After spending eight hours at work making cakes and chocolate babkas — though not a bad way to spend a day — I came home tired and a little irritable yesterday evening. Somehow, the only remedy to my exhaustion-induced crankiness was to make plum kuchen (nerd alert). My usual excuse for buying large quantities of prune plums is Molly Wizenberg’s plum-ginger crumble, but after making two or three of those in the past couple of weeks, it was time to find another recipe that showcases the little oval beauties.
After Jeff and I spent a few minutes arguing over the pronunciation of the word kuchen (a discussion which ended with my throwing my hands in the air and reminding him that I am only half Ashkenazi, after all) I set to work on this terribly simple, and intoxicatingly delicious-smelling Eastern European dessert.
Plum Kuchen, adapted from The Essential New York Times Cookbook
Kuchen is german for “cake”. This one is made by first assembling a pate brise-like bottom crust or cake, and then topping it with plums that have been tossed with sugar, cinnamon and flour. You can certainly use whatever purple plums are available in your area, just be sure to choose small one for this recipe.
For the cake
1 1/2 cups sifted whole wheat flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup butter/margarine
1 large egg
1/3 cup whole milk
grated zest of one lemon
melted butter/margarine for brushing
For the topping
1/3 – 1/2 cup sugar – depending on the sweetness of the plums
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 1/2 tsp all-purpose flour
8 small, ripe plums, halved and pitted
1 large egg yolk
2 Tbs heavy cream/soy milk or soy creamer
To make the cake, heat the oven to 400°F/200°C. Sift together the flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar into a bowl. Add the shortening/butter/margarine and cut in using a pastry cutter or your fingertips, until the mixture resembles coarse cornmeal.
Beat the egg, milk, and lemon zest together. Add to the flour mixture, stirring just until blended.
Press the dough into a greased 8-inch square baking pan. Brush the surface of the dough with melted butter/margarine.
To make the topping, mix the sugar, cinnamon, and flour. Arrange the plums cut side up on the dough. Sprinkle the sugar mixture over the fruit.
Blend the egg yolk with the cream and drizzle over the fruit. Bake for 35 minutes, covered for the first 15 minutes of baking. Serve warm with vanilla ice cream, whipped cream or creme fraiche.