Friday, June 27, 2008

Plum Tatin

With over-stuffed suitcases and nerves shot from exams, I arrived home to summer in California. Jetlag gives me at least 4 hours alone in the kitchen before anyone else even bats an eyelid, and the beautiful summer produce rolling in from the backyard is currently keeping my hands pleasantly busy while watching the drama unfold.

Last year when the plums came in, I made a nice preserve that was pleasantly tart, but I felt it lacked body since the thin skins disintegrated, but the fibrous texture remained. So this time, I decided to use the structure of the fruit in a way that would improve the final product. This recipe is a nice summery twist on the classic apple tarte tatin, and the final color is really remarkable. You could certainly use a pre-made crust for this, but I thought that since the plums have quite a bite to them, that it would be better to go with a slightly sweetened pastry for the base. The flavors are uncomplicated and clean; no need to fuss.
Next up, I have my eye on the apricots…

Plum Tatin
For the pastry:
1 ¼ cups flour
½ cup powdered sugar
½ cup butter, chilled and cut into cubes
Pinch salt
2-3 Tbsp. ice water
For the tatin:
2 ½ cups small red plums, pitted and quartered
6 Tbsp. butter
¾ cup granulated sugar
To make the pastry, pulse the flour, powdered sugar, salt and butter in the work bowl of a food processor, just enough to create a dry, crumbly mixture. Add the ice water one tablespoon at a time, until the crumbs start to cohere, but short of forming a ball. Form the dough into a flattened disc, wrap in plastic and refrigerate (about an hour).
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. In a nine or ten inch oven-proof skillet over medium heat, melt the butter and sugar, stirring for about 2 minutes. Lower the heat and place the quartered plums skin side down in tight concentric circles. Cook for about 15 minutes without disturbing the plums, until the juices are released and the fruit beings to soften. Bake in the oven for about 5 minutes, then remove (remember your oven mitts!) and turn up the heat to 450 degrees F. Spoon off most of the excess juices, so the pastry won’t get soggy (mine yielded about half a cup, which I reduced to make a sauce with). As the plums cool a bit, roll out the pastry about an inch wider in circumference than the pan. Carefully place the pastry over the plums and tuck the overlapping edges underneath to form a lip. Bake for about 15-18 minutes, until the pastry is golden brown.
Remove from the oven and invert onto a serving platter once the juices have stopped bubbling and allow the tarte to cool slightly. Serve with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.

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