italian plum tart

Happiness is…

Dahlias in the morning.

Finally finding this out of print documentary on DVD after a decade of searching. The best ever 10-hour documentary on the history of rock and roll = 10 hours of nerding out at home. Very influential in my formative years. Thank you, PBS, for your excellent programming. And thank you, ebay!

Fresh San Marzano tomato sauce. And simple pasta dinners.

Chloe. Genius.

Homemade puff pastry and an Italian plum tart.

I’ve always thought of puff pastry as something you buy. All of those layers of buttery goodness seemed too good to be able to produce in your own kitchen. But after reading over Alice Waters’ recipe for easy puff pastry, it actually seemed very doable. I was feeling up to a challenge and decided I must give it a go. Making this puff pastry was actually pretty easy, it just requires time. It’s essentially a large mass of butter and some flour rolled out and folded several times. Nothing to be scurred of.

With my 2 pounds of puff pastry ready to go, I knew exactly what I wanted to make. Earlier this summer I made a plum tart with store-bought puff pastry. It was great, but I really wanted to try it with my handmade goods. And since there were finally Italian plums at the market, I knew it was time to make it again.

This is one of those throw-together, simple summer desserts. Whether you use homemade puff pastry or the store-bought stuff, it’s a winner. The plums and almond paste together are perfect. When combined with the sugar, the plum juices transform into a beautiful, sticky, slightly caramelized lacquer. And the puff pastry is awesome – buttery and flaky and buttery.

Happiness is…

italian plum tart

adapted from Canal House Cooking Volume 1 by Melissa Hamilton and Christopher Hirsheimer

serves 6-8

1 sheet puff pastry, defrosted (about 1 pound of homemade pastry)

1/4 cup flour

4-6 tablespoons sugar 

2 pounds Italian prune plums, halved lengthwise and pitted

4 tablespoons cold butter

1/4 cup almond paste, crumbled (optional)

2 tablespoons heavy cream

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Roll the puff pastry on a lightly floured surface into a 1/4-inch thick rectangle. With a pairing knife, lightly score a 1/2-inch border around the entire pastry. Prick the dough inside the border all over with the tines of a fork to prevent it from puffing up too much during baking. Transfer the dough onto a parchment-lined baking sheet.

Sprinkle the dough evenly with a few tablespoons of sugar. Arrange the plums cut side up in the center of the pastry, then sprinkle them with the remaining sugar. Dot the tart with butter and sprinkle with almond paste. Brush the 1/2-inch border with the heavy cream.

Bake the tart until the pastry is deeply browned around the edges and the plums are soft and jammy and their juices are bubbling and syrupy, 30-40 minutes. Best served the same day it is prepared. Excellent warm or at room temp.

puff pastry

adapted from Chez Panisse Fruit by Alice Waters

makes about 2 pounds

14 ounces (3-1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes

1 teaspoon lemon juice

2/3 cup ice water

1-2/3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

1/2 cup unbleached bread flour

3/4 teaspoon salt

Place butter in the freezer for 30 minutes. Combine the lemon juice and water in a measuring cup. Combine the flours and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and mix on low speed. Add the chunks of cold butter a handful at a time, taking about 30 seconds to add it all. Mix for 30 seconds more, or until the edges of the butter have rounded off. Slowly add the water and lemon juice, pouring along the inside edge of the bowl, and mix until the dough comes together roughly. The butter should still be in recognizable pieces and most of the lour should be moistened but not wet. You may not need to add all of the liquid.

Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface. With the heels of your hands, a pastry scraper and a rolling pin, quickly shape into an 8-by-14-inch rectangle, with an 8-inch side facing you and the long sides perpendicular to the near edge of your rolling surface. The dough may not knit together at this stage, but don’t worry, it will eventually. With the help o a broad, rimless baking sheet, fold the bottom one-third of the dough over the middle third. Brush off any lour, and then fold the top third over the middle. Lift the dough dough as you reflour the surface and turn the dough 90 degrees, so that the top flap is on your right, like the cover o a book.

Lightly flour the top of the dough and roll it again into an 8-by-14-inch rectangle. Fold in thirds as before. This completes 2 “turns”. Wrap the dough tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate. Remove the dough from the refrigerator after 30 minutes, unwrap it, and give it two more turns. Rewrap the dough and refrigerate for 40 minutes. (You can also refrigerate the dough overnight at this point.)

Give the dough 2 more turns (6 turns in total) and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before rolling it out.  The puff pastry can be frozen at this point or refrigerated overnight. (Frozen dough should be defrosted overnight in the refrigerator.)