Two weekends ago I visited my sister in Pittsburgh, where among sisterly activities such as thrifting, eating corn fritters, and tallying the number of cicadas that Trout (cat) killed, we also had a dinner party of sorts. I'm going to hijack the nuanced reason and say that it was a test drive for Olly Oxen Free, which is the secret cafe that I've been doing in Washington, DC (well, did once anyway). The menu, was a simple savory tomato and thyme tart, an all greens and herbs salad with shallot vinaigrette, a super delish roasted chicken, our adopted and adapted recipe for truffled macaroni and cheese, sweet corn custard with blueberry compote, and a plum and apricot galette with an almond-y crust. Oh and an assortment of bar drinks, especially red wine spritzahs and a seriously good Katie-made St. Germain cocktail.
The dinner was awesome, the kitchen only a mild disaster, and the food coma so very severe that we skipped the Night of a Thousand Bowies in favor of unzipping on the couch and listening to the addling 4:00 a.m. ramble of a well-meaning neighbor. In addition to learning that truffle is best goddamn flavor I have ever put in my mouth, I also discovered that plum desserts are totally underrated and fully delightful. I got zero pictures of the evening (well almost zero, here's an iPhone snap), but the macaroni and the plum galette were my favorite edible parts, so I tinkered with and recreated the dessert recipe last weekend. What follows is a caramelized and more buttery (and more photogenic) version of the galette from Pittsburgh. Baby, it's pure late summer in a pie shell.
All-Butter Pastry Dough
(Makes enough for two crusts)
2 sticks unsalted butter, very cold
1 cup ice water, divided
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1. Read this if you want to get some good advice about pie crust. I'll throw in some of my own hints, but Deb has compiled some excellent suggestions about how to keep your dough cold and your crust flaky. Start by cubing your butter into small, half-inch pieces. Put these in the freezer while you ready the rest of the ingredients. Measure one cup of water, add some ice cubes and set aside to chill.
2. I use a food processor for my dough, but was making wonderful crusts with a pastry blender until very recently. If your kitchen is very warm, you might want to chill the bowl or the blade of the processor to ensure that it cuts rather than melts the butter. Add all of your dry ingredients to the bowl of the processor, and pulse once or twice to blend the mixture. Sprinkle the cubes of butter over the top, and blend in pulses about 15 times, or until some pieces of butter are the size of peas, and the rest resembles oatmeal.
3. Dump the mixture into a chilled, shallow bowl, and drizzle a half-cup of the ice water (minus de cubes) over the top. Using a rubber spatula, cut the moisture quickly into the dough, gathering it together as you do. If the dough is too dry, add more water 1 tablespoon at a time until the dough comes together in a shaggy mess. (Sidenote: I never use more than two or three additional tablespoons of water, and generally keep it to a half-cup anyway, but this all depends on the moisture and heat in your kitchen!) Knead the dough gently a few times to make it come together more, divide into two equal pieces, and wrap in plastic wrap. Flatten into disks and store in the fridge for at least an hour, preferably longer.
4. If not using all of the dough that day, it will keep in the fridge for up to a week, wrapped in an additional layer of plastic.
Freely adapted from Sunday Suppers at Lucques
Suzanne Goin's recipe is for a plum tarte tatin with puff pastry, but since I lack a cast iron pan and love galettes, I used her caramelizing technique and scaled back the filling to make this summery tart with a crust. Do not be dissuaded by all the text -- this recipe is simple and delightful.
1 1/2 pounds of plums, or about 12 small (I used a combination of Italian, red, and black), sliced vertically and pitted
1/4 cup + 6 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon lemon zest, optional
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1. In a medium bowl, gently mix plums, quarter-cup sugar (or less if your plums are real sweet), pinch of salt, and zest if you're using. Allow to macerate for half-hour.
2. Meanwhile, heat a large, flat skillet over medium heat for one minute. Add butter and melt until foamy, then add the six tablespoons of white sugar, stirring quickly just to evenly distribute. Over medium-low heat and swirling often, cook the mixture for about six minutes, or until it's the color of dark caramel. Remove from heat and allow to cool for 20 minutes. It will harden, but that's okay!
3. Once the plums are finished macerating, drain the liquid. Arrange the plums cut side down on your skillet and return stove to medium heat. Cook the plums in the caramel for 20 minutes without stirring. They'll release a lot of liquid and essentially stew in their own awesome juices.
4. Allow to cool for an hour or two. Then preheat the oven to 375 degrees F, and roll out one piece of dough to a 13-inch round and trim the edges so they're smooth (If it's hot in your kitchen, place the rolled-out dough onto the back of a cookie sheet and slide it into the freezer or fridge for ten to fifteen minutes to keep the butter from melting). Slide your dough onto a sheet of parchment on the back of a cookie sheet. Maintaining a three-inch border of crust, arrange the plums cut side up in a tight concentric circle. Gently fold the edge of the dough over the fruit, pleating as you go.
5. Brush pastry with the beaten egg and sprinkle with sugar if you wish. Bake in the middle of the oven for 45 to 55 minutes, until pastry is deep golden brown and fruit is bubbling. Allow to cool on cookie sheet for ten minutes, then eat it up or let it cool further on a cooling rack. Whipped cream or ice cream would be excellent companions here.