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Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Perfectly Plum

As you may already know, I don’t have terribly fond childhood memories of the Eastern European-style desserts that are my heritage. As opposed to the heavy tortes laden with liquor and nuts, I've always liked Things Baked With Plums. Maybe baking with plums is a Euro thing? I don't know. It just seems like you see plums being used more frequently in desserts there. Anyway, there was a kind of Plum Cake (a Kuchen really…) baked always with those pretty, dusky purple Italian plums. And plum dumplings, best eaten straight out of the oven. Once cool, they would become extra dense and the cornflake crumb coating would lose its crunch. (This always mystified me…how did this recipe evolve to include cornflake crumbs?) They were by no means “light”. When eating one of these dumplings, I always wanted to somehow avoid the dough part and get right to the meltingly juicy, purple-y plum center and I loved how the vivid juice would stain the surrounding dough.

Last week’s CSA box included a bunch of beautiful Mount Royal Italian prune plums. I ate one right out of the box and it was quite juicy making it an excellent candidate for a galette. I usually make a fruit galette with berries, but this was a perfect opportunity to try my own version of a Thing Baked With Plums.

The results were exactly what I had hoped for… a perfect combination of pastry and fruit. I’m absolutely wild about this crunchy, yet tender, pastry that is oh-so-easily made in a food processor. In this case, I used some leftover crème fraiche I had in the refrigerator (same thing as sour cream really). Whether you use sour cream or buttermilk or yogurt (I've tried all these variations and I think sour cream is best) I believe that the tangy creamy element is the secret to this wonderful crust. Then, I actually rolled out, and used, both rounds (the recipe makes enough for two) and made them on the thicker side. When baked, the plums release some of their fuchsia liquid and the folded up corners of the galette contain them beautifully.

Finally, what I thought was the greatest was delicious cold, the next day.

The Dough:

3 tablespoons sour cream (or yogurt or buttermilk)

1/3 cup ice water

1 cup all-purpose flour

1/4 cup yellow cornmeal

1 teaspoon sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

7 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into 6 to 8 pieces

To make the dough in a food processor, stir the sour cream and 1/3 cup ice water together in a small bowl; set aside. 
Put the flour, cornmeal, sugar, and salt in the processor work bowl, fitted with the metal blade; pulse to combine. Drop the butter pieces into the bowl and pulse 8 to 10 times, or until the mixture is speckled with pieces of butter that vary in size from bread crumbs to peas. With the machine running, add the sour cream mixture and process just until the dough forms soft, moist curds.

Chill the Dough:

Remove the dough from the processor, divide it in half, and press each half into a disk. Wrap in plastic and chill for at least 2 hours. 
(Storing: The dough can be kept in the refrigerator for a day or two, or it can be wrapped airtight and frozen for a month. Thaw, still wrapped, in the refrigerator. It is convenient to roll the dough into rounds, place parchment between each round, and freeze them wrapped in plastic; this way, you'll need only about 20 minutes to defrost a round of dough at room temperature before it can be filled, folded into a galette and baked.)

The Filling:
1 1/2 cups quartered, or halved, Italian plums
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon sugar

1 tablespoon honey

1 tablespoon cold unsalted butter

Position a rack in the lower thrid of the oven and preheat the oven to 400 F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Put the dough on a lightly floured work surface and roll it into an 8- to 10-inch circle that's about 1/4 inch thick. Since the dough is soft, you'll need to lift it now and then and toss some more flour under it and over the top. Roll up the dough around your rolling pin and transfer it to the prepared baking sheet.

Spread the plums over the dough, leaving a 2-inch border. Sprinkle 1 tablespoon of sugar over the fruit and drizzle with honey. Cut the butter into slivers and scatter it on top of the fruit. Fold the uncovered border of dough up over the filling, allowing the dough to pleat as you lift it up and work your way around the galette. Because you're folding a wide edge of dough onto a smaller part of the circle, it will pleat naturally--just go with it.) Dip a pastry brush in water, give the edge of the crust a light coating, and then sprinkle the crust with the remaining teaspoon of sugar.

Baking the Galette
Bake the galette for 35-40 minutes, or until the pastry is golden and crisp. Transfer baking sheet to a cooling rack for 10 minutes. Remove galette to cooling rack and serve warm or at room temperature, cutting the tart with a pizza wheel or sharp knife.

  Best eaten the day it is made.

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