Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Plum Tart with Walnut Cream

On this 14th of July, I would like to bring you something from one of my favorite French food blogs. This recipe caught my eye a couple of years ago; I'm not sure why I remembered it this week as I looked for plum recipes - perhaps it was the lovely word "quetsches" for the French plums in the original recipe, or the unique idea of nut cream with plums, or the cute plumpness of the plums in the photo, but regardless, I am glad that it came to mind!

I love eating fresh plums, as I do the many incredible summer fruits available in Israel, but party leftovers left me with enough plums to make my tongue fall out from acidity were I to eat them all myself. So...tart making time!

In my opinion, the walnut cream is the star player in this tart, although it sort of melds with the crust so that eaters may not be aware of its individual contribution. More importantly, the combination of the butter crust with the sweet walnut cream and the tart/sweet juicy plums was magical. As with most fruit desserts, I think this one would be great with other fruits and nuts, so that could be a future project...if I didn't have so many others in mind...

Plum Tart with Walnut Cream

Tarte aux Quetsches et Crème de Noix from Chocolate and Zucchini

For the crust:
- 75 grams (1/3 C plus 1 T) sugar (unrefined or white)
- 150 grams (1 C plus 2 T) flour
- 75 grams butter (salted, or unsalted plus a pinch of salt) -- if you use regular American butter (which has less butterfat than European butter), use 7 tablespoons
- Ice-cold water or milk

For the filling:
- 135 grams (1 1/4 C) shelled walnut halves
- 2 T sugar (white, unrefined, or even honey)
- 1 egg
- 3 T crème fraîche (substitute sour cream or fromage blanc)
- Optional flavoring: 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract, or 1 teaspoon plum or walnut liqueur, or 1 teaspoon light rum
- 700 grams (1 1/2 lbs) ripe plums of any variety

Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F). Grease a 10-inch tart pan with butter and set aside.

Prepare the pâte sablée. In the bowl of a mixer or blender, combine the sugar and flour. Add the butter and process in short pulses until the mixture resembles coarse meal. (Alternatively, rub the butter into the dry ingredients by hand with the tips of your fingers or a wire pastry blender.) Add a tablespoon of water or milk and mix again, in short pulses, until it is absorbed. The dough should still be crumbly, but it should clump if you gently squeeze a handful in your hand. If it doesn't, add a little more water -- teaspoon by teaspoon -- and give the dough a few more pulses until it reaches the desired consistency. My crust went funny on me - I may have used the wrong amount/kind of butter, or pulsed the mixture too long - but it still tasted great.

Pour the mixture evenly into the prepared tart pan. Using the heels of your hands and your fingers, press on the dough gently to form a thin layer, covering the surface of the pan and creating a rim all around. Don't worry if the dough feels a little dry, this is normal. (You can prepare the dough up to a day ahead: cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate.) Bake for 15 minutes, until lightly golden.

While the crust par-bakes, prepare the filling. Combine the walnuts and sugar in the bowl of your food processor, and grind to a coarse powder. Add the egg, crème fraîche, and flavoring if using, and mix again. (You can prepare the walnut cream up to a day ahead: transfer to an airtight container, refrigerate, and bring to room temperature before using.) Rinse and dry the plums, cut them in halves, and discard the stones.

Remove the pan from the oven (leave the heat on), and let cool slightly. Spread walnut cream evenly over the tart shell, and arrange the plums on top in a circular pattern starting from the outside. Return to the oven for 30 minutes, until the plums are cooked through and the walnut cream is set. Transfer to a rack to cool completely before serving. The tart is best served on the day it is made, but the leftovers will keep until the next day; cover with foil, refrigerate, and bring to room temperature before eating.

I ate mine with a little leftover fromage blanc (why not?), but it is great all by its lonesome. Happy Bastille Day!

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