A Sweet Thanksgiving Pt.1

Just because Paul and I ‘eat sensibly’ during the week doesn’t mean that we don’t treat ourselves at the weekends. And this weekend was no exception. In fact, I probably went a little OTT with the sweet treat, making not one, not two but three puds!
OK, so one of them had to be made for Paul’s pumpkin Thanksgiving treat. The other two, well, I just felt like making them.
Here then, is the part one of our Sweet Thanksgiving Weekend one off series: Cafe Sperl's Plum Squares.
The recipe, taken from Diana Henry’s wonderful Roast Figs, Sugar Snow, has been tempting me for some time. I haven’t done a lot of baking for a while and this recipe seemed like a gently re-introduction into the fine world of blending cream, sugar and flour to produce something sublime.
This recipe involves a vanilla scented shortcrust base that is easily whipped up in the food processor (although could be mixed up by hand), chilled for half an hour and then pressed into a baking sheet. It is then topped with stoned and halved plums or damsons, sprinkled with a generous amount of sugar and baked until fruit is verging on sweet, sticky collapse. The fruity shortbread is then glazed with hot apricot jam, left to set and cut into squares.
Aside from the dazzling, gem-like finish, this is otherwise a fairly unassuming looking cake/biscuit(?), with a flat base. Once you bite through the sticky tart and sweet fruit into the fragrant crumbly pastry, you are transported (with a bit of imagination) to a baroque-style café in Vienna, sipping hot chocolate and watching children sweep by in velvet coats on ice skates.
There is something timeless about these simple sweetmeats, so easy to make and yet incredibly complex on the taste buds.

I used some frozen plums left over from late Summer, but you could also use slices of pear or apple, fresh blackberries, greengages or gooseberries. The fruit doesn’t need to emit too much liquid as it cooks, lest you should suffer a soggy bottom, although a light dusting of fine cornmeal (polenta) on the base before you layer up the fruit should soak up too much ooze if you really fancy trying it with strawberries or raspberries.
A simple, sweet treat that can be made the day before you want to serve it, looks just as charming served casually with a cup of tea or coffee as with a generous slug single cream for a decadent pudding.

CAFE SPERL'S PLUM SQUARES (from Diana Henry's Roasted Figs, Sugar Snow)
200g Plain Flour
100g Butter, not fridged
175g Caster Sugar
1 Egg Yolk
1 Tsp. Vanilla Extract
675g Plums or other soft fruit, de-stoned if necessary
2 tbsp Sugar
200g Redcurrant or Apricot Jam
To make the base, place the flour and butter in a food processor fitted with the plastic blade and process until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Add the sugar and salt, mix again.
Add the egg yolk and vanilla and process until it forms a rough ball.
Scoop out of the processor bowl, form into a ball, wrap in clingfilm and chill for half an hour.
Preheat oven 180c.
Halve the plums and de-stone.
Into a lined baking sheet 8 x 12" square, press the dough out.
Press the plums into the dough rectangle in rows, making just one layer.
Sprinkle with the 2 tablespoons of sugar and bake for 35-45 minutes until the fruit is soft, sticky and caramelised. The pastry, where exposed, should be a golden brown colour.
Leave to cool.
Melt the jam with a little water and brush generously over the fruit. It should be gleaming and glossy.
Leave to set, then cut into 3" squares, larger or smaller if you'd prefer.


katiez said...

Larger for me, please!
I love biscuit-type puds - with fruit...
So, I'm in Vienna, with my hot chocolate....the Christmas lights just came on....

Amanda at Little Foodies said...

How funny. Late last week I put a slip of paper in the the book with a note for this recipe to make it when we do Austria. Which will be soon as I have a real sweet tooth thing going on. Glad you made it first as I know now that it must be good.

T.W. Barritt said...

I do love those "mix and press" crusts - sometimes I feel obligated to do the whole "roll and crimp" routine with pastry dough, but this is more relaxed, and many ways, even tastier! Looks beautifully rustic, too.

Paula said...

These look lovely. Definitely a recipe to try with Damsons when they are back in season. I remember having something very like this in Germany near the Black Forrest, although with ground hazelnuts replacing some of the flour.

Lydia said...

I love pastry like this that isn't fussy!

Meeta said...

Oh yes, this is the best. I love plums and pastry together and Tom's grandma is awesome with her plum cakes. I have to give this one a try though. It look fab!

Deborah said...

We usually try to be good during the week, but the weekend is the time for sweets! This really looks delicious!

Shaun said...

Freya, love ~ I seem to do it in reverse: eat badly throughout the week and overload on nutrition at the weekend.

I LOVE Diana Henry's Roast Figs, Sugar Snow and have tried many a recipe from the book. I have bookmarked this recipe, and I am glad to see how well it turns out at home.

I think plums are magical in baking; they always seem to transport me - Italy, France, Germany, Austria, Hungary, the US...There is nothing like a food that helps you escape, even if only for a few mouthfuls.

Kelly-Jane said...

I'm a fan of RFSS too, this looks so good! A bit of heat always makes plums more special I think :)

Gloria said...

Freya and Paul I like this recipe. Thanks for coming to my blog. I really enjoy yours.xxGloria

Chris said...

What a wonderfully delicious recipe. I baked with plums for the first time this summer and was hooked! The flavor is so ....mmmmmm!