~ Golden Goddess: Shiro Plum & Egg Custard Tart ~
Plums fall into two categories: European and Japanese. Did you know that? I never knew that. I grew up thinking all plums were blue-ish purple and they showed up in farmers markets in August. Mostly I remember my mom putting them in a bowl on the kitchen counter for us to snack on 2-3-4 at a time -- nobody can eat just one plum. My grandmother turned them into thick jam, which we adored slathered on crepe-like pancakes called palacinki. And -- you can't grow up in an Eastern European house without acquiring a taste for slivovitz (plum brandy).
Mel meets the golden greenish-yellow Japanese Shiro plum!
"To know them is to love them" and I couldn't agree more. We've had a Shiro plum tree in our backyard for 18 years, and, the first time I saw the plums, I assumed from the color they weren't ripe. Oh my was I ever wrong. The fruit grows in clusters throughout the 20' tall tree, causing the branches to weep to the ground under the weight -- which is convenient for the one picking. The luminous greenish-yellow skin covers the very sweet, mildly tart flesh of this clingstone fruit.
As with all things that Mother Nature provides, no two are the exactly the same. Immediately after picking, I sort them into two containers: large plums and small plums. I keep them stored in the refrigerator for up to ten days. They are too watery to freeze so they must be eaten or cooked in some way. Clingstone fruit is not easy to stone (pit), so I use the small plums to make jam, and the larger, easier-to-manage ones to make a couple of these yummy tarts. In my food world:
1 pound large = about 18 plums
1 pound small = about 32 plums
For my Golden Goddess tart, pick 1 1/2 pounds of Shiro plums...
We all have our favorite recipe for pate brisee, and pate sucree (unsweetened and sweetened recipes for quiche, pie and tart pastry). Some folks simply purchase pie pastry and I am neither going to judge nor criticize. What happens in your kitchen stays in your kitchen. Just remember: Whether making it from scratch or taking it out of a box, it's got to be rolled enough to fit into the bottom and up the sides of a 12" tart pan with a removable bottom.
1 jumbo egg
3 jumbo egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar & 1/8 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon pure almond extract
~ Step 2. In a small 1-quart saucepan stir together the cream, vanilla extract and almond extract. Over medium-high heat, whisking constantly, heat to a steaming state. Do not allow to simmer or boil. Set aside to cool for about 5 minutes.
* Note: This version of custard is quite simple as I use vanilla extract, rather than beans scraped from the pod. The reason is: The plums are so flavorful, even after the addition of beans from two pods, and, the traditional 15-20 minutes of steeping, the vanilla took a big back seat. Trust me, going with a healthy dose of extract is just what the doctor ordered in this recipe!
You will have 3 cups of flavorful and classic egg custard-type base.
*Note: Adding too much hot cream mixture at first can cause the eggs to "scramble", so error on the side of less for the first couple of additions. The technical term for this is called "tempering" the egg mixture. It simply heats them up very slowly so they don't start to cook.
For the plums:
1 1/2 pounds "large" (as described above) Shiro plums, cut into quarters from pole to pole and stoned (about 27-28 plums)
~ Step 4. Slice the plums as directed above, carefully removing/pulling and slicing each quarter away from the center stone. Arrange them, skin-side-down and slightly-overlapping, in a single layer of concentric circles around the bottom of the tart pastry.
Note: Allow each ladleful to drizzle through the nooks and crannies. Stop when tart is just short of being full. Depending upon the thickness of the pastry and size of the plums, you may or may not have a ladleful or two of custard mixture leftover. Some of the plums, especially the ones in the center are going to begin to float around. That's fine.
~ Step 5. Bake on center rack of preheated 350 degree oven, about 40-45 minutes until bubbly, golden and set but still "jiggly like Jell-O".
~ Step 7. Remove from oven and place on a cooling rack to cool completely, about 2 hours. Refrigerate uncovered for 2-4 hours (I always do this), or, cover and chill overnight prior to serving.
Remove the sides of pan, slice & serve chilled.
Special Equipment List: 12" tart pan w/removable bottom; 1-quart measuring container; whisk; 1-quart saucepan; small paring knife, preferably serrated (for slicing plums)
Cook's Note: While everyone loves a tart for dessert, savory versions make for a delicious lunch or dinner. You can find ~ My Asparagus, Smoked Salmon & Havarti Tart ~ recipe by clicking into Categories 2, 9, or 14.
"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti
(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2015)