Friday, September 17, 2010

Plum Handkerchiefs

As we head into the official end of summer, my impulse is to make turnovers. These are the kind of pastries that really celebrate the sheer goodness of fresh fruit without a lot of complicated ingredients. Soon we will turn to apples, pears, quince, chocolate, nuts, spice and all the other great elements of fall. But for now, I think these turnovers, which look like dainty little handkerchiefs to me, will ring in the new season very well.

As much as I love putting together complex flavors and compositions, some of my favorite items in the Kingdom of Outrageously Stupendous Pastry are based on fairly basic but elegant components and methods. These are a concoction of plump juicy plums tucked into a deliciously crisp and crunchy pastry. The dough mixes quickly in a food processor and is pretty easy to handle. I’ve added only a whisper of cardamom to the sugar that sweetens the package. But other than that, they are a supremely simple and rustic celebration of the end of summer 2010. Cheers, fellow bakers!

Bench notes:
- Because there is a lot of folded-over dough in this particular formation, be sure to roll the dough out to about an 1/8” thickness so all the layers bake through.
- If you're not super comfortable working with pastry dough, form 3 dough packages instead of two so you're dealing with a smaller piece. Roll each package out to a 16" x 8" square and then cut into 8 4" squares.
- Always taste fresh fruit to gauge the level of sugar you’ll need. When it was picked and how ripe it is affects the sugar level. Plums tend to be quite tart and baking them emphasizes their tartness, so in this instance, be generous with the sugar.
- I’ve added cardamom to the sugar because its fragrance and flavor make it one of the most intoxicating spices imaginable. Use your own favorite or keep the sugar plain.
- These pastries are best eaten the same day.

Plum Handkerchiefs
Makes about 2 dozen pastries

2 C flour
2 T sugar
1/4 t salt
8 oz (2 sticks) of cold butter, cut into small pieces
1 yolk
2/3 C sour cream

4 fresh ripe plums
3 T sugar, to taste
pinch ground cardamom (optional)

1 egg + 1 T water for egg wash

For the pastry, combine the flour, sugar and salt in the bowl of a food processor. Add the chopped butter and process until the butter is reduced to smallish pieces and the mixture resembles coarse meal for the most part. Add the sour cream and yolk and pulse just until the dough starts to come together. Be careful not to overmix. Gather the dough and portion it into 2 discs. Wrap each tightly in a piece of plastic wrap. Chill thoroughly.

Place one of the packages of chilled dough on a lightly floured piece of parchment and let it warm up a bit. Dusting lightly with flour as you go along, roll out a rectangle measuring about 12” x 16”. Trim the edges to make a clean rectangle and cut the dough into 12 4” x 4” pieces. Chill while you repeat the process on the second package of dough. If the dough feels too soft, chill the dough squares until you can handle them easily.

Cut the plums into thin slices. Whisk together the sugar with the cardamom or other spice, if using. Combine the egg and water to make an egg wash.

Remove half of the dough squares. To form the pastry, place a square of dough on a work surface with the corners in the shape of a diamond. Top with 3 – 4 slices of fruit on the upper half of the diamond. Moisten about a 1/4" of the border of the dough on the lower half of the diamond with egg wash. Sprinkle generously with the sugar on the entire surface of the pastry. Fold the two sides of the dough into the center and then bring up the bottom half. Place on a baking sheet lined with parchment. Continue with all the remaining dough squares and chill for an hour or so.

Preheat the over to 375 degrees.

Place the pastries on two baking sheets lined with parchment or a silpat. Brush the pastry dough with the egg wash and sprinkle the whole surface with the remaining sugar. Bake in the top and lower racks, rotating half-way through, for about 20 minutes or until pastries are crisp and lightly browned.


Audrey said...

Like everything you make, these are so pretty...and I'm sure they taste as good as they look. I love the idea and can't wait to try them.

vanillasugarblog said...

very nice. how fancy. i think i could pull this off....

Anonymous said...

So, tempting I wish I hadn't just decided to try to lose 10 pounds, maybe I can put the diet off...

Dime Store Foodie said...

These look so delicious! I wonder if you could roll this pastry out into a long rectangle, arrange your sliced fruit, sprinkle with sugar (maybe cinnamon?), dot with lots of butter and bake. Glaze the plums with seedless raspberry jam, some sliced toasted almonds? Everything that you make is so inspiring! I'm definately addicted!

Anonymous said...

beautiful pastries, so delicate and pretty. I love the cardamom with plums.

Valérie-jeanne said...

So simple, so elegant.

Lucie said...

Beautiful! The plums make it seem as if you open the envelope and they come blooming out like flowers--must be a delicious treat :)

busy beecher said...

These look so sweet. Just want to put one in my pocket and nibble on it all day. Nice work.

Preppy Pink Crocodile said...

Oh how fabulous!! Those are just as cute as they come.

Anonymous said...

These look AMAZING! I can't wait to try them.

julia said...

i made these the other day with plums and nectarines and they were little pockets of joy. they're so cute, i love them! i've read and loved your blog for some time now and you never cease to inspire. i posted a link back to this page, i hope that's okay!

pastry studio said...

Julia, I love your little pastries! It gives me such great pleasure to see others enjoy my work, so thank you very much. And thanks so much for the link back.