Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Plum Tart





When did fall get here?  While I absolutely dread the coming winter, I do enjoy the slightly cooler temperatures, that smell in the air, the pumpkin lattes.  But I always get a little flustered when a new season starts with regards to my clothes.  Just when I feel like I've mastered my closet for summer (skirts! sandals! flats!), along comes fall to throw everything out of whack.  I am still on the skinny jean phase (which probably means it's long gone out of fashion), but now I'm confused: can I wear other types of shoes with skinny jeans other than my flats?  I know I can wear boots up over the jeans, but what are my other warm options?  Low boots?  Flats with socks?  No.  And sweaters?  Do I need more of them?  I always seem to forget how I made it through the last autumn (and winter) season and so I find myself panicking.  


However.  At least I always know what to bake.  This plum tart is perfect for fall.  Not only is it a cinch to throw together (it only dirties your food processor, and a cutting board for the plums.  That's it.  No, really), it pairs a crispy, just-sweet crust with tart, wrinkly-skinned plums.  Simple enough for a weeknight, but also pretty for a dinner party if you paired it with some sweetened whipped cream.


Plum Tart
(originally found here, but tweaked)
1 cup flour
1/2 cup + 2 tbsp sugar
½ tsp. baking powder
1/8 tsp + scant 1/8 tsp salt (not quite 1/4 tsp salt total)*
1 large egg, lightly whisked
3 Tbsp. diced, unsalted butter
4 to 6 plums

1. Place rack in lower third of oven, and preheat to 375. Butter a 9" springform pan (mine was 10", which meant a little thinner crust, but I was ok with that).
2. Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in the bowl of your food processor, and pulse it a few times to combine. Add the egg and butter, and pulse until the dough is not quite the texture of cornmeal - it should be slightly clumpy and the butter should be cut up and distributed evenly throughout the dough.
3. Press the dough into the bottom of your greased pan and spread it to cover completely (but not up the sides!), using your fingers to lightly press down. Don't pack it too firmly.
4. Slice your plums either in halves or wedges, removing the pits. I placed my plums skin-side up, but you could place them cut-sides up as well. Arrange them however you please on top of your crust, pressing them slightly down into the dough.
5. Bake until the pastry is a light golden brown with slightly darker edges, about 25-30 minutes. Watch it carefully, as the original recipe called for 50 minutes (!) and I'm so glad I checked mine after 30, or else I would have had a burnt mess.
6. Transfer to a rack to cool for 10 minutes or so, then loosen the springform rim portion, and allow to cool completely.


*I prefer my baked goods to have a nice salt presence, so I upped the amount a bit. If you prefer to make it with less, then you can just stick 1/8 tsp salt total.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Challah



Saturday was a waste.  Friday night held in store some unexpected guests, delayed dinner plans, lots of imbibing, and staying up way too late (past midnight!  We were crazy!), which led to a pretty useless me on Saturday.  I used to be able to handle that sort of night, but not anymore.  So, my best intentions and plans went out the window for Saturday (vacuuming?  What?).  I did manage to get myself out of the house and meet a dear friend for lunch, and on my lazy drive back home I was struck with the sudden urge to bake some bread.  My headache was finally dissipating, the windows were down, and suddenly I had energy.  

I had bookmarked this recipe last week, for I'm always on the look out for bread recipes that a) don't scare me and b) look like I could handle all of the steps and not screw it up. I was determined to BAKE. SOME. BREAD.  (My desire to do this probably had a little bit to do with the fact that for the past two years, between farmer's market bread and my own baked bread during the winter, we have not had to eat store-bought bread at all, which is pretty impressive seeing as we eat lots of toast and sandwiches.  Well, I neglected to fit baking into my schedule last week and suddenly we were forced to buy bread at the store.  Horrors, I know.  My husband is very, very spoiled.)



As you can see, I almost braided the loaf on the left the correct way; the loaf on the right was my attempt at making up my own braiding technique, which was obviously not the way to go.  You can tell that I was doing this late at night - my energy spiked while I was mixing the dough in the late afternoon, but by evening I sort of took a nap and let the bread rest longer in the refrigerator, hence the less-than stellar nighttime iPhone pictures that I'm forcing you to look at now.



I also had a helper.  He made sure that I did not drop the loaves as I pulled them out of the oven.  Can't you see how hard he's concentrating?