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Recipe: Late Summer Plum Tart by Way of Istanbul

Rural Intelligence FoodBerkshire native Alana Chernila, local politician, mother of two, and author of the new cookbook, The Homemade Pantry: 101 Foods You Can Stop Buying & Start Making (Clarkson Potter), dispenses change and cooking ideas at the Great Barrington Farmers’ Market. She shares her peak-of-the-season recipes with Rural Intelligence to help us make the most of what’s growing in our region.

This recipe was given to me by a woman at the farmers’ market in Istanbul. Marianti had a stand in the corner where she assembled the most beautiful Turkish breakfasts of eggs boiled in a little pot, spreads she had made the night before, and bread and dates and honey from the stands nearby. My friends Molly and Aurel had sent me over there with the promise that her plum tart was one of the greatest treats at the market, and when she sliced me a piece, I could see that it was that thing she made, that food of which she was most proud. She shared the recipe right away, and it was that wonderful sort of list where she assumed I already knew how to make it – mix a little of this with a little of that, prepare, press, bake, and be done with it. It’s that kind of recipe really, one where it’s just a simple crust topped with plums (or plumps, as she wrote in her recipe – so I call this “plump tart” in my mind), and so if there was ever a chance to bake on instinct rather than a recipe, this would be a good one. I came home and gave it a shot, and the end result was terrible- a tough crust under tasteless fruit. It was, after all, March, which is just about the worst time to make a plum tart. So I put it away with the promise to return when the plums were here.

Rural Intelligence FoodThree plum seasons later, here it is. Maybe I’ve become the baker Marianti thought I was when she passed the recipe along. Or maybe it’s just that it’s exactly the right time to find the recipe again. It’s been too long for me to remember if this is indeed the tart of the Istanbul market, but it is so good, and the tart of right now and right here, which is where I am happy to be. We ate this with a little spoonful of whipped cream and it soothed and cooled with all its tart sweetness. The crust is cake-like with a hint of shortbread, and it swells around the fruit to hold its juice. I made a tiny tart with the leftover crust, too, and the girls ate it for a snack after their first day of school. I take my wins where I can get them. That, and an extra slice of plum tart.

Late Summer Plum Tart
makes one 9 or 10-inch tart
(With gratitude to Marianti Asimyadis of the Istanbul market for sharing her recipe… I’ve adapted it here just a bit, and I’ve done my best to add cup measurements to her original grams.)

Rural Intelligence Food75 grams (1/3 cup) granulated sugar, plus additional for sprinkling
125 grams (slightly more than 1 stick) cold butter, cut into 1-inch cubes
250 grams (2 cups+2 tablespoons) all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 large egg
about 3 tablespoons ice water
8-12 plums (depending on the size), halved and pitted
1/4 cup sliced, blanched almonds

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Butter a 9 or 10-inch round tart pan and set aside.

2. Combine the sugar, butter, flour, and baking powder in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse to combine. Add the egg, and pulse one more time. Then, pulsing after each addition, add one tablespoon of ice water at a time, stopping when the dough is smooth and just a little bit sticky. (This dough is wetter than pie crust, so don’t be alarmed if it’s a bit wetter than you think it should be.)

Rural Intelligence Food3. Roll the dough out on a floured surface until it’s between 1/3 and 1/2 inch thick. Transfer to the prepared pan, trimming off any excess. Lay the plums flesh side down on the crust, arranging them to your liking. Top with a generous sprinkle of sugar and the blanched almonds. Bake until the crust starts to brown and the plums begin to release juice. This will most likely take between 25 and 30 minutes, but keep an eye on it, as the size and liquid content of your plums will affect the baking time. — Reprinted with permission from [1]. All text and photos copyright 2008-13 by Alana Chernila.

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