Wednesday, 26 August 2015

the original plum torte and more

marion burros' original plum torte
autumn has begun to show face. she is plums the colour of dark bruises and apples like rosy cheeks. she has come to replace peaches with sun gold flesh, nectarines, glossy strawberries and blackberries. there was so much sweetness and warmth in the soft fruits this year, nurtured by a strong summer sun and plenty of heat. i have polished punnets of raspberries and strawberries with little embellishment. the peaches were at their best eaten leaning over the sink. their sticky juices running down my arms and chin. the kentish cherries this year were as if they had been candied, such was the texture of their flesh.

fruit left in the bowl ripened in haste. o had countless smoothies this summer. the basic formula for which was two pieces of whole fruit blitzed to smoothness with lots of ice and thinned with a splash of milk. i would add a few drops of orange flower water to the peaches to emphasize their fragrance; or rosewater to the strawberries and raspberries. ripe fruit is also the perfect candidate for cake. i made many of these from a frugal quantity of batter studded with double the fruit. this is the kind of cake that sits somewhere between a claufoutis and cake. it is fragile to slice and does not always look pretty. but is the kind of pleasure that is best had with a generous dollop of crème fraiche, cream or a scoop of pale vanilla flecked ice-cream.

i have several favourites; the almond meal in nigel slater’s midsummer cake echoes the flavour of frangipane that is so often paired with fruit encased in pastry. claire ptak’s summer spelt and almond cake strikes a similar note to nigel’s but is denser and with a pronounced nuttiness. the recipe i have returned to time and again though is marion burros’ plum torte. the original plum torte was first published in the new york times in 1982 and was published every year until 1989. the editorial decision to discontinue its annual appearance was met with much resistance and so it was reinstated. i discovered it on lottie and doof last year where tim’s simple and assertive opening line ‘make this cake’ is what dispatched me to my kitchen. it was a still warm afternoon and the first of the season’s plums were sitting in the fruit bowl. in pakistan, mama had just made a plum crumble cake inspired by her polish heritage. o wanted tea and i figured a slice of warm cake thick with fruit would be perfection.

this cake has been a firm favourite since then.

when i first made it, the thickness and scantiness of the batter gave me cause for concern. the ratio of fruit is almost double that of batter. but that is its charm. the plums relax in the heat, releasing their moisture into the cake. the batter rises and envelopes the halves giving the torte structure. i always make this cake a day before it is to be eaten as this allows the cake to sponge the plummy juices and became custard like. the edges of the torte become sticky with caramelisation.

to me, this is a recipe for all seasons and not merely for autumnal plums. i have made the torte with peaches or apricots with a scattering of raspberries or blueberries. i have played around with the spices swapping cinnamon with cardamom. i have tossed the fruit with demerara sugar for a more treacle like flavour. and i have been a little more liberal with the lemon juice as well. sometimes the fruit is almost invisible. this is usually the case with the first plums of the season that tend to be petite. at other times, i have arranged peaches like a fan and although this looks prettier, i much prefer the sunken fruit as it is essential to achieving the custard like texture that makes this torte special.

peach and raspberry torte

{peach and raspberry torte}
a slightly adapted version of marian burros’ plum torte

one hundred and twenty-five grams flour
one teaspoon baking powder
half a teaspoon kosher salt
one hundred and fifteen grams unsalted butter, softened
one hundred and fifty grams golden sugar
two eggs
two yellow peaches
a punnet of raspberries
one tablespoon lemon juice
one teaspoon ground cardamom or cinnamon
two tablespoons demerara sugar

you will need a twenty cm cake tin with a removable base. i always line the base with parchment paper.

pre-heat the oven to one hundred and seventy five celsius.

whisk the dry ingredients in a bowl and set aside. beat the butter and sugar (with the help of a cake mixer) until light and fluffy. add the eggs one at a time. you may need to add a tablespoon or two of the dry ingredients to stop the batter from curdling. once the eggs have been mixed in, add the remaining dry ingredients and mix until just combined.

slice the peach into slices. place them and the raspberries in a bowl and toss gently with the sugar, lemon juice and demerara sugar. do not smash the raspberries.

spoon the batter into the prepared tin and smooth the top with spatula. it is quite thick so will need a fair bit of help in spreading. if you want to the cake to look pretty then arrange the peach slices in a fan using the raspberries in the centre. otherwise you can pile the fruit over the cake and give it a very gentle press so that it is close to the batter. pour any leftover juices from the fruit onto the surface of the cake.

bake for forty-five to fifty minutes until the top is golden and a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean.

1 comment:

  1. So I made this the other day, just using pears instead! Was a treat :)