By Cat, May, 2009 (Photo, right, from Wikimedia Commons)
Includes: 1. Plum Tart with Shortbread Crust
In the 1970s (when I was in my 20s), I worked at International Harvester, where one of the men in the shop was from Switzerland. He and I used to talk about our favorite foods, and one of his was fruit tarts. So on his next birthday, I made him a plum tart, but I didn’t know very much about European tarts, only that they didn’t use an American style pie crust. I bought a set of tart pans, the kind with a removable bottom and then pondered how to make a tart. This was decades before the internet and Google.
None of my cookbooks at that time had recipes for this kind of tart, so I was on my own.
My first French-Style Tart
I remembered my friend telling me his grandmother used to make the tarts, and she used a kind of cookie dough that she pressed into the pan, for the crust. So I read through cookie recipes looking for something that might work, and came across shortbread. So simple and rich, and the dough would be slightly crumbly, so that I could press it into the pan.
Then, what to do for filling? My friend had told me that the base of the filling had been gelatin-like. I called my Mom and asked her what she thought, and she suggested using red currant jelly.
So I made the shortbread dough, pressed it into the pan and pre-baked it until almost done. I let it cool a bit, then arranged sliced plums and peaches on top. I warmed the red currant jelly a bit so I could pour it over the fruit. And then I baked it until the plums were nice and soft. It was so pretty when I took it out of the oven. The next day I took it to work with some freshly whipped cream that I spread on top right before I took it to my friend and sang Happy Birthday to him. He was impressed, to say the least. It wasn’t the same as his Grandmother’s but he thought it held promise.
I saved up so I could buy a cookbook that would help me learn to make tarts, and that’s how I came to own Simca’s Cuisine, by Simone Beck, one of my Beloved Cookbooks.
As it turned out, I wasn’t too far off with my first tart.
Plum Tart with Shortbread Crust
This wonderful recipe is adapted from Fine Cooking (1), originally by Kimberly Y Masibay. While it is a rather lengthy recipe, it is but not difficult to make. You allow the shortbread mixture and the plum mixture to rest separately overnight before arranging and baking the next day.
You can add a tiny bit of lemon juice to the dough, which helps remove any bitterness from the stevia. It may also help to break down the phytates in the flour, making the minerals more bioavailable.
The original uses unbleached white flour for the crust; I prefer to use half whole grain pastry flour, half white flour. I also prefer to sweeten primarily with stevia with just a little bit of Rapadura sugar to give the proper texture to the tart shell (but I also provide the sugar equivalent for those who don’t mind using all sugar).
The key to this recipe is fresh-from-the-orchard plums. You could try canned plums in the off-season, but omit the sugar and overnight soak. Simply drain plums in colander over a medium bowl, then cook down the juices as indicated in recipe. However, I think the end result will be too mushy, so best to reserve this dish for late summer when the plums are ripe and fresh!
The original calls for 2 tsp firmly packed lemon zest for the tart shell, but some of the comments indicate it is too lemony. So consider using only 1 tsp zest the first time you make this, then adjust. The original did not use lemon juice, but you need the acidity of the juice for the presoak of the flour. If you don’t do the presoak, don’t add the lemon juice.
I’ve divided the recipe into three sections: Tart Shell; Filling; Assemble & Bake, each with list of ingredients, equipment and method for that section.
Shortbread Tart Shell
- ½ cup plus 3 Tbsp whole grain flour (wheat or spelt)
- ½ cup unbleached white flour (wheat or spelt)
- ⅛ tsp stevia extract powder plus 1 Tbsp Rapadura sugar (or ¼ cup sugar)
- ¼ tsp unrefined sea salt
- 1 fresh lemon
- 8 Tbsp cold, unsalted butter, cut into ½-inch cubes; more softened for the pan
- 1 large egg yolk
- 1 fresh lemon
- ½ tsp real vanilla extract
- small and medium bowl
- small cup
- 9-inch tart shell
- Measure flour(s) into sifter, add salt and sift into small bowl.
- Grate zest of lemon; measure 1 – 2 tsp when firmly packed for shell and set aside ¼ tsp for tart filling.
- Stir stevia (if using) into the sugar, then cream with butter in medium bowl. Add egg yolk with vanilla, lemon zest, and ½ tsp freshly-squeezed lemon juice into the bowl. Mix well. Let rest about 5 minutes (to help removed bitterness from the stevia).
- Add sifted flour mixture, a bit at a time, until combined. You may need to adjust the amount of flour to get a soft dough that holds together in a ball when you give it a squeeze.
- Press waxed paper or oiled parchment against the entire surface of the dough ball, and let rest in a cool spot (or fridge) overnight.
- NOTE: Do steps 1-2 of filling, below at same time, to rest overnight in fridge.
- 6 – 10 ripe medium black or red plums
- ¼ tsp stevia extract powder plus ½ Tbsp Rapadura sugar (or ⅓ cup sugar)
- 1 Tbsp Organic cornstarch or 2 Tbsp tapioca starch
- ¼ tsp Unrefined sea salt
- ¼ tsp finely grated lemon zest reserved from above
- large bowl
- If using fresh plums: Wash & pit plums. Cut each into 8 wedges.
- Combine stevia (or sugar) with starch, salt and ¼ tsp lemon zest. Add plums; toss to coat. Cover bowl and let rest in fridge 3 hours or overnight.
- NOTE: if using canned plums, drain and cut into wedges. Combine starch, salt and lemon zest, and stir into juices. Do not add sugar.
Assemble & Bake
- 2 Tbsp plum or apricot preserves
- ½ Tbsp Rapadura sugar
- sieve or colander
- medium bowl
- small saucepan
- Next day, butter tart shell, then press dough into place, about ¼ inch thick, across bottom and up the sides. Cover and chill at least 1 hour.
- Meanwhile, position oven rack in lower third of the oven, and preheat oven to 375°F.
- Unwrap tart shell and prick bottom and sides several times with a fork. Coat one side of a piece of parchment with a bit of olive oil, then place over shell, oiled side down, and fill lined shell with dried beans or other pie weights.
- Set tart pan on baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes. Remove from oven, reduce heat to 350°F, close oven door. Carefully remove liner and weights from shell. If any dough sticks to the liner, just peel it off and patch it back into the shell. Return to oven and continue baking until sides and bottom of shell are golden brown and dry, 10 – 15 minutes more.
- Remove to a rack and cool about 20 minutes.
- Meanwhile, drain plums in a sieve or colander set over a bowl for a few minutes. Pour juice into saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Reduce heat to low and simmer, uncovered, and stirring occasionally, until very thick, about 3 minutes. Scrape into small bowl to cool about 10 minutes.
- Meanwhile, melt preserves in the same saucepan (no need to clean it out first), over medium-low heat until syrupy. Pour into tart shell and brush evenly over bottom and sides. Then spread thickened plum juice over preserves on bottom of shell.
- Arrange plum wedges in concentric circles, starting around the edge and working toward the middle, skin-side up and tightly packed. Tuck extras wherever the fit. if you don’t have enough, spread them out a bit, or add some frozen berries in-between the concentric circles. If any juice remains in the bowl, drizzle up to 1 Tbsp over plums, discarding the rest. Sprinkle 1/2 Tbsp sugar over all.
- Bake tart directly on oven rack (not on baking sheet) until plums are tender when poked with a paring knife, and caramelized along their edges, the crust is a dep golden brown, and any juices look syrupy and bubbly, about 40 – 50 minutes.
- Remove tart from oven and moisten plums by dipping pastry bbrush into the juices between the plums and brushing any surfaces that look dry.
- Cool tart in its pan on a rack at least 2 hours, then unmold (push up on bottom of pan so sides of tart slip away from the sides of the tart pan). Slice into serving wedges with a very sharp knife.
- Fine Cooking.com recipe, originally by Kimberly Y. Masibay (finecooking.com/recipes/plum-tart-lemon-shortbread-crust.aspx)