Plum Tart with Almond Crust

So between trips to the beach, your routine of lite summer reading, and lazy weekend outings, I’m quite aware you’ve been looking for a good reason to bake a plum pie or plum tart right about now. Allow me to offer you nine of them.

Plums are (1) great for digestive problems, (2) heart healthy, (3) help guard against cancers, (4) prevent diabetes, (5) improve bone health, (6) low in calories, (7) destroy breast cancer cells, (8) improve memory, and (9) ah, well, there was this other thing…

Okay, so maybe I can’t vouch for #8. But how many reasons do you really need? Pie maker that you are, isn’t it enough that plums are one of summer’s most alluring stone fruits, teasing you with their plumpness and myriad pretty colors to come sample the goods and get your pie game on.

Or your tart game on, as the case may be.

Plum Tart with Almond Crust

Sure it’s enough. So let’s get down to business.

We’ll begin with our crust – an almond crust – delightfully nutty, but perhaps not the absolute easiest dough you’ll ever roll or handle. I don’t say that to scare you off because you positively must try this. But it does have both finely ground almonds and a higher proportion of sugar than many doughs; a bit a crumbliness is not out of the question. One trick is to handle the dough when it’s not too cold. (The video details another very useful trick for handling the dough with ease.)

Ours is a freeform tart, and without the supporting structure that a pan provides, it can’t be approached in the same carefree manner. In other words, you can’t just dump a juicy fruit filling into the center of the dough, fold the dough over, and then expect containment miracles. Juices will ooze. Pressure will build. And you will soon bear witness to a plum landslide of biblical proportions. Hours of oven cleaning will ensue.

Plum Tart with Almond Crust

Which is precisely why we allow time for the plums to juice and then boil the juice down to a thick, syrupy consistency. Thickening the juices greatly reduces the likelihood of a breach in the crust. (For added certainly and to avoid possible leaks in your oven, bake your tart on a rimmed baking sheet instead of a rimless cookie sheet like the one I use in the video.) It also concentrates the plum flavor to its essence; you know you’re eating a plum.

Shame on me for dwelling on the possible pitfalls of this delectable plum tart. I don’t mean to go all nervous Nellie on you because, bottom line, you’d be hard pressed to find a better use for juicy summer plums. As for the crust, if this almond crust doesn’t sound like your thing, simply use another pastry recipe you’re fond of.

And don’t forget to watch the video. One of the reasons I like making videos is because when you’re learning or perfecting a skill – be it pie baking, knitting, or kite making – I think it’s very helpful to see the process unfold before your eyes. Viewing allows you to internalize the steps, envision the outcome, and – ultimately – achieve a higher level of success. Safe to say, we all aspire to that.

Plum Tart with Almond Crust

Now: what to serve with your plum tart? You can never go wrong with vanilla ice cream or homemade whipped cream. But this is one of those occasions when I adore a big puddle of cool vanilla custard sauce. If you’ve never tried it, you really should. This recipe makes a fair amount and trust me when I tell you you’ll have no trouble finding ways to use up any leftovers: on melon balls and fresh berries. With shortcake, in place of whipped cream. And drizzled over pies, of course. A simple straw will do nicely.

Until next time…

RECIPE NOTES: Find the ALMOND PASTRY recipe; find the VANILLA CUSTARD SAUCE recipe

Plum Tart with Almond Crust

Ingredients

  • ALMOND PASTRY (see link, above)
  • 7 or 8 good-size plums (not the small prune plums and not the really big ones)
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon fine yellow cornmeal
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons red currant or raspberry jelly, warmed to liquify (optional)

Instructions

  1. If you haven't already, prepare the ALMOND PASTRY and refrigerate for 2 hours.
  2. Rinse and dry the plums, then cut them into flat slices (see the video above) about 1/4-inch to 1/3-inch thick. (You should end up with 5 to 6 cups.) Place the slices in a large bowl; add the sugar and lemon juice. Mix thoroughly by hand, then set aside for 1 1/2 to 2 hours - stirring occasionally - until the slices are sitting in an abundance of juice.
  3. Place a colander over another large bowl. Pour in the plums and allow all of the juice to drain off. Put the plum slices back in the original bowl. Stir in the cornstarch and set aside.
  4. Pour the reserved juice into a 2-cup measuring cup. Add the balsamic vinegar. Take note of how much liquid you have, then pour the liquid into a nonreactive saucepan. Bring to a boil and reduce by half. (Check the amount by pouring the liquid back into your measuring cup. Keep a close eye on the boiling; it won't take long to reduce.) When reduced by half, pour the liquid back into the measuring cup and set aside.
  5. When you're ready to assemble the tart, preheat the oven to 375°. Take the pastry out of the fridge about 5 to 8 minutes before you start rolling, to take off the chill.
  6. Place the dough on a large piece of lightly floured parchment paper and roll it into an approximate 12 1/2-inch circle; flour the dough as needed. The shape may be slightly oblong, if desired. Slide the paper and dough onto a large cookie sheet or rimmed baking sheet. Sprinkle the cornmeal in the center of the dough and spread it around, leaving a 2-inch un-cornmealed border around the edge.
  7. Cover the cornmealed part of the dough with overlapping plum slices. You can start at the far end and work toward you. Or work from the perimeter toward the center.
  8. Using the paper to help you lift and maneuver the dough, carefully fold the uncovered border of the dough over the fruit; the dough will sort of self-pleat as you go. (See video.) Spoon your reduced plum syrup all over the fruit, but not onto the pastry itself. (If you have a lot of excess parchment paper hanging off the edge, trim it before baking.)
  9. Bake the tart for about 40 to 45 minutes, until the filling is bubbly and the crust is golden brown. Transfer the baking sheet to a cooling rack and cool thoroughly. If you want to give the tart a lacquered finish before serving, lightly brush the plums with warm jelly. Makes 6 to 8 servings.
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