Have you had Santa Rosa plums? They’re a deep purple-black when ripe, with a blood-red interior and tangy, tart flesh. The aroma when they are perfectly ripe is indescribable: rich, floral, spicy, earthy. Amazing.
Plums are not quite on the scene yet in New York; I was lucky enough to receive a small box of them in the mail from the lovely Karen of Lemon Ladies Orchard in California (along with a jar of her Santa Rosa plum jam, which I can confirm is also amazing). Since I had just a handful of these precious jewels to play with before our own plums come into season, I knew I wanted to do something special with them: a simple dessert that would highlight their color and aroma, and enhance, rather than obscure, their sweet-tart flavor.
Alice Medrich’s plum & almond tart from Pure Dessert seemed just the ticket: simple enough to let the plums shine, elegant enough to fit the special occasion of surprise California plums arriving in your mailbox. I’ve had Alice’s cookbook for a while now, and though I have not cooked from it often, this recipe did not disappoint. Super quick and easy to put together, the flavor of the final tart belies the ease of preparation, showcasing a restraint and balance rarely observed in America’s obsession with over-the-top desserts.
I suspect this may become a new standard, and like Heidi’s crumble recipe, one that I will riff again and again. In the meantime: think I’ll go have a slice for breakfast. Happy weekend, all!
Adapted (slightly) from plum and almond tart in Pure Dessert by Alice Medrich
- 9 ½ inch tart pan with removable bottom
- 2 ½ oz (½ cup) almonds (blanched or not)
- 3 ½ oz (½ cup) sugar
- ¼ tsp salt
- ½ tsp amaretto liqueur (I used apricot noyaux gifted by Julia) OR ¼ tsp almond extract
- 3 ½ oz (about ¾ cup) whole wheat pastry flour (or all-purpose flour)
- rounded ¼ tsp baking powder
- 1 large egg
- 3 tbsp cold butter, cut into chunks, plus extra for greasing the pan
- 4 to 6 tart plums
- powdered sugar for dusting
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (350 degrees F convection). Liberally grease tart pan with butter.
- In the bowl of a food processor, combine almonds, sugar, salt and liqueur and process until the nuts are pulverized. Add flour and baking powder and pulse to combine. Add egg and butter: pulse until mixture is damp, uniform and begins to clump around the blade. Scrape into the tart pan and spread evenly into the bottom of the pan. No need to push dough up the sides of the pan; it will puff. Place a wet dishtowel under the tart pan to keep removable base from sliding around while you spread the dough.
- Slice smaller plums in half, larger plums into quarters. Pit and press pieces lightly into dough, skin side down if quarters, skin side up if halves. Bake in preheated oven until dough is puffed and golden brown about 40 minutes (about 25 – 30 minutes convection). Allow to cool briefly, then remove the outside rim of the pan. Dust lightly with powdered sugar. Serve warm or at room temperature.
- Obviously this will work with other plums: make sure to use a variety on the tart side, as sweeter plums like Italian or Damson will be too sweet to pair with this dough.
- I reduced the amount of sugar in the dough from ¾ to ½ cup. To me, it’s perfect this way, but if you have more of a sweet tooth, you may want the full ¾ cup.
- Since the dough base doesn’t rise all that much, this is a good place to use whole grain flours as long as the grind is fairly fine: whole wheat pastry flour gives a nice, fine crumb, but I think whole white wheat, spelt or rye would work well. It might also be a good candidate for a gluten-free version with buckwheat flour or another GF substitute.
At room temperature, lightly covered with a clean kitchen towel, for up to 3 days.