With a taste for most things sour—must be a Russian thing—I am naturally partial to plums.
Although they are universally known to be tart and sweet, I’ve eaten a great deal of plums that were nothing short of pure sugar. Over the years, I’ve taught myself to hold my plum flavor expectations at bay since I never know what a plum is going to taste like until I bite into it.
Even the same varieties may turn out significantly different from year to year.
I think one of the nicest qualities about plums is their diversity. With over 100 varieties available in the United States alone, they come in many shapes—round, oval, heart-shaped—and even more colors—both inside and out.
How many times did you notice the color of a plum’s skin not match its innards? More often than not, right?
And so it’s their diversity that keeps my creative juices flowing for no plum should be treated the same when it comes to baking.
Varieties that are tarter and juicier would definitely benefit from extra sugar and a thickener; they can be cooked into a thick sauce that is delicious swirled into an ice cream or layered under a crunchy topping of oats, hazelnuts (feel free to use almonds instead) , and demerara sugar as in this recipe for oat-plum streusel slices.
Sweeter and firmer plums just ask to be showcased fanned out atop a large tart or these tartlets that I baked the other day totally smitten with the color of the fruit.
Meatier varieties are wonderful jam candidates because they are capable of withstanding heat without turning into a complete mush. In addition, plums’ high vitamin C content aids greatly in jelling. Check out my recipe for black plum and rose jam here.
Yes, plums may differ in how we bake with them but they sure come together as one when it comes to flavor combinations. Plums, as most fruit for that matter, pair nicely with nuts—especially almonds. These two seem to have a natural affinity. Could it be because they are relatives?
Herbs and flowers refine rustic plums, lending desserts made with them the status of gourmand. These plum and almond tarts were so good served with a drizzle of rose-infused crème anglaise.
We couldn’t have enough.
Roasted plum and rose ice cream that I served in homemade almond waffle cones was just as delectable and disappeared just as fast. When making a fruit ice cream, go with full-fat dairy products: the ice cream’s final texture will be much smoother. It will taste fresher as well.
I based my plum ice cream on a custard that I cooked with duck egg yolks. Duck egg yolks contain more fat than chicken, and that’s exactly what I needed.
Surprisingly, the ice cream didn’t taste heavy at all.
To cook. To eat. To share.
I must admit, my favorite part is the cooking. I sure had a lot of fun concocting these three complementary, yet very distinct ingredients into all sorts of treats and I hope I’ve nudged you off on a creative path, too.
Recipe for Olga’s Original Plum and Almond Tarts*
For the crust:
1. ½ cup (75g) brown rice flour
2. ¾ cup (90g) tapioca flour
3. ¼ cup (25g) almond meal/flour
4. ½ teaspoon xanthan gum
5. ¼ teaspoon kosher sea salt
6. 85 g solid coconut butter, chilled
7. 5-6 tablespoons sour cream, chilled
For the topping:
1. 4 tablespoons (50g) butter, softened
2. ¼ cup (50g) ultrafine pure cane sugar
3. 1 duck egg, beaten
4. 1 cup (100g) almond meal/flour
5. 1 teaspoon almond extract
6. 10-12 medium ripe, sweet plums, about 2-3 per tart
7. 2 teaspoons demerara or any other coarse sugar
8. sliced almonds for garnish, optional
9. rose crème anglaise, optional, recipe follows
1. Place flours, xanthan gum, and salt in a food processor. Pulse 2 times or until combined. Add chilled butter; pulse 3-4 times or until mixture resembles coarse meal. With processor on, add chilled sour cream, 2 tablespoons at a time, through food chute, processing until dough comes into a ball. Divide dough into four equal parts; shape each part into a disk, cover tightly with plastic wrap, and place in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add egg, alternating with almond meal. Stir in almond extract; set aside.
3. Wash, dry, and pit plums. By the way, to remove the pit, cut a plum in half lengthwise, then gently twist the halves in opposite directions. Slice each half into 4 thin wedges.
4. Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
5. On a slightly floured surface, roll out each disk into a 7-inch round, then transfer to a large baking sheet. You will need two large baking sheets. Place two rounds on each.
6. Divide almond mixture evenly between four tarts and spread out, leaving a border of about 1 ½ inches. Arrange plums on top. Sprinkle each tart with ½ teaspoon of coarse sugar. Turn in border. You can crimp it if desired.
7. Bake 18-20 minutes or until golden brown. Let cool completely. Garnish with flaked almonds. Serve with homemade rose crème anglaise.
8. To make rose crème anglaise, prepare an ice bath by placing a medium bowl inside a larger one filled half full with ice water. Place 1 cup (250ml) whole milk, 1 cup (250ml) heavy cream, and 2 tablespoons of food grade dried rose buds in a medium saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Remove from heat; cover. Let rose buds soak for 30 minutes to infuse liquid. Remove and discard rose buds.
In a medium bowl, whisk together 5 duck egg yolks and ½ cup (100g) ultrafine pure cane sugar; set aside. Reheat cream mixture over medium-high heat until almost simmering. Reduce heat to medium low. Stirring constantly, slowly pour half of hot cream into yolks. Slowly pour egg mixture into remaining cream. If desired, stir in 1/8 – ¼ teaspoon of rose water.
Cook, stirring constantly, over medium-low heat until custard thickens and leaves a path on the back of a spoon when you draw your finger across. If path holds for a second or two, it’s ready.
Strain custard into bowl set in ice bath and stir until chilled. Cover and refrigerate until cold, about 2 hours, or overnight.
Makes 4 5 ½ -inch tarts
Recipe for Olga’s Original Roasted Plum and Rose Ice Cream**
1. 1 lb. (450g) tart plums, pitted and halved
2. 2 cups (500 ml) whole milk
3. 1 ½ cups (375 g) heavy cream
4. ¾ cup (140g) plus 2-3 tablespoons natural cane sugar, divided
5. ¼ teaspoon kosher sea salt
6. 2 tablespoons food grade dried rose buds
7. 5 duck egg yolks
8. ¼ – ½ teaspoon rose water, optional
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Place plums in a roasting pan, cut side up; sprinkle with 2-3 tablespoons of sugar. Roast until soft, about 10-20 minutes. The time will depend on how big and/or firm your plums are. Let cool completely and peel skins off of plums; mash up coarsely. Refrigerate until ready to use.
2. In heavy saucepan, stir together milk, cream, ½ cup sugar, salt, and rose buds. Heat over medium-high heat. When mixture just begins to bubble around edges, remove from heat; cover. Steep for at least an hour or longer for a more intense rose flavor. Remove and discard rose buds.
3. In a metal bowl, whisk duck egg yolks and ¼ cup sugar together; set aside. Heat cream mixture over medium-high heat until almost simmering. Reduce heat to medium low.
4. Gradually add hot cream to bowl—in 2 ½-cup increments—whisking it constantly. Slowly pour yolk mixture into hot cream in saucepan. Continue to cook on medium low, stirring constantly in a figure eight to cover entire bottom of pan. Cook until custard thickens and leaves a path on the back of a spoon when you draw your finger across. If the path holds for a second or two, it’s ready.
5. Remove pan from heat and immediately pour through a fine-mesh sieve into a small bowl. Set bowl in a larger bowl of ice water and stir frequently until cool. Remove and cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate until cold, about 2 hours. Stir in rose water just before churning ice cream.
6. Transfer to ice cream maker and proceed per manufacturer’s instructions.
7. Pack ice cream into a storage container, alternating it with layers of roasted plum sauce and ending with a spoonful of sauce; don’t mix. Freeze until firm, at least 4 hours.
Makes 1 ½ quarts
Recipe for Olga’s Original Almond Ice Cream Cones***
1. ½ cup (65 g) brown rice flour
2. ½ cup (50 g) almond meal/flour
3. ¼ cup (30 g) tapioca flour
4. 1 large duck egg
5. ¼ cup (about 60 ml) half & half
6. 1/3 cup (65 g) ultrafine pure cane sugar
7. ¼ teaspoon kosher sea salt
8. 2 teaspoons almond extract
9. 1/3 cup (77g) butter, melted and cooled slightly
1. In a small bowl, whisk together flours; set aside.
2. Place duck egg and half & half in a medium bowl and whisk to combine.
3. Add sugar, salt, and almond extract to cream mixture and whisk until well combined; whisk in melted butter.
4. Add flour mixture, whisking only until batter is smooth and lumps have disappeared.
5. Make cones in waffle cone iron per manufacturer’s instructions.
Makes 15-17 medium cones (4-5 inches tall and 2-2 ¼ inches across at top)
1. * and ** and *** developed at an altitude of 4500 feet above sea level