Taking a brief break from vacation recapping…just a few more stops left to cover! I swear I’ll finish my vacation scrapbook before summer is over!
I couldn’t not post about stone fruit season and the sunset-hued wave of fruits enveloping farmers’ markets right now. If you haven’t bitten into a ripe, outrageously fragrant autumn plum yet, do so. I have a soft spot for Elephant Hearts, but most any variety will do, including the increasingly odd-named hybrid cousins of plums.
Pluots, I can get behind (they’re a big favorite of mine). Or plumcots (essentially the same thing, a cross between plums and apricots). But some other mixes I find a little less mellifluous to my ear: aprium? peacotum? nectaplum? They just don’t have the same appetizing ring. It reminds me of when we went looking for a dog to adopt and discovered all these non-official cross breeds. I knew about goldendoodles and labradoodles, but the mention of shih-poos and whoodles just made me laugh. Not all portmanteaus are meant to be, at least to my ears.
Still, even if cockapoo isn’t the most elegant of names, that’s the dog we ended up with, a sweet little 4 year old rescue that captured us the first moment we saw her. You can call her a spoodle if you must, but we call her Snickerdoodle, or Snickers for short. Some of you who follow me on Facebook may have already seen some photos I put up of her, but so far I’ve refrained from turning this into a pets-and-pastry blog. Since this post has taken a turn for the canine, though, I hope you’ll indulge a few shots of her:
Shortly after we adopted her. Still a little scruffy and shy, but quickly warming up to us – especially when food is offered.
Several months later, all cleaned up, and princess of the place. I love her little feet – I call them her stuffed-animal paws. She has learned to beg shamelessly for food in the kitchen, and I am embarrassed to admit I give in far more often than hubby (he grew up with dogs and learned to resist their big sad eyes, whereas I’ve had no such previous experience).
I also really love this shot of her from the dog park because she looks so happy. She was probably just closing her eyes in the sunlight, but still. I hope she’s happy in our home – she’s definitely brought us so much joy. And I promise I’m trying to be a good owner and not feed her too much dessert – even if she begs for it!
Back to fall and dessert: although most of the fruit we bring home doesn’t make it past the eat-out-of-hand stage, I wanted to make a proper dish out of some of our latest bounty of sweet, dark ruby pluots. Thus, this tart of pluots arranged in circles in an almond-scented crust, with brown sugar and orange-flower custard.
Obviously any plum variety will work, although the smaller the better, so they will fit more easily into the tart. Try to also pick ones around the same size for uniformity when you arrange them in circles. I always brush a little egg white on the tart shell after pre-baking; as it dries it forms a shield that helps keep the tart crust crisp and dry and prevents sogginess after you place the fruit. It’s possible to keep this dessert ultra simple and omit the custard, especially if the fruit is super sweet; the fruit juices will mix with the sugar during baking and caramelize. But I wanted to add a little extra to the tart, so this custard from Fine Cooking seemed ideal. The brown sugar and orange flower cream add a velvety richness to the dessert.
Take a hint from the dogs: go out and enjoy the summer, and the fruits of summer, before they’re gone.
- 8 Tbsp (4 oz) unsalted butter
- 1 cup (5 ounces) (140 g) all purpose flour
- 1/4 cup ( 1 3/4 oz) sugar
- 3 Tbsp ground almonds
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- 3/4 teaspoon almond extract
- 1/2 cup (4 oz) creme fraiche
- 1 egg yolk
- 2 Tbsp light brown sugar
- 2 tsp orange flower water
- about 2 lbs plums or pluots
- 2 tablespoons sugar
For the crust:
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Melt the butter in a saucepan or microwave.
- Combine the flour, sugar, ground almonds, and salt in a medium bowl.
- Pour in the melted butter and almond extract. Use a fork to combine ingredients until it forms a solid dough.
- Press the dough into the bottom and up the sides of a 9-inch tart pan with removable bottom. A dough tamper can help you press out the dough evenly.
- Bake the tart shell for about 25-30 minutes until the shell is golden brown. Let cool while you prepare the filling.
For the filling:
- Combine the creme fraiche, egg yolk, brown sugar, and orange flower water together in a small bowl. Set aside.
- Slice the plums in half vertically and remove the pit. Using a sharp paring knife, cut a V-notch in the bottom of each half.
- Pour the filling into the tart shell. Arrange the plum halves vertically in overlapping circles, starting from the center. Sprinkle the sugar over the top of the plums.
- Bake for 25-30 minutes, until the custard has just set and the fruit has softened and browned slightly at the edges. Let cool slightly before serving.