a plum assignment








We made our Plum Tart in a rectangular tart pan, with a double layer of plums, and we wound up baking it for more than an hour to get those to cook and to get the pastry to turn golden.

When it comes to our farmers markets, the end really is near.  This coming Saturday, Oct. 19, is the last for the Uptown Mt. Lebanon Farmers Market.  And this Wednesday, Oct. 17, is one of only three remaining days of the Mt. Lebanon Lions Farmers Market, which sets up for the last time this year on Halloween.

You wouldn’t know it’s so late in the season if you’d walked up to this past Saturday’s market, which offered a gorgeous cornucopia of produce, including local sweet corn — sweet corn, in mid-October! — greens, peppers, squash, apples, Concord grapes and much more. P1220363

The nice ladies at Stone Church Acres–from whom I bought the most gorgeous, just-picked-that-morning kolhrabi–said that this fall’s unseasonably warm weather has meant that they can just keep harvesting. In fact, they plan to set up a market in their Finleyville barn from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday, October 26 and Saturday, November 2, if you still need a local-produce fix.

P1220365Fall is my favorite time to shop at the farmers markets, because you can get some of the best stuff of the year. At both of our markets, I’ve seen prune plums, which are delicious to eat out of hand. But if you can manage to not eat about a pound of them, they’re also delicious in a tart.

Here’s a very easy recipe my 6-year-old and I made this past Sunday with local plums. I like to try new pastry recipes, so I did this one from one of my keeper cookbooks, “The Art of French Baking” by Ginette Mathiot. You can use the same recipe with cherries or apricots. I’ll reproduce it from the book, but you need not get fussy with the dough — I certainly didn’t bother sifting my flour, and I added a little more water to keep it from being too dry and crumbly. If your crust breaks, just press it back together in the tart pan. You can find superfine sugar at Uncommon Market, but regular sugar will work just fine. I only used a few spoonsful.


1 quantity Basic Pie Dough (recipe follows)

1 pound, 2 ounces plums

Superfine sugar, to taste

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and grease a 9-inch tart pan with butter. make the dough and use it to line the tart pan. Pit the fruits and cut in half. Arrange inside the pastry shell in concentric circles if a round tart pan is used, working from the outside to the center, cut sides down. If you want to bake the tart in a square or rectangular pan, arrange the fruit in parallel rows. Sprinkle with superfine sugar to taste and bake for 45 minutes.


2 cups all-purpose flour, sifted, plus extra for dusting

1 tablespoon flavorless oil, such as sunflower or canola

1/2 teaspoon salt

9 tablespoons unsalted butter, chilled and diced, plus extra for greasing

1 to 2 tablespoons ice-cold water

Put the flour into a bowl. Make a well in the center and add the oil, salt and butter. Rub the butter into the flour using your fingertips until it resembles bread crumbs. Moisten with water to bring the dough together. Briefly knead the dough by hand; the more quickly this is done, the better the pastry will be. Cover the dough with plastic wrap and let chill in the refrigerator for between 30 minutes and 24 hours. Bring it back to room temperature before rolling out. On a lightly floured counter, roll it out to a circle 1/4 inch thick.

 — “The Art of French Baking” by Ginette Mathiot (Phaidon, 2011).

Read more of Bob’s blog at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: pgplate.com/forks.


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