shortbread that you have brought to the table. It is pure sophistication, and I'm quite certain absolutely delicious! I love figs!

    Thank you so much for sharing this with all of us…I know that everyone will love it just as much as I do! xoxo ❤

  4. What a sweet story! I can remember being in Italy as a young girl and climbing up fig trees, sitting on the branches and having my fill of them. Until someone’s grandfather would come chasing us away from his precious gems! That does indeed look like a fabulous dessert! xox

  5. OMG this is gorgeous, I love everything about it the shortbread, chocolate whipped cream and fresh figs. Now I will admit I still really dislike dried figs, I won’t eat them, if they are re hydrated poached or what have you they are a bit more palatable, I do however love fresh figs I’m afraid if I had a fig tree it would be picked clean in no time at all. this is an elegant and beautiful dessert. So well done! I also plan on re visiting some of the novels I read as a teen and in my younger days, they were wasted on my youth at the time I can now appreciate them for the master works they are.

    1. Suzanne – you’re a darling. Thank you! Love that we share an uneasiness about dried figs. I too will eat them poached but still – they’re nothing like fresh. I’m not getting far fast with my plan to reread the classics. Took me half the year to get through Wuthering Heights and then I read a couple of current books – SO MUCH FASTER! xo

  6. Wow! What a gorgeous post! Your recipe is just amazing. I love figs and often make them into savoury tapenades, but this recipe sounds over the top wonderful! Thanks so much for bringing it to FF! 😀

  7. Yum! I love figs,I don’t bake with them very often though as it’s hard to find fresh figs around here, so I only ever bake if I’m making some kind of jam filling so i can use dried figs. I love your story about the dried figs though, gave me a good chuckle!

    I’ve never read The Great Gatsby, it wasn’t a book we read in school so I never picked it up.

    1. Thank you Michelle. My tastes have matured a little since that party! A jam filling with dried figs does sound wonderful. I’ll have to check that out. Is it possible to make fig jam from dried figs? Have you tried this?

  8. OMG, this reminds me of myself!! I don’t remember when and where it happened, but it did! In fact, I mentioned in one of my early posts that I used to be afraid of biting into a fig because I remembered all those seeds! But NOW, I’m obsessed with figs. Go figure! Wonderful post, Lindy! Brings back memories. ❤

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