The Crust Is Dark, but the Fruit Shines: Italian Plum Almond Tart

For some reason I've been obsessed with Italian plums this year. Every time I see them at the farmer's market I have to buy a quart or two. And the season seems be running long this year, so I've been making a lot of plum desserts.

My first plum dessert this year was the "Italian Plum Almond Tart" from The Everyday Baker by Abigail Dodge. The headnote describes it as a pairing of "plums with a press-in coconut crust and a ground almond filling that soaks up all the juices as the tart bakes and cools, making each bite an explosion of intoxicating flavor."

The crust for this tart is the same one used in another recipe in the cookbook, the "Tropical Fruit Tart." The crust was easy enough to make in the food processor: you just mix flour with sugar, salt, chilled butter, shredded unsweetened coconut, and cold water. Then you press the dough into a tart pan and blind bake it. But I was unsure how long I should bake the crust. For the tropical fruit tart, you blind bake the crust fully and then fill the cooled crust with coconut cream and top it off with fruit -- there's no additional time in the oven after the crust is filled. Therefore, the crust is only cooked once. However, the instructions for the plum tart tell you to make the coconut crust, bake it, and cool it -- with no adjustments for baking time. But then you add an almond filling (ground almonds, butter, sugar, salt, egg, and almond extract) to the fully baked crust, top off the tart with sliced Italian plums, and bake the filled tart for another 50-55 minutes. Even though I covered the rim of the crust with pie shield improvised out of aluminum foil during the second bake, I ended up with a crust that was overbaked and too dark.
Still, I thought that the tart looked quite nice once it was finished, even with the dark crust. After it was cool, I brushed the fruit with some jam heated with a bit of brandy, which gave the plums a nice shine. When I cut the tart, the outside crust was so fragile that bits of it crumbled away -- but most of the slices stayed intact. I used the prescribed amount of fruit and initially thought the amount of plums on the tart seemed quite generous. But after cutting the tart into twelve servings, each piece only ended up with only a few slices of plum on top and the amount of fruit seemed a little stingy.
Still, this tart was quite good. Although the crust was overbaked, it was not burnt. I couldn't taste the coconut in the crust at all. I loved the creamy-but-firm consistency of the super almond-y filling. And even though there wasn't much fruit on each slice of tart, I thought this dessert did a nice job of showcasing the flavor of the plums. I would make it again, but I would definitely only parbake the crust before filling it.

Recipe: "Italian Plum Almond Tart" from The Everyday Baker by Abigail Dodge.

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