After all the festivities of the past week or so, it might seem a little indulgent for my first post in 2013 to feature ‘drunken plums’. But rather than being anything overtly boozy, this fruit is roasted in just a little brandy, butter and sugar, improving on the flavour and sweetness with such subtlety that it’s pretty difficult to detect. So difficult, in fact, that I could have simply called this ‘Plum Frangipane Tart’. However, there’s something wonderfully satisfying about the sound of a drunken plum . . .
As soon as I saw this tart, I knew I had to make it. Featured whole on the front cover of Bruce Poole’s Cookbook and again as a simple slice within, it epitomises the simplicity and deliciousness behind the cooking of this British-born chef. After visiting Chez Bruce for our anniversary last year and wanting to eat almost everything on the menu, I ordered up a copy of his book the next day and have been cooking from it ever since. While the recipes can take time to make, they are utterly achievable in a home kitchen and I love the casual yet informative voice that leaps from the page with every instruction.
I’ve made this tart twice in the last couple of weeks: first for Christmas Eve supper to follow the spicy crab linguine that has become a bit of a tradition and secondly in Yorkshire for Carnivorous Fiancé and his family. The first time round I made it in the kitchen of my little London flat, in my favourite fluted tart tin, with the oven that I know and the KitchenAid stand mixer that I love. The second time was in an unfamiliar space, baked from memory, using an ancient spring-form cheesecake tin and exercising my arm muscles by beating the frangipane with a wooden spoon. Both versions turned out perfect, sure sign of a pretty impeccable recipe.
I can’t emphasise enough how delicious this tart is. The pastry is crisp and flaky and almost caramelized in flavour, the filling at once light and rich and punctuated by juicy pockets of sweetly sharp drunken plums. The toasted flaked almonds add texture to the top, marrying with the crunchy crust and served warm with a dollop of homemade vanilla bean ice cream it’s close to my idea of dessert heaven without an ounce of chocolate in sight.
If you’ve given up alcohol in January, you could easily omit the brandy. If you’ve given up desserts, you probably shouldn’t be reading this blog: I’ve got plans for plenty more to come over the next few weeks.
Drunken Plum Frangipane Tart (adapted from Bruce’s Cookbook)
For the pastry
250g plain white flour
200g icing sugar
200g unsalted butter, chilled & cubed
2 medium egg yolks, beaten
For the plums and glaze
10 Victoria plums, halved and stones removed
30g unsalted butter
75g caster sugar
40ml plum brandy (normal brandy or Armagnac would also work here)
2 tbsp plum jam (you could also use apricot)
For the frangipane
180g unsalted butter
180g golden caster sugar
180g eggs (approx. 3 but do weigh them), beaten
180g ground almonds
1 x pastry case
1 x quantity roasted plums
1 x quantity frangipane
100g flaked toasted almonds
For the pastry
Put the flour and sugar into a food processor and blitz.
Add the cold butter and blitz again until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Add the egg yolks again and blitz until just combined.
Turn the pastry out onto a lightly floured surface and knead briefly. Roll into a ball, flatten slightly and wrap in cling film before chilling for 2 – 3 hours.
When the pastry is chilled, remove from the fridge and lightly flour a work surface. Bash the dough out flat with your rolling pin then bring the broken edges in to form a ball. With regular, generous dustings of flour, roll into a large round about 3mm thick and at least 5cm wider than your tart tin all round.
Lift the pastry gently, wrapping round your rolling pin if easier, and place it over a 23cm tart case. Working fast, lift up the edges of the pastry to allow it to relax into the base of each case and press in lightly. Leave any excess pastry round the edges to allow for shrinkage.
Line the pastry with a double layer of cling film, fill with baking beads and return to the fridge to cool for at least one hour.
Preheat your oven to 220 degrees C. Remove your pastry case from the fridge and bake on a baking tray for 10 minutes, or until the top is golden brown. Remove the baking beans and cling film, then bake for a further 18 minutes, or until crisp and golden brown. Remove from the oven and allow to cool.
Once cooled, trim the edges of the pastry so you have a neat edge.
For the plums and glaze
Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C.
Lay the plums, cut side up, in a roasting tray. They should fit snugly but in a single layer. Place a little knob of butter on top of each plum then shower with caster sugar.
Mix together the plum brandy with 1-2 tablespoons of water and pour over the plums. Roast the plums for 20 minutes, basting occasionally, until softened and slightly reduced in size but not collapsing. Remove the tray from the oven and set aside to cool.
Pour the cooking liquor into a small pan and add the jam. Bring to the boil and reduce by half, then set aside.
For the frangipane
In a stand mixer (or using a wooden spoon and bowl – I’ve tried both methods with very similar results), beat together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
With the motor running, add in one egg followed by one quarter of the almonds. Repeat until all the egg and almonds are incorporated.
Preheat the oven to 160 degrees C. Two-thirds fill the tart case with frangipane then arrange the plum halves on top, cut side up, so that they are touching but not overlapping. Bake for 45 minutes or until a knife inserted into the middle comes out clean (it may need another 10 minutes or so).
Remove the tart from the oven. Reheat the plum glaze then paint over the tart using a pastry brush. Scatter over the toasted flaked almonds, slice and serve with large scoops of homemade vanilla ice cream or a dollop of Jersey cream. As stated in Bruce’s book, the bloody business.