p2: Damson Pie

The Sweet

timthumb“Quetcheflued,” the Luxembourg-ian term for a local dessert adored by those who visit this tiny country bordering the NE corner of France. At times it’s referred to as a Plum or Damson Plum Tart, an inaccurate statement for two reasons. Firstly, though certainly sharing a similar enough appearance, the Damson isn’t actually a plum, but a different variety of Stone Fruit (peaches, cherries, plum, etc) unto itself. It’s very well known for use in distilling, Slivovitz revels in the flavors it derives from the base fruit, and in making very flavorful jams and other desserts.

Secondly, I’m not quite sure if “tart” is the best word… at least as far as we’re concerned, one could argue it as a general term in Europe for many dishes with ingredients laid and cooked on top of a single dough base. But unlike many a tart base we’re used to; the buttery crunchy lemon and berry tarts, super flaky tarte tatin shortcrust, pates of brisee and sucree, or something wishing it could be pizza; the one consistently used recipe for these (as I’ve found in my research of the very limited recipes at my disposal) takes on a completely different aspect. Yeasted, but barely worked, with some sugar yet no eggs, our little stone fruits end up lying on a soft pillow of what can only be described an un-enriched (so the opposite of brioche) dessert bread.

I actually found quite some joy into trying out this dough; one of the things I’ve decided to do with these various desserts I plan on making, especially considering how many of them are some form or tart or pie, is to try out various different recipes and styles for tart crusts. So this one fell right into play with that. Mainly, this is due to the reason that, unlike most yeast-base dough, the dried little organisms aren’t bloomed in water but instead mixed with all the dry ingredients first. It still rose surprisingly well, and the end results spoke for itself.

Wish there was some other interesting facts that I could say about the intriguingly named dessert, but really that’s about it. Bread base, damson plums, Luxembourg, yeah… there are likely different versions of Damson or Plum Tarts in France that use different configurations, but recipe wise this just seems the most interesting (and ‘the article’ named it for the Luxembourg style so that’s where we’re going! Wooo!).

Chef’s Overdramatic Self-Centered Lecture Corner

20140710_155940I really want to try a Damson, or at least some jam made from it… but since it’s yet another European product that’s almost impossible to find in anything but the most specialist shops in the US, that will have to wait. I do hear it’s sometimes available as “Italian Plums,” but chances are we’re going to have to use another product for our filling. Lucky for us, the best substitutes, as other experimenters have also found, are a simple combination of the oft-available Red and Black/Purple Plums, due to their mixed combo of tart, sweet, and ease of cooking. Don’t try using any of those Apricot-Plum and other hybrid fruit, apparently they develop some odd or bitter flavors after baking.

Oh, interestingly enough, quite a few recipes included warming up the flour in a microwave before adding in other ingredients. Which isn’t as odd as it seems, the warmth assisting with the yeast’s development and digestion, just so long as it’s not so hot as to kill it. For those trying, about 10-15 seconds of cooking should do it; it heats up fast!

A final note that, unlike other yeasted bread recipes I’ve come across, this one doesn’t seem to require being kneaded. One can if desired, but the ideal consistency actually comes from a thorough spoon-beating in the bowl. Enough mixing that lots of tough, sticky strands form, but we don’t need to search and pray that our little white lump will turn into that perfectly smooth, shiny ball of perfection they always preach on tv and recipes (seriously, make it look so easy…). Of course, it will turn out quite sticky and be very hard to work with unless using a VERY well floured surface (and hands), but we don’t need to be perfect. It is a rustic dish after all.

250g Flour
40g Sugar
Pinch Salt
½-1 packet (4.8-7g) Instant/Active Dry Yeast
125ml (Bit over ½ cup) Warmed Milk
1 Egg plus Extra for Wash
4-6 (Minimum, or as desired) Damsons or Substitute Red and Black Plums
Powdered Sugar


  1. Heat flour in microwave, 10-15 seconds, until somewhat warm.20140710_155422
  2. Mix in Sugar, Salt, and Yeast; make a well in center and add the Milk and Eggs.20140710_160506
  3. Stir hard and thoroughly with utensil until a somewhat smooth, sticky dough forms.20140710_160554
  4. Cover, leave to rest until about doubled in size, 40 minutes ish.20140710_170346
  5. While waiting, cut Plums into thin slices or small wedges (6-8 pieces each fruit depending on size and preference).
  6. Turn oven to 350F and thoroughly butter a pie pan.20140710_170402
  7. Punch down dough and very carefully uncover. Working with VERY well floured hands, utensils, and prep surface (if not moving directly to pan), remove as much dough as needed from bowl. Press into pan or roll on work surface to desired shape, size, and thickness (Note: does not have to be extremely thin. Though it will rise while baking it shall shrink back down once cool).20140710_171332
  8. Lightly brush top with Egg Wash and sprinkle with more sugar.
  9. Arrange plums on top as desired, making sure to get as thorough a covering as possible.20140710_174931
  10. Transfer to oven and back 25-30 minutes, until edge of the bread has turned golden brown.
  11. Slide tart onto cooling rack or other surface to bring to desired temperature.20140710_180329
  12. Generously sift top with Powdered Sugar.
  13. Slice and serve, perhaps with ice cream and plum sauce.

20140710_180509My Thoughts

As I was making this, and putting the plums on the clunky looking circle of dough in a not-so-pretty and symmetrical way, all I kept thinking to myself was “God I’m going to need to make another one this weekend so I can actually get decent pictures.” Especially considering how the bread looked rising around what seemed a highly meager amount of plum topping in the oven, but after a bit of cooling it fell and the shapes conformed to eachother. Low and behold, the little guy actually ended up surprisingly nice; good browning, decent rise, and the plums ended up not looking as bad as imagined, especially with the powdered sugar on top (don’t you love it when that sort of situation happens?). Obviously still not as good as others, next time I gotta learn to either lay them all on the side to fan out or tuck their corners underneath each other, but pretty enough to eat. And it still tasted good; the “bread” ended up like a barely sweet, softer focaccia, a great support for the mildly flavored cooked plums. Though I don’t have the experience to compare them to an actual damson, sticking with the basic red and black nonetheless yielded an acceptable dessert (and I turned the leftover dough and plums into a streudel! Yum!); especially with fruit sauce.

Possible Pairings

slivovitz1What better drink to consume with Damson (or other) plums than the traditional distilled spirit made from the fruit itself, Slivovitz? Or really any other Plum Brandy one can find (they go by many names). Of course it doesn’t have to be the same stone fruit; a chilled glass of any stone fruit liqueur, such as Apricot or Peach, would harmonize beautifully. In fact, the perfumed notes of roasted almonds and nuts in Amarretto complement the flesh of any stone fruit in a delicious fashion, especially when also bringing in the toasted aromas of the bread. Disaronno’s a great choice, as (for those unaware) it’s not actually made from almonds, but apricot pits, thus if one tasted it pure and as-is they can detect hints from both worlds, ripe fruity flesh and nougat-y marzipan.

stambroiseapricotGoing on this tangent of stone fruit more, I’ve found plenty of nicely sweet, yummy beers flavored with apricots and peaches; so far they haven’t been the “oh my god best refined and depth of quality” high priced beers that are amazing to contemplate over, but to drink alongside a bowl of simple bready plum tart-thingy and ice cream? Not too damn bad.

And I should finish with at least one wine suggestion. Currently I’m feeling a German Riesling, something of the Auslese, Beerenauslese, or Eiswein category (not the really cheap or heavy ones though). They can bring in a nice sweetness, still great acid for cutting through any creamy accompaniment, and the flavors of white peaches and similar stone fruit are common detected along their tasting notes. A bit of botrytis in the palette, too, could bring a fun wildness to the party, remind us of the fruit still growing on the trees, surrounded by earth, leaves and the floating yeasts in the air.

20100217-aquavitOh! And Acquavit! I’m suddenly craving a super cold tulip glass of the Caraway Seed flavored grain spirit! Delicious with plums.

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