Ahhh, sugar plums. I always look forward to those tiny plums coming into season but at the same time lament that they signal the end of summer. You start spotting them around the end of July/beginning of August and their availability is short-lived (usually around 3 weeks). This year I decided to purchase some (I got mine at the Co-op, they're from Full Belly Farms I believe) and make Marian Burros' famous Plum Torte. Marian Burros is a cookbook author and a food columnist for The New York Times. Her plum torte recipe has been the most often requested and the most republished recipe in the NYT for twenty years. Crazy, huh? You know it's got to be a pretty good recipe with a track record like that. I think most of you will really like this torte- it's quick to prepare, requires few ingredients and it makes your house smell phenomenal. The cake portion is crusty and airy, the plums sweet and there's a whisper of cinnamon and sugar. You could make this recipe with any old plum; but trust me, if you want to bump up the flavor profile of the torte and truly make it shine, use sugar plums. These bite size plums have a wonderful honey taste that can't be beat. The whole shebang is absolutely delectable but it tastes even more fantastic served warm with a side of vanilla ice cream or topped with some sweetened whipped cream. Best of all (gasp!), this torte freezes well so you can enjoy these juicy, sweet plums in the dead of winter.
Sugar Plum Torte (New York Times)
Total time: 1 hour 15 minutes
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1 cup unbleached flour, sifted
1 teaspoon baking powder
Pinch of salt
24 halves pitted sugar plums
Sugar and cinnamon for topping
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Cream sugar and butter in a bowl. Add flour, baking powder, salt and eggs, and beat well.
3. Spoon the batter into a spring form of 8, 9 or 10 inches. Place the plum halves skin side up on top of the batter (I didn't, it doesn't really matter). Sprinkle lightly with sugar, depending on the sweetness of the fruit. Sprinkle with about 1 teaspoon of cinnamon, or to taste. (I mixed some sugar and cinnamon together and then sprinkled that across the cake.)
4. Bake for 40 to 50 minutes. Remove and cool; refrigerate or freeze if desired (but first, double-wrap the tortes in foil, place in a plastic bag, and seal). Or cool to lukewarm, and serve.
5. To serve a torte that has been frozen, defrost and reheat it briefly at 300 degrees.
Yield: 8 servings.