French Plum Torte
I don't think I can get away with any more summery ingredient posts, can I? I suppose even this one might be borderline with the plums and all. It's October. The year has quietly snuck by. Would I be rushing it if I was just barely beginning to think beyond fall baking to the holidays?
In the photo world we get pushed into it early shooting Thanksgiving and Christmas stories from July-ish until right about now. This past weekend I was holed up in my kitchen turning out one sheet tray of chocolate bark after another for an editorial shoot that happened Monday (yesterday.) It cooled off a bit just in time. And thankfully I had an assistant to share in the burden that was a serious behemoth of a baking project. Had that not been the case I probably wouldn't have had the chance to bake up a little something of my own.
These lovely French plums start showing up at the market early fall and hang around for quite awhile. They have a rustic elegance don't you think? Refreshing in the land of new, new, new bright shiny tech. Quieter, simpler, more sophisticated. The French countryside of my youth if you will was my grandparents' back yard. Overgrown and lush, there's an apple tree in the center of the yard that would easily fill my entire studio apartment, it's branches intimately intwined with a rosebush nearly half it's size. Gorgeous. To the left of it in three raised beds surrounded by brick are French plum trees, one in each. When I was home over Labor Day weekend they weren't ready for picking yet even though the ground was scattered with fruit too heavy for their tiny stems to hold on any longer. I wish I could say that the plums in this cake came from one of their trees. Woulda made this cake all that much more endearing. The farmer's market is a fine source though.
I thought this might be the perfect thing to honor the start of the fall-iday baking season. The lady-like scallop that puffs up along the edge as the plums bake into the batter is so sweet. We don't get seasons much in the city. I miss that about home. A true fall that warrants large sweaters, tall boots, and warm drinks. One full of high school football, crunchy leaves, and crisp, cold air. Yes. There the fall season seems to descend with an equal mix of comforting nostalgia and holiday anticipation. The city version of that is an odd and unpredictable mix of sweltering heat (our infamous SF summer) and windy, frigid, fog-filled days. To all the California sun worshippers out there I apologize: for the sake of the season I really do prefer the latter. I want to linger at my kitchen table over a generous slice of this, coffee in hand and wrapped in my favorite cashmere sweater while I watch the wind carry the clouds over the tops of the city buildings and imagine for a moment that my life (and mind) function at such a lovely, leisurely European pace on the regular. And then take another tiny slice for good measure. It's hard to transport yourself to that place let alone feel all the autumnal feels when the sun is blaring down, seeping all the life out of the fire-escape flower boxes outside your window. With this cake I am admittedly willing the end of the summer season. It's probably not quite that simple I suppose. This cake couldn't be easier to make though. Laughing at myself right now for that corny transition. You see how it was perfect though, right? Maybe if we all make them collectively?? It's adapted from Marian Burros' original recipe published in the New York Times. This version is gluten-free with a bit of cornmeal in the flour blend added for a toothsome fall texture and almond flour for a tender crumb to balance it out. It would be just at home on an elegant brunch table as it would be on a kitchen counter with a fork in hand. It's one of those ones that gets better as it sits too. Every slice is quite literally better than the last.
French Plum Torte
The original recipe for this torte has a sweet history, published annually in the New York Times since 1983 with a pause in 1989 for which they received droves of angry letters. It's their most requested recipe of all time.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly butter an 8-10 inch springform pan (alternatively you can use a cake pan lined with parchment.)
Cream the butter and sugars together in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment until light and fluffy, 2-3 minutes. Scrape down the sides. Beat for 10 seconds more. Add the flour blend, almond flour, baking powder, sea salt, and eggs and beat on medium speed until well combined scraping down the bowl once.
Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and arrange the plums, cut side down, in a circular pattern. Sprinkle with cinnamon, sugar, a squeeze of lemon juice, and a pinch of course sea salt. Bake for 45 minutes to an hour or until the edges start to pull away from the sides. Cool to room temperature in the pan.
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup coconut palm sugar
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup AE gluten-free flour blend
1/4 cup almond flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
12 purple french plums, halved and pits removed