One of my favourite stone fruits is the sugar plum, a welcome late-comer to the summer season. And if you have been buying up big like we have then you might want something delicious to bake them in. I decided to make one of my favourite rustic tarts-a sugar plum crostata made with the easiest but most deliciously short dough you could dream up. This is filled with sun kissed halved sugar plums but can also work for a huge range of stone fruit or berries.
There are some fruits with romantic names - add fairy or sugar to a food name and suddenly it transforms from something regular to something positively delightful. But did you know that sugar plums, the small Italian oval shaped plums with dark purple skin and light green flesh are also the most common plum made into prunes? Their name is not romantic but practical as they are so high in natural sugar which makes them ideal for drying or jam making. I can tell that summer is coming to an end when these are prolific at the markets which they are now.
This blissfully good crostata pastry is made in the food processor and gets added aromas from cinnamon and lemon zest. I also love adding a crunchy coating of sugar on the edge. For those in the Northern Hemisphere this can be made with tinned or frozen fruit too. I was all set for Mr NQN to eat the fruit off and leave behind the crust which is his usual modus operandi but he tasted it and said, "Mon cheri, this is delicious!". The slice was gobbled down in its entirety before he nodded his head for another slice. Now I'm going to get pushy here because this really is a beauty. If you love the gentle tart kiss of sugar plums and a pastry that is divinely crumbly and short then I urge you to make this lovely tart.
I've been trying to suggest ways for Mr NQN to be more romantic. Truth be told I'm not a particularly romantic person although I do love the occasional bouquet of flowers. But for the last few weeks ever since Valentines Day I told him that it would be "romantic" if he puts the sheets on the bed on a Sunday night. There's a weekly weekend ritual where we change the sheets and towels and sometimes I just want to collapse into bed made with freshly laundered sheets.
Now Mr NQN is a down to earth country boy so he nodded and took it in his stride. "Romantic hey?" he asked rubbing his chin contemplatively. I could see that he couldn't really see it but then again quite a few romantic things are lost on him so he has been doing it every week. He's clearly a keeper...
So tell me Dear Reader, what gestures would impress you? Are you a romantic person? Do you have a favourite stone fruit or summer fruit?
Sugar Plum Crostata
An Original Recipe by Lorraine Elliott
Preparation time: 20 minutes plus 1 hour resting time
Cooking time: 25 minutes
- 1.5 cups all purpose plain flour
- 3 tablespoons sugar
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 170g butter, cold and cut into cubes
- 2-4 tablespoons ice water
- 500g sugar plums
- 2 tablespoons cornflour/cornstarch
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- Finely grated zest of lemon
- 1 tablespoon cream
- 2-3 teaspoons coarse white sugar
Step 1 - Place the flour, sugar, cinnamon and salt in a food processor and pulse until combined. Add the butter and process until combined. Then add the ice water in a trickle into the spout while processing the pastry. It should look sandy.
Step 2 - Empty out onto a floured bench and knead into a dough. Shape into a ball and then flatten into a circle. Cover with cling film and refrigerate for 1 hour.
Step 3 - Preheat oven to 225C/450F. While waiting for the dough to rest, wash and halve the sugar plums. Cut them along the line (there is one faint line along one side of the sugar plums) and the stone should lift out easily. Toss with the cornstarch and sugar and set aside.
Step 4 - Roll out the dough between two sheets of parchment and roll out to a large circle. You can leave the edges ragged and freeform but I'm too much of a control freak to do this. Cut out a very large circle-larger than your pie tin and lift onto the tin using the remaining sheet of parchment. Gently remove the parchment.
Step 5 - Fill the pie with the plums and then fold over the edges, pleating them however you like. Brush the edges with cream and sprinkle the sugar onto the edges with a teaspoon. Grate lemon zest over the pie. Bake for 25 minutes. Serve with cream or yogurt.