22 September 2014

Hazelnut Plum Tart

When life throws you lemons, make a pie out of them. Or so the saying would typically go in my house growing up, where lemon meringue pie was pretty much the standard for any pie-worthy occasion. This is to say, pies must have seemed a good deal of trouble to my mother, amid work and raising four kids. She wasn't a frequent baker or consumer of pies. They were primarily reserved for Thanksgiving, and at that she generally threw up a low-key fuss at their request, resorting to purchased pumpkin pie, the homemade lemon meringue and, a your-kids-will-throw-a-fit-if-tradition-isn't-honored-apple-pie.

Nowadays I make my own pies and dictate which ones are regulars. Unlike my mother, I love me some pie. Even better than pie, I would say, is the slightly fancier, shorter cousin of pie, the tart. Factor in a crumbly-cookie based crust which doesn't involve the use of a rolling pin, and I'm in heaven.

This Hazelnut Plum Tart reminds me of a giant thumbprint cookie, if that cookie were a hazelnut sandie (rather than pecan) and the filling were oven-melted plums (instead of strawberry-raspberry jam). Can you picture it? The tart is open to a lot of variation and I've seen a handful of versions on the internet, trading walnuts for the hazelnuts, cream cheese for the cream in the custard, and of course the fruit could vary according to season. In any case, this tart kept it's cookie crumble for several days in the fridge and so its a winner in my book on multiple fronts. 
Hazelnut Plum Tart
Adapted slightly from Smitten Kitchen 

Crust and Crumb
3/4 cup unsalted butter (1 1/2 sticks), chilled, cut into small pieces, plus more for pan
1/3 cup (1 3/4 ounces of 49 grams) hazelnuts
1 1/2 cups (188 grams) all-purpose flour
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup packed light or dark brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon table salt

1 pound ripe but firm plums (about 4 large plums or 10-12 smaller Italian plums)
1 tablespoon (8 grams) all-purpose flour
6 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 large egg yolk
1/3 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup milk
1/4 teaspoon table salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Generously butter a 9-inch springform pan and set aside. Spread hazelnuts on a baking sheet and bake until the skins are dark brown, about 10 to 15 minutes, then let cool till you can remove the skins by rubbing them with your fingers, either on the tray or in a dishtowel. Place the de-skinned nuts in the bowl of a food processor, and pulse until medium fine.

Transfer nuts to the bowl of an electric mixer and add 1 1/2 cups flour, 1/2 cup granulated sugar, brown sugar, 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, and 1/2 teaspoon salt; mix until just combined. Add butter, and mix on low speed until crumbs begin to stick together, about 2 to 3 minutes. Press 3 cups of crumb into the bottom and up the sides of the prepared pan to form crust. Set remaining crumb mixture (about 1 1/2 cups) aside. Transfer crust to the oven; bake until set, 15 to 20 minutes. Set aside to cool.

While the crust is cooling prepare plums. Slice plums in half and remove pits. Slice plums into eighths and arrange in the cooled crust.

Now prepare the custard. In a medium bowl, whisk together 1 tablespoon flour and 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar. Whisk in egg, egg yolk, heavy cream, milk, 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon, and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Pour custard over fruit; sprinkle with reserved crumb mixture. Transfer tart to the oven and bake until custard has set and is slightly golden, 45 to 50 minutes. Let rest at least 25 minutes before serving. 

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