After one of the hottest summers I can remember, fall has decided to make an appearance in New England, where I live, and the weather at last has become cool. After days of having salads for main courses and serving melons and sorbets at the end of meals, I'm ready for more robust fare.
I'm particularly anxious to start baking again, something I stopped doing during the warm spell. This week, while planning the menu for a small casual dinner for good friends, I did just that. In place of the frozen confections and fresh fruit I had offered just a few weeks ago, I decided on a plum and almond tart.
The crust, rich and flaky, was made with a generous amount of butter, and the filling was composed of a single layer of sliced plums sprinkled with sugar and cinnamon, and dotted with butter. As a garnish, I added a topping of sliced almonds.
Served warm with scoops of vanilla ice cream, the tart was the piece de resistance of our first meal of the new season. Our guests couldn't seem to get enough of this delectable pie and were genuinely disappointed to learn that there weren't any leftovers.
The tart proved to be a fine dessert to use when entertaining. The dough for the crust can be prepared a day in advance, and the pie can be assembled and baked several hours ahead.
It's good served at room temperature, but even better when reheated a few minutes before serving. And, the recipe can be doubled easily for a large group or in case you want to have extras for guests like ours who weren't satisfied with just one serving.
Autumn Plum and Almond Tart
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup unsalted butter, chilled and cut into small pieces
1 egg yolk, lightly beaten
3 tablespoons ice water, plus more if needed
1 tablespoon plum or red currant jam or jelly
4 to 5 large ripe plums (about 1 pound), such as Santa Rosa plums
2 1/2 tablespoons sugar
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
TOPPING AND GARNISH:
1/2 cup sliced almonds
1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 pint best-quality vanilla ice cream
To prepare crust, pulse flour and butter several times in food processor until mixture resembles oatmeal flakes. With machine running, add egg yolk. Gradually add water and process just until flour seems moistened but does not form ball of dough. If necessary, add up to 1 tablespoon extra water.
Place mixture on work surface and knead several seconds until smooth ball of dough is formed. Flatten into disk. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 30 minutes. (Dough can be prepared 1 day ahead. Keep refrigerated.)
Roll dough on lightly floured surface into 12-inch circle. Carefully lift dough and mold into 9-inch tart pan with removable bottom. Trim dough so that it hangs 1/2 inch over sides of pan. Fold dough in and press toward sides of pan. Pierce bottom of dough with tines of fork. Cover and refrigerate tart shell 30 minutes or longer.
To bake tart shell, mold sheet of aluminum foil into tart pan and fill with dried beans or pie weights to weight down dough. Bake at 375 degrees on center rack 10 minutes, then remove foil and weights, and bake 8 minutes more. Remove and let cool 10 minutes.
To prepare filling, spread plum jam over bottom of tart. Slice plums in half, lengthwise. Remove pits and cut into 3/4 -inch-thick slices. Arrange plum slices in swirl pattern in prebaked tart shell. (You may not need to use all of the plum slices.)
Stir together sugar and cinnamon in small bowl and sprinkle over plums. Dot plums with butter. Bake until plums are juicy and tender, and crust is golden, 25 to 30 minutes.
To prepare topping, place almonds, sugar and butter in small saucepan and heat about 1 minute or less, just until butter melts and sugar is dissolved. After tart has baked 25 to 30 minutes, remove and spread almond mixture as border on top of tart.
Return to oven and bake 10 to 15 minutes more until nuts are golden. Remove and cool 10 minutes before slicing. Serve warm or at room temperature with scoops of vanilla ice cream.
Note: If you wish to make tart ahead, stop after you have added almond border. Leave tart, uncovered, at cool room temperature up to 5 hours. Finish baking at 375 degrees until nuts are golden and tart heated through, 10 to 15 minutes.