Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Plum Tart

My sister from Houston is visiting here for two weeks. Along with my other sisters (I have four) this means many lunches and dinners together at our cottage, our various homes and nearby restaurants. There will inevitably be lots of conversation about our kids (all adults now), recollections of the past, cooking, our health and what current diets and/or exercise regimen we are engaged in, but never politics where our opinions are quite divided. This, of course, always leads to the need for some dessert and coffee.  With several super ripe red plums on hand I made a simple and delicately sweet Plum Tart for last night’s dinner dessert.

So simple a recipe is almost not needed, the dessert is an adaptation of a recipe in a baking textbook used by Schoolcraft College’s Culinary Arts program.  The pastry base is a standard tart crust, or Pate Brisee – not as flaky as a pie crust and more shortbread cookie-like in texture and taste. I like this dough because you don’t have to roll it out. You can, of course, to achieve a smoother, more tender crust, but I find it to be too delicate and difficult to handle, so I simply fit it into the pan by hand. 

For the filling, aside from simply the fruit and sugar, I added a base of finely crumbled Italian cookies. My husband and I are big fans of Stella Doro’s Breakfast Treats, which we call S-cookies. These are tender butter style cookies with a subtle almond flavor. Delicious on their own and especially good with coffee, the almond flavored crumbs serve as an easy alternative to the traditional frangipane base used in more sophisticated pastries. To further enhance the almond flavor I finished the tart with a sprinkle of sliced almonds.

Plum Tart
Tart Crust:
1 ¼ c. all purpose flour
1/3 c. sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
1 egg yolk
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 T. very cold water
8 T. (1 stick) very cold butter, cut into ¼ inch cubes

In a small bowl mix together the egg yolk, vanilla and water and set aside.
Mix together in a food processor the flour, salt and sugar. Pulse a few seconds to combine all ingredients. Add the butter and pulse several times till mixture resembles coarse cornmeal. Now add the egg mixture and pulse till dough pulls from the sides of the bowl and pulls together.
Transfer dough to pan a 9-inch tart pan with a removable bottom and with hands fit dough into pan. Set aside.

Fruit filling and assembly:
5-6 plums, any variety firm to ripe but not hard, cut into 8 wedges
1/3 c. crumbled cookies or cake
1/3 c.  Tubinado (raw) sugar
¼ -1/2 tsp. cinnamon
¼ c. apricot preserves, heated and strained
1-2 T. toasted sliced almonds

Spread a thin layer of cookie crumbs around the bottom of the pastry dough. Arrange the plum wedges in concentric circles, fitting them tightly into the pan. Mix together the Turbinado sugar and cinnamon and sprinkle a generous layer over all of the plums.

Bake in a 375 degree oven for approximately 40 minutes (cover with aluminum foil if crust becomes too brown).  Allow to cool for 20 minutes than brush the top of the tart with the strained apricot preserves (discard solids). Sprinkle top with toasted sliced almonds.

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