Now is the time for plums, sweet and juicy and oh so tempting. Plums are so inviting that they are the subject of William Carlos Wlliam’s famous poem, This is Just to Say, which contains the famous lines, “I have eaten/ the plums/ that were in/ the icebox/ and which/ you were probably/ saving/ for breakfast/ Forgive me/ they were delicious/ so sweet/ and so cold”
Everytime I think about plums, I think about those lines (I’m a writer AND a foodie, what can I say?). I also think about the plum tree in my childhood backyard, frilly with the lace of blossoms in spring, and then laden with the shiny purple fruit in summer, hanging like so many extravagant earrings off the branches. We fought the birds for the juiciest fruit. “A bird nibbled on that one. It’s probably the tastiest one of all.” We were so greedy for the fruit that we cut out the bird bites and ate the rest of the fruit. Yes, the birds knew how to pick the best plums. Eventually, the branches, bent heavy with the fruit, straightened out until the tree became utterly normal looking by winter. Plums and their trees can only be magical for so long, I guess.
Alas, I developed an allergy to plums and all stone fruit a few years ago, and now I can only indulge in them when they are cooked. So I keep my eyes peeled for a good plum recipe.
Here is a good recipe. It is called an almond-plum buckle (and I think you can make it with other fruit to great success). I have made it a few times now, to great acclaim. It is a fairly easy cake to make, with a very fun name, “buckle.” (A buckle is a dessert cake that has fruit placed on top of cake batter…durring baking the cake rises and the fruit “buckles” in, hence the name “buckle.”) One time, I didn’t have almond extract, so I did what I love to do: I adapted the recipe. I put a splash of kirschwasser in place of almond extract, and it was just delicious, the hint of cherry flavor from the brandy gave the almond and plums an extra punch. But it’s also quite excellent according to the original recipe (found on epicurious).
RECIPE FOR ALMOND-PLUM BUCKLE (from epicurious).
Nonstick vegetable oil spray
1/2 cup whole almonds (about 2 1/2 ounces)
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup plus 4 teaspoons sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract (one time I put in a splash of cherry brandy in place of almond extract and it worked quite well)
1 1/4 pounds plums (about 8 medium), halved, pitted, cut into 1/2-inch-thick slices (you will actually need a LOT fewer plums than this! I have never used more than 4 medium plums for this recipe, where did they get EIGHT?)
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 350°F. Spray 9-inch-diameter cake pan with 2-inch-high sides with nonstick spray. Line bottom of pan with parchment paper round.
Finely grind almonds in processor. Transfer to medium bowl; whisk in flour, baking powder, and salt. Using electric mixer, beat butter in large bowl until fluffy. Add 1 cup sugar; beat until well blended. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in vanilla and almond extract, then flour mixture just until incorporated.
Transfer batter to prepared pan; spread evenly and smooth top with spatula. Gently press plum slices, flesh side down, into batter in spoke pattern around outer rim and center of cake, placing close together. Mix cinnamon and 4 teaspoons sugar in small bowl. Sprinkle over plums.
Bake cake until tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 50 minutes. Cool cake in pan on rack 20 minutes. Run small knife between cake and pan sides to loosen. Invert cake onto platter; remove parchment paper. Place another platter atop cake. Using both hands, hold both platters firmly together and invert cake, plum side up. Cool cake completely. Cut into wedges.
p.s. Someone who ate this cake said it reminded her of Marion Burros’ famous plum torte. What–I wondered, was this recipe to end all recipes? I googled “marion burros plum tarte recipe” and found this fantastic write up on The Wednesday Chef. I am so utterly intrigued and must try this out. Oh, and still make time to make the clafouti I’ve been dying to try! And post all the food write ups I’ve got queued up! Oh, and write my novel!