Pate Brisee (Short Crust Pastry):
1 1/4 cups (175 grams) all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon (2 grams) salt
1 tablespoon (14 grams) granulated white sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) (113 grams) unsalted butter, chilled, and cut into 1 inch (2.5 cm) pieces
1/8 to 1/4 cup (30 - 60 ml) ice water
1 pound (450 grams) prune plums
1/4 cup (50 grams) granulated white sugar (or to taste)
1/8 teaspoon salt
Pate Brisee: In a food processor, place the flour, salt, and sugar and process until combined. Add the butter and process until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Pour 1/8 cup (30 ml) water in a slow, steady stream through the feed tube until the pastry just holds together when pinched. Add remaining water, if necessary. Turn the pastry out onto your work surface, gather it into a ball, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for about one hour to chill the butter and allow the gluten in the flour to relax.
Once the pastry has chilled sufficiently, remove from refrigerator and place on a lightly floured surface. Roll out the pastry to fit into a 9 inch (23 cm) tart pan. To prevent the pastry from sticking to the counter and to ensure uniform thickness, keep lifting up and turning the pastry a quarter turn as you roll (always roll from the center of the pastry outwards to get uniform thickness). To make sure it is the right size, take your tart pan, flip it over, and place it on the rolled out pastry. The pastry should be about an inch larger than your pan.
When the pastry is rolled to the desired size, lightly roll the pastry around your rolling pin, dusting off any excess flour as you roll. Unroll onto the top of your tart pan and gently press the pastry into the pan. Never pull the pastry or you will get shrinkage (shrinkage is caused by too much pulling of the pastry when placing it in the pan). Roll your rolling pin over top of pan to get rid of excess pastry. Cover and place in the freezer until firm, several hours or even overnight.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C) and place rack in center of oven.
Plum Filling: With a sharp knife, cut the plums in half by following the natural crease in the plum's skin. Then, holding one half of the plum, gently twist the other half. The plum should easily fall into two halves so the pit can be removed. then cut each half into halves or thirds (depending on size). Place the cut plums in a large bowl and gently toss with the sugar and pinch of salt.
Remove the tart shell from the freezer and quickly place the plums, cut side up, in neat concentric circles in the frozen tart shell. Crowd the fruit, but do not overlap. Scrape any remaining sugar from the bowl and sprinkle over the plums. Bake the tart until the crust is golden brown and the fruit has sunken into itself, about 40 - 50 minutes.
Serves 6 people.
Prune Plums arrive at the end of Summer and are with us for only a short time. While they are excellent raw, they are even better when baked, especially in this Prune Plum Tart. This recipe takes a buttery short crust pastry and tops it with prune plums that have been pitted, sliced into wedges, and sweetened with just a little sugar. When you take this European looking tart from the oven you will have a nicely baked tart shell that is brown and crisp, with plums that are soft and jam-like with nicely caramelized edges.
This Prune Plum Tart recipe comes from the excellent cookbook by Judy Rodgers called 'The Zuni Cafe Cookbook'. Her instructions for making the tart shell are slightly different than most recipes. While the pastry is made in the usual way, once the pastry is rolled out and pressed into the tart pan, the pastry is placed in the freezer instead of the refrigerator. Baking a tart shell that is frozen gives excellent results. It turns a golden brown color with a crisp texture that really is perfect with the soft prune plums bathed in a sweet syrup. So, once the pastry is frozen (this will take a few hours), the prune plums are pitted and cut into fairly large wedges and then tossed with a little sugar. The plums are quickly arranged in the 'frozen' tart shell and baked. I like to eat this tart while it is still slightly warm and a scoop of vanilla ice cream or a dollop of softly whipped cream is always welcome.
The Italian Prune Plum is fairly small in size and unlike a lot of plums, it is oval or almost egg shaped. Its thin skin is smooth with a pretty blue, almost purplish color that is covered with a silvery grey bloom. Once you cut into its yellowy green dense flesh you will find it tastes sweet, yet with a hint of tanginess.