Wandering through the farmers’ market when hungry is a terrible idea. Last year, I came to in my kitchen standing over 25 pounds of “seconds” tomatoes, drooling and mumbling to myself. Seconds are the vegetables or fruits that have been bruised and are therefore less worthy, and they can be an incredible deal. Ask for them if you don’t see them displayed. Those tomatoes cost me $7, and after they were canned, they fed me all winter. For most of the year, I have good control over my produce-induced trance-like spending sprees. But in the summer the disease creeps back, and this week, I had another attack.
This time, I came to, standing in my kitchen, mumbling incoherent phrases like, jam, smoothie, tart…the precious…to a case of Damson plums. They lay there in a pile, their skins glowing a royal shade of purple, like golf-ball-sized gems. Their perfume hung heavy over the room.
Damsons are my favorite of all plums. They have a tartness in their skin that balances the sweet of the flesh so that each bite tastes more of complex wine than of simple fruit. They are indeed a favorite in jams, and I’ll be spending the weekend boiling them with some sugar. But for a special treat, I’ll bake the prettiest plums into a frangipane tart, showing off the fruits regalness.
Damson Plum Tart
For the tart shell:
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 stick unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
3 to 4 tablespoons cold water
For the filling:
1 cup almond paste
1/2 stick unsalted butter
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
2 large eggs
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 pounds Damson plums
1/4 cup plum jam
Stir together the flour and salt in a bowl, and then work the butter into the flour with your fingers until it resembles a coarse mixture. Stir in 3 tablespoons of the water with a fork. Give the dough a squeeze; if it feels sandy and doesn’t come together, stir in the remaining 1 tablespoon water. Place the dough onto a large sheet of plastic wrap. Using the plastic as a guide, press the dough onto itself to form a disk. Chill the dough, wrapped in the plastic, for at least 1 hour.
Preheat the oven to 375°F.
Roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface with a floured rolling pin and fit it into a 9-or 10-inch tart pan, pressing to fit. Line the dough with parchment paper and then fill with pie weights. Bake the crust until it is set, about 20 minutes, remove the pie weights, and bake until golden all over, about 10 minutes more. Let the crust cool.
Beat together the almond paste, butter, sugar, and salt until fluffy. Then beat in the eggs, 1 at a time. Fold in the flour. Pour the batter into the tart shell.
Halve the plums, discarding the pits, and slice the halves as thinly as possible. Place the plums slices over the filling in an overlapping, spiral pattern.
Bake the tart until the filling is puffed and set, 30 to 40 minutes. Then transfer to a rack to cool.
Heat the jam until liquid, and brush it all over the tart. Serve at room temperature.