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Plum Kuchen
Nov 18th, 2004

A hallowed tradition at my place of employment (going back at least three or four years - tradition!) is the Annual Piefest, where a few people bake pies and everyone else runs to QFC and buys one. This fest is usually scheduled for the day before Halloween so those of us with little kids can bring them in with costumes and get them all sugared up. Sometimes I don't know why I bother with things like this - I could be one of those running to QFC, or just ignoring it altogether, especially since I don't eat sugar during the week so don't even eat any of the pies. But somehow I found myself at home on a Thursday night baking a pie while simultaneously doing some contract programming work I had to finish and watching the kids. It went something like this: Cup of flour, Jay put that down, okay finish this piece of code, cup of sugar, Ian do you really need more snacks?, write more code... repeat until I lose my mind.

In the end, the pie turned out well. It even survived total incomprehension on my part as to what a gratin-dish looks like (hint try a pie plate, not a large bowl type thingy). I actually had to pull the whole pie out of one dish and reassemble it in another. But the code got done, the boys didn't destroy anything too major, and the pie was happily consumed. I might try it again someday when I can actually eat it!

Note - you can use any combination of plums, apricots, peaches, and nectarines that you want. I happened to have some prepared plums in the freezer so went with that.


Plum Kuchen

1 cup plus 2 tbsp all-purpose flour
1/3 cup plus 2 tbsp sugar
1/4 tsp sea salt
4 tbsp cold unsalted butter
1 egg
1 egg yolk
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/8 tsp almond extract
1 tsp freshly grated orange zest or 1 drop Boyajian orange oil
(no I have no clue what that is - I had neither so used orange flower water)
1/4 cup milk

The Fruit and Topping
10 to 12 plums
2 tbspunsalted butter, melted
1 tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp ground cardamom or cinnamon, optional


Preheat the oven to 375F. Lightly butter an 8-cup gratin dish or tart pan (pie plate!). Pulse the flour, sugar, and salt in a food processor, then cut in the butter to make fine crumbs. Beat the egg and egg yolk with the flavorings, then add enough milk to make 1/2 cup liquid. Add the liquid to the flour, mixing enough to make a thick dough. Brush your hands with flour, then pat the dough into the baking dish, pushing it up a little around the edges to make a rim.

Slice Italian plums in half. If they're small, leave them in halves; otherwise quarter them. If you're using round plums, such as Elephant Heart, slice them into wedges about 1/2 inch thick. Overlap them over the dough. You can really
crowd them together because they'll collapse while cooking.

Drizzle the melted butter over the fruit, then sprinkle on the sugar and cardamom, if using. Bake until the crust is golden and the fruit is soft, 35 to 45 minutes.

Serve warm if possible. Serve with softly whipped cream, maybe flavored with a little orange flower water or creme de noyaux, a liqueur made from the kernels of stone fruits.

-Jacques Pepin
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© 2006, Kimberly Cooperrider | kymmco@excite.com