Italian Prune Plums

Plum tartI always eagerly await the arrival of those small, oval, Italian prune plums in the markets. The cashiers often ask what they are, or how they differ from the bigger round plums.  To me, those are sweeter and for eating out of hand, while Italian plums need to be cooked to bring out their sweetness.  They break down and almost create their own jam. 

My favorite way of using them is in the plum tart pictured here (with crème fraîche on top).  The recipe below is one I have adapted from Joan Nathan over the years. 

The recipe can make a whole pie, but I always make a tart instead.  Since the crust is so good, I made this one in a slightly smaller 8-inch tart pan with higher sides I’d found at T. J. Maxx, a great source for bakeware and other kitchen items and gourmet food.  Since I pre-bake the crust, it got nice and brown and crispy, in spite of being slightly thicker.  The crust whips up in moments in the processor, and sometimes I make a double batch and freeze half for another tart later.

Plum Pie (Zwetschgenkuchen)

Adapted from Joan Nathan’s Jewish Cooking in America, Knopf, 1998

Murbeteig (butter) crust:

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon sugar    

½ cup butter (she uses pareve margarine)

1 egg yolk (I used the white on the crust, see # 2 below)

salt

brandy

  1. Mix flour and sugar. Using a food processor cut in butter until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.  Add the egg yolk, a dash of salt, and a dash of brandy to moisten crust.  Process until the mixture forms a ball.  (If you use a pastry blender you will then need to knead the crust briefly.)
  2. Pat the dough into a 9-inch pie pan, or a tart pan.  Pat it thinly into the bottom and up the sides.  Refrigerate while you cut the plums and make the sugar topping.  (Instead, I brushed the bottom with egg white and pre-baked it at 375 for 8 minutes.)

Filling:

1 egg white

1/3 cup plum jam (I use mixed berry, 4-fruit, whatever I have on hand)

1 tablespoon brandy

Italian plums, washed, pitted, quartered – 5 are enough for a tart, for a pie use about 2 lbs. (before pitting)

1/3 cup sliced almonds, briefly toasted in oven (optional, Faith’s addition)

3 tablespoons sugar

1 teaspoon cinnamon

dash of nutmeg (I usually forget this)

1-2 teaspoons grated lemon rind (zest)

  1. Preheat oven to 375 if you haven’t already done so to pre-bake the crust.
  2. Brush crust with egg white and bake 8 minutes.
  3. Mix jam with brandy and spread on the crust.  Place the plum quarters around in a circle of concentric rings, or lined up in rows in rectangular tart pan.
  4. Mix the sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg and lemon rind, and sprinkle over plums.
  5. Sprinkle the almonds on top, if using.
  6. Bake about 40-50 minutes, or until the crust is golden brown and the plums juicy.

Also works with apricots, peaches, nectarines, or blueberries.

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