So as I have already mentioned, I recently returned from a holiday in France and upon leaving the little gite, I was presented with a huge bag of plums from the hosts who had been busy harvesting the variety of wonderful trees in their garden. I have never really been overly fussed about plums but being one not to let anything go to waste, I thought I’d try my hand at baking something with them and this pudding is the result.
Sharp plums are topped with a light sponge flavoured with almonds and scented with zesty lemons for a really satisfying treat.
- 8 ripe plums, quartered and stoned
- pinch cinnamon
- zest 2 lemons
- 4 tbsp brandy (optional)
- 100g soft butter
- 100g light brown sugar
- 2 eggs
- 100g self-raising flour
- 1 tsp almond extract
- 50g ground almonds
- 3 tbsp flaked almond
- Custard/cream/icecream, to serve
- Heat oven to 180C/160C fan. Toss the plums, cinnamon, lemon zest and brandy together in a bowl, then leave to macerate while you make the batter.
- Cream the butter and sugar with an electric whisk until pale and fluffy, add the eggs one at a time then tip in the flour, almond extract and ground almonds. Mix until completely combined.
- Tip the fruit into a buttered shallow baking dish, spoon over the cake batter, then sprinkle over the flaked almonds. Bake for 35-40 mins until browned and cooked through. Test if the pudding is ready by inserting a skewer. If it comes out clean, the pudding is ready. If there is some batter on the skewer then give it a few minutes more. Remove from the oven and serve warm with custard.
Flan patissier is the French equivalent of the custard tart. The delicious dessert is filled with simple, vanilla infused cream. It is the tart that you see in patisseries all over France. It is often made in a long slab that can be sliced as a treat at any time of the day.
I have provided a really in-depth method for making the pastry as this is so important to creating the final flan. The crumbly, buttery base is perfect with the thick, creamy custard filling.
For the sweet pastry:
- 350g plain flour
- 125g butter
- 125g caster sugar
- 2 eggs, plus one yolk
- pinch of salt
- A little butter or baking spray, for greasing the tin
- A little flour, for rolling
For the filling:
- 200ml full-fat milk
- 200ml double cream
- 1 vanilla pod
- 1 medium egg, plus 1 medium yolk
- 100g caster sugar
- 40g cornflour
- 20g butter, melted
Essential kit You will need a 20cm loose-bottomed tart tin.
- First, make the sweet pastry. You will need half the quantity given here. To make the pastry: Measure out all your ingredients before you start, and break your 2 eggs into a small bowl– there is no need to beat them. Separate the remaining egg. Put the flour and salt into a mixing bowl.
- Now for the cold butter. What I do is take it straight from the fridge and put it between two pieces of greaseproof paper or butter wrappers (I always keep butter wrappers to use for this, as well as for greasing tins and rings), then bash it firmly with a rolling pin.
- The idea is to soften it while still keeping it cold. I end up with a thin, cold slab about a centimetre thick that bends like plasticine. Put the whole slab into the bowl of flour – there is no need to chop it up.
- Cover the butter well with flour and tear it into large pieces.
- Now it’s time to flake the flour and butter together – this is where you want a really light touch. With both hands, scoop up the flour-covered butter and flick your thumbs over the surface, pushing away from you, as if you are dealing a pack of cards.
- You need just a soft, skimming motion – no pressing or squeezing – and the butter will quickly start to break into smaller pieces. Keep plunging your hands into the bowl, and continue with the light flicking action, making sure all the pieces of butter remain coated with flour so they don’t become sticky.
- The important thing now is to stop mixing when the shards of butter are the size of your little fingernail. There is an idea that you have to keep rubbing in the butter until the mixture looks like breadcrumbs, but you don’t need to take it that far. When people come to my classes, I find they can’t resist putting their hands back into the bowl to rub it just a little bit more, but if you want a light pastry, it is really important not to overwork it. If the mixture starts to get sticky now, imagine how much worse it will be when you start to add the liquid at the next stage. Add the sugar at this point, mixing it in evenly.
- Tip the eggs, and the extra yolk, into the flour mixture and mix everything together.
- You can mix with a spoon, but I prefer to use one of the little plastic scrapers that I use for bread-making. Because it is bendy, it’s very easy to scrape around the sides of the bowl and pull the mixture into the centre until it forms a very rough dough that shouldn’t be at all sticky.
- While it is still in the bowl, press down on the dough with both thumbs, then turn the dough clockwise a few degrees and press down and turn again. Repeat this a few times.
- With the help of your spoon or scraper, turn the pastry onto a work surface.
- Work the dough as you did when it was in the bowl: holding the dough with both hands, press down gently with your thumbs, then turn the dough clockwise a few degrees, press down with your thumbs again and turn. Repeat this about four or five times in all.
- Now fold the pastry over itself and press down with your fingertips. Provided the dough isn’t sticky, you shouldn’t need to flour the surface, but if you do, make sure you give it only a really light dusting, not handfuls, as this extra flour will all go into your pastry and make it heavier.
- When you flour your work surface, you need to do this as if you are skimming a stone over water, just paying out a light spray of flour. (Funny as it seems, people in my classes actually practise this, like a new sport.) You need just enough to create a filmy barrier so that you can glide the pastry around the work surface without it sticking.
- Repeat the folding and pressing down with your fingertips a couple of times until the dough is like plasticine, and looks homogeneous.
- Your pastry is now ready to roll out and bake. Store in the fridge until ready to use.
- Preheat the oven to 190°C/gas 5.
- Lightly grease a 20cm loose-bottomed tart tin with butter or baking spray
- Lightly dust your work surface with flour, then roll out the pastry into a circle 5mm thick and large enough to fit into the tin, leaving an overhang of about 2.5cm.
- Roll the pastry around your rolling pin so that you can lift it up without stretching it, then drape it over the tin and let it fall inside.
- Ease the pastry carefully into the base and sides of the tin without stretching it, and leave it overhanging the edges. Tap the tin lightly against your work surface to settle it in. Prick the base of the pastry all over with a fork to stop it from trying to rise up when in the oven (even though it will be held down by baking beans, it can sometimes lift a little).
- You can use a large sheet of baking paper for lining your tart case, however I prefer to use clingfilm (the kind that is safe for use in the oven or microwave) as it is softer than paper and won’t leave indents in the pastry. Place three sheets of clingfilm (or one sheet of baking paper) over the top of the pastry case, then tip in your baking beans and spread them out so they completely cover the base. Don’t trim the pastry yet. Put the case into the fridge for at least one hour (or the freezer for 15 minutes) to relax it.
- Pre-heat the oven to 190C / gas 5.
- Remove the pastry case from the fridge and put in the pre-heated oven for about 20 minutes until the base has dried out and is very lightly coloured, like parchment.
- Remove from the oven and lift out the clingfilm (or baking paper) and beans. Don’t worry if the overhanging edges are quite brown, as you will be trimming these away after you have finished baking your tart.
- Brush the inside of the pastry case with the beaten egg and put it back into the oven for another ten minutes. The inside of the pastry, and particularly the base, will now be quite golden brown and shiny from the egg glaze, which will act as a barrier so that the pastry will stay crisp when you put in the filling.
- Let the pastry case cool down then you can trim away the overhanging edges.
- Turn down the oven to 180°C/gas 4.
- To make the filling, put the milk, cream and vanilla pod (split and seeds scraped in) in a pan, bring to a simmer (be careful not to let the mixture boil), then take off the heat and leave to infuse for at least an hour. Remove the vanilla pod.
- In a bowl, mix the egg, yolk and sugar until pale and creamy, and then whisk in the cornflour. Stir in the melted butter.
- Put the pan containing the milk and cream mixture back on the heat and bring slowly to the boil, whisking all the time, then turn down to a simmer for 1 minute, still whisking all the time. Take off the heat and pour onto the egg and sugar mixture, stirring well.
- Pour the mixture into the tart case and bake for around 45 minutes, until the filling is firm to the touch and a deep, dark golden on top — like the top of a crème brûlée. Take out of the oven, slide off the tin, and cool completely on a wire rack before serving.
I have just arrived home from a holiday in the Picardy region of Northern France. I have to confess I have lost my enthusiasm for blogging recently due to my poor student bank account taking a battering and my house-”mates” whose kitchen cleanliness leaves little to be desired. After a trip to this beautiful part of France however, I have returned with a new passion for cooking and all things cheese!
In case you’re not familiar with Maroilles, it’s a soft cow’s milk cheese with an orange rind that’s made in Northern France. Those simple facts sound harmless enough but there’s a little more to it than that. The aroma of Maroilles can be scary. If you don’t eat it quickly, it could start to set off fire alarms and endanger low-flying aircraft. On the other hand, it tastes great.
One of the most common dishes using Mariolles is the Tarte au Maroilles. You can find different versions of this tarte around Nord-Pas-de-Calais and Picardy but the most traditional form has a yeasted dough base rather than a layer of pastry. You can of course use a shortcrust or even puff pastry if you want a result similar to a quiche. Indeed, I personally prefer a crisper base that puff pastry achieves but I have provided the recipe for the authentic yeasted base here.
If you can’t get hold of any Maroilles, then you could substitute another cheese that isn’t too soft and ripe but does have a powerful flavour: Chaumes, Reblochon or Pont-l’Évêque come to mind.
For the base:
- ½ tsp easy bake fast action dried yeast
- 300 g strong white flour
- ½ tsp salt
- 2 tsp caster sugar
- 15 g softened butter
- 1 egg, beaten
- 100 ml milk
- 20 ml water
For the topping:
- 300 g Maroilles
- 200 ml crème fraîche
- 1 egg
- Plenty of pepper and a little salt
- Freshly grated nutmeg to taste, optional
- Add all of the base ingredients to the large mixing bowl and combine then on a lightly floured work surface, knead the mix for 10-15 minutes. You should have a light, slightly sticky dough. Place the dough in an oiled bowl, cover and leave to prove in a warm place for 1 hour.
- Butter a 25 cm or 26 cm diameter pie dish. (The tarte topping tends to bubble up more than you might expect and so a deeper dish is useful.) Knock the dough back and roll it out until it covers the base of the pie dish. Some recipes suggest that you should fully line the dish by spreading the dough up the sides, but I was told in Picardy that it should remain flat.
- Preheat the oven to 180°C. Slice the Maroilles quite thinly and cover the dough base with the cheese. You don’t have to remove the rind of the cheese, but unless the cheese is very fresh then it can be quite strong. I personally love the flavour and leave it on. Beat the egg and stir it into the crème fraîche. Season this mixture with the pepper and salt. Pour the mixture onto the tarte and spread it out to cover the whole of the surface (you don’t need to be too fussy or precise about this). Grate nutmeg over if using. Bake in the oven for 30 – 35 minutes or until the top is golden and puffed up.
- Serve warm with a fresh green salad and a cold beer.