The Brits have Queen Elizabeth, the millennials have Queen Bey, but I serve at the pleasure of a different monarch. A contessa, if you will.
While she is not hosting parties for the gay elite in the Hamptons or cooking Jeffrey his godforsaken chicken dinners, she finds time to share wisdom with mere mortals, such as myself, in her myriad of cookbooks. However, much to my surprise, I came across her plum tart recipe last summer and it wasn't QUITE everything I wanted it to be - please don't come after my family Food Network Illuminati! I ended up workshopping some changes to this recipe and found my own version that I love quite dearly. Using ground almonds and a smidge of almond extract give the tart shell more of an Italian cookie taste that pairs beautifully with the plums. And topping the tart with a drizzling of homemade caramel nicely counters the tartness that the plums bring to the table. This makes for a fabulous dessert anytime of year, if the plums are of decent ripeness. And even if they aren't perfect, the added sugar in the "filling" brings out extra flavor and also helps create a fabulous syrup inside the tart.
Ina, darling, I promise I'll only change this one recipe. Everything else is perfection. See you at my [dream] dinner party on my [imaginary] yacht with Sally Field, Kevin Kline, and the rest of the cast of "Soapdish".
Almond and Plum Tart
TART SHELL: TOPPING:
12 Tbsp cold unsalted butter 1/3 cup heavy cream
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 cup finely ground almonds 1 1/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup light brown sugar 1/4 cup water
1 egg yolk pinch of salt
1/4 teaspoon (or less) of almond extract 2 Tbsp corn syrup
4 Tbsp cold unsalted butter
5-6 ripe plums each cut into 8 slices GARNISH:
1/4 cup sugar 1/4 cup toasted almond slices
Powdered sugar for dusting
1. To make the crumb tart mixture, first dice the 12 Tbsp of butter and set aside. Combine the egg yolk and almond extract in a small bowl so as to attempt more even distribution of the strong extract flavor. Then combine the flour, almonds, and brown sugar in a mixing bowl. Mix the flour mixture, butter, and egg yolk by hand until the butter is almost incorporated and the mixture forms crumbs.
2. Measure out 2 cups of the shell "dough" and press it into the bottom and sides of a nine inch tart pan. Make sure it is evenly pressed and there are no wholes or openings.
3. Place your cut plum slices in a bowl, pour in the 1/4 cup of sugar and quickly mix to combine. Then place the slices in the tart shell, skin side down. For a nice presentation, place the plums either long or short ways around the outside of the tart and then move inward to create concentric circles until you have used up your plum slices. Finally, sprinkle the rest of the tart shell mixture over the plums.
4. Bake in a preheated 400 degree oven for 40 minutes. You'll know when its done because the tart will have browned beautifully and the plum syrup thats been created by the juices and sugar in the tart should be bubbling.
1. While the tart is in the oven, make the caramel. Place the heavy cream and vanilla in a microwave safe bowl or measuring cup and microwave just until it begins to bubble (about one minute on high).
2. In a medium sauce pan, combine the sugar, water, salt, and corn syrup and place the pan over medium high heat. Bring the sugar mixture to a boil. As the pan is heating, stir the mixture until the sugar dissolves, and once the sugar is dissolved let it sit and boil for about 6-7 minutes, or until it becomes a rich caramel color. Then remove the pan from the heat.
3. Slowly add the heavy cream mixture to the cooked sugar and whisk until the caramel is smooth. (The hot sugar will bubble like crazy when you first put the cream in - don't be alarmed, just be careful) Let the caramel cool for approximately 10 minutes.
4. Add the butter 1 Tbsp at a time and whisk until the butter is fully incorporated before adding the next Tbsp.
PUTTING IT TOGETHER:
1. Carefully remove the tart from the pan if you have a removable bottom. If not...tough. No, it's fine, just serve it straight out of the dish, although being able to plate the tart without any pan really does make it look nice and makes serving it much easier.
2. Sprinkle the toasted almond slices over the tart, drizzle about a 1/4 cup (or more if you're feeling a little naughty) of the caramel over the tart (save the rest in the fridge, this stuff is GOLD), and dust with powdered sugar using a fine mesh sieve.
3. Stuff your face and don't you dare worry about calories. It's FRUIT for God's sake.
Hope you enjoy, and let me know if there are any variations you enjoy with this same basic recipe!
Good luck (and don't fuff it up),
*photos courtesy of Jake Emmerling