Confession time. Stone fruits like plums, nectarines and peaches scare me. Don't get me wrong, I like eating all of them. I just don't want to have to buy them myself. I can't pick a ripe peach or plum for the life of me! Most often, I wind up choosing fruit that's underripe so I'll try to let it sit on the counter for a day or two to ripen, but I always seem to miss the "ripe" window, heading straight for soft/mushy territory. It means I tend to avoid buying peaches or plums very often in the summer, which is a bummer as I've been flagging a ton of recipes using them. Eventually I will figure this out! Sort of a moot point now that summer is nearly over, but would love to hear your tips for choosing these fruits if you care to share.
The only exception to my "no stone fruits" rule are Italian prune plums. For some reason I never have a problem choosing ripe prune plums, maybe they're more forgiving, who knows? I had them for the first time nearly 3 years ago when we made what remains one of my favorite recipes from Dorie Greenspan's Baking, dimply plum cake. They look like little mini plums, with blueish-purple skin and yellowish flesh inside. According to The Kitchn, they're the plums that are used to make prunes, but don't let that scare you. They're wonderfully sweet when baked and turn a gorgeous purplish-pink color too. When I visited the farmer's market with a friend a few weeks ago and came across these, I immediately snatched them up.
I knew exactly what I wanted to make the with plums too. My friend Jessica had blogged about a plum torte a few weeks ago, and declared it the "best." I knew she wouldn't steer me wrong, and since I loved Dorie's dimply plum cake so much I knew this would probably be right up my alley too. It's ridiculously easy to make - a simple yellow cake batter is topped with the halved prune plums then sprinkled with a cinnamon sugar mixture before baking. The magic happens in the oven, though - the sugar caramelizes on top of the fruit and transforms it into something completely irresistible. Served with a scoop of vanilla ice cream it's the perfect dessert for this time of year where the calendar says September but it's not quite fall yet. Italian prune plums should be available for at least a few more weeks so grab a few if you see them, and give them a try!
New York Times Plum Torte
from The New Elegant But Easy Cookbook, originally published in the NY Times
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
pinch of salt
12 Italian prune plums, halved and pitted
1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
Preheat oven to 350 F with a rack in the lower third. Spray a 9-inch springform pan with cooking spray.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Mix in the flour, baking powder and salt until well combined. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and use a spatula to spread in an even layer (it will be a thin layer). Arrange the plum halves, skin side down, on top of the batter (I did concentric circles). In a small bowl, mix the sugar and cinnamon together for the topping, then sprinkle over the top of the cake batter and plums.
Bake for 40-50 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove the pan to a wire rack and cool completely. Run a thin knife around the sides of the cake then remove the springform pan. Store the cake in the refrigerator - you can gently reheat in a 300 F oven before serving, if desired.
Posted by Tracey Wilhelmsen at 10:07 AM