Friday, September 21, 2007

Pleasures of the Plum

The magnificent Plum Family is about to pack up and leave town soon. You know what that means. To the kitchen! Time for a plum tart, plum galette, plum ice cream, plum soufflé, or perhaps a Plum Upside Down Cake.

One of my first memories of plums comes from my grandmother’s homemade plum jam. Deliciously tart and sumptuous, sometimes she would bake little turnovers filled with it. I loved the color, I loved the texture, I loved the bright flavor.

This cake was one that was baked often for the Café upstairs at Chez Panisse, sometimes topped with cranberries and oranges later in the season. It’s a very light and delicious cake with a delicate melt-in-your-mouth crumb. A perfect bed for beyond-your-wildest-dreams pure pleasure plumminess.

And I hope you’re not afraid of the dried plummy maturity of prunes, because they may be keeping us company some of the time as we float into fall and settle in with the heady fragrance of warm spice cakes and little pastries. I can see it all now……Buck up!

Bench notes:
- This recipe is a hybrid from the Chez Panisse Café Cookbook and a version from David Lebovitz.
- The lightness of this cake comes from gently folding in the egg whites. Blend thoroughly but be careful not to overwork the batter.
- If you’d like, embellish with whipped cream flavored with a plum eau-de-vie, good quality brandy or whatever suits your mood.

Plum Upside Down Cake
Adapted from Chez Panisse Café Cookbook and Room for Dessert by David Lebovitz.
Serves 8 to 10

2 oz butter
3/4 C brown sugar
6 – 8 ripe plums (about 1 1/4 pounds)

4 oz butter @ room temperature
3/4 C sugar
1 t vanilla
2 eggs @ room temperature, separated
1 1/2 C AP flour
1 1/2 t baking powder
1/4 t salt
1/2 C whole milk @ room temperature
1/4 t cream of tartar

Place 2 oz of butter in a 9-inch cake pan and melt over low heat. Remove from heat, stir in the brown sugar until moistened and pat into an even layer.

Slice the plums into thin wedges and arrange as you like on top of the brown sugar and butter mixture. Set aside.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Sift flour, baking powder and salt together.
Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Add vanilla and blend.
Beat in yolks one at a time, mixing thoroughly after each addition.
Add a third of the flour mixture alternately with the milk, beginning and ending with the flour. Scrape down bowl to be sure everything is incorporated.
Whisk the egg whites with the cream of tartar until they are stiff enough to hold a very soft peak. Fold the whites into the batter a third at a time.
Carefully spread the batter evenly over plums.
Bake for about 55 minutes until a toothpick tests clean.
Run a thin knife around the edge of the pan to loosen cake. Cool in the pan on a wire rack for 25-30 minutes to let the fruit set up.
Invert onto a platter. Revel in the wealth of so much plumminess on one plate. I’m feeling it!


Anonymous said...

Your site goes beyond the recipes. The text and photography are as well-crafted as the creations themselves.

Thanks so much!

Anonymous said...

Mmmmm, plums.

Anonymous said...

And simple enough for ME to make. Bet it's also good with other fruits. Thanks, Pastry Chef!

Anonymous said...

This blog is a TERRIBLE peril to my weight-maintenance -- and do I love it!