Sunday, August 15, 2010

Free-Form Italian Plum Tart

When you're a poor student faced with loans that reach high into the six figures, you start to get creative about making and saving money. Although I only have class from 8:30-2:30 during the week, that still makes finding a part-time job kind of a challenge. Plus, the thought of working retail (unless that retail store is Tiffany & Co.) or waiting tables is just way too nauseating (although given how incredibly bad the wait staff is in this city, I probably wouldn't have a problem finding a job or making decent money at it, but it would mean selling my soul and I'm saving that for when I really need it, like when I want to intern at Jean Georges). 

Since I can't exactly make a steady paycheck, I'm focusing on saving money. Or at least I'm trying. For example, out of all the numerous menus for Chinese food we have, my roommate Shaun and I chose the cheapest option possible for dinner Friday night. We ordered enough food to feed a small village, and it was only $20. We still have enough left over for probably 2 more dinners. I may have to call the CDC, but what's a little Salmonella in exchange for pinching pennies?

And here's another money-saving tip: grow your own food. Dan planted a garden this summer and we've been eating peppers, beans, tomatoes, and cucumbers for just the cost of the seeds. Not only does this save money and give him a hobby, but you don't get more local than your own backyard. Given all of these interests, imagine our delight when we discovered the plum tree growing on Dan's street. 

Local, fresh produce that is also FREE? JACKPOT.

They are much smaller than the plums you find in the grocery store, but they taste exactly the same, with sweet, flavorful fruit and tart skins. After harvesting a big bag of plums, conversing with the tenants whose house the tree is in front of, being offered a cocktail and a ladder (great combo), and almost being eaten alive by mosquitoes, we had more than enough plums for this free-form tart.

I really liked the tart dough and the plums were nice and flavorful, but it seemed a little one note. I did really like the addition of the lemon zest in the dough, which is not something I've ever done before; I think it may have been my favorite part, and is a technique I could apply to lots of different pies.

One of the only problems we encountered was when we checked on the tart after about 20 minutes, things didn't look promising. The plum juice had formed a pool around the tart and the uncooked dough almost looked as if it was going to dissolve. But we pressed on. After the full cooking time, the tart looked much better.

While Dan loved this, I thought it was just good. It wasn't too tart and it wasn't too sugary, but there was just something about it that I didn't absolutely love.

Of course, that didn't stop me from eating two pieces and, between the two of us, finishing off more than half of it the night we made it. What? It was small! 

Free-Form Italian Plum Tart 

For the Pastry
1 cup All-purpose flour
2 Tablespoons granulated sugar
Grated zest of a small lemon
1/2 teaspoon Kosher Salt
8 Tablespoons cold, unsalted butter, cubed
1-2 Tablespoons cold water

For the Fruit
20 or so Italian plums
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 Tablespoons unsalted butter, cubed

1. Make the pastry. Combine the flour, sugar, lemon zest, and salt in a bowl. Cut in the cubed butter until it is the size of peas. 

Hydrate the dough with the cold water and mix, just until the dough holds together. Wrap well and chill for at least 30 minutes.

2. Next, prepare the fruit. Wash the plums, cut them then half and remove the pits. Set aside.

3.Roll out the dough into a circle about 10'' in diameter and 1/8'' thick.

Leaving a 2 inch border, cover the middle of the dough with plums, cut side down. Sprinkle the sugar over the fruit (Note: We found we had way too much sugar and were almost burying the fruit. Use your judgment and add according to your taste. If the plums are particularly sweet, less sugar will be needed). Top the fruit with the cubed butter. 

4. Fold the excess dough up and over the fruit. 

 Remember, this tart is free-form, so you can leave the edges rough, or crimp them decoratively. I was feeling particularly lazy free when I made this. 

Place the tart back in the fridge and preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

5. Bake the tart at 350 degrees for 40 minutes or until the crust is browned and the juices of the fruit are bubbling. 

Allow to cool slightly before slicing. Serve with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream. Or both.

Adapted from Tasty by Roy Finamore

Nom, nom, nom


  1. now that tart looks so very very good! wow, and then you add ice cream, I am so ready to eat some of that great tart!

  2. Mmm Morgan, You know how I am about pie and or a tart with ice cream. Strong coffee and I'd be set!

  3. I think the tart looks very rustic! And as I have way more loans then you do at this point perhaps I will try to grow a vegetable or two or some herbs in my windowsill once I move....More likely though I will take a cue from you and just go with the least expensive take out/delivery options :)
    You are just FULL of helpful tips!!!


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