Making tarts from scratch has always been a mixed bag. The fillings are definitely the star of the show. But a badly made shell can quickly bring the entire dessert to ruination. So either the tart remains unmade, or God forbid, store bought shells are used in lieu of making them from scratch. Such is the bipolar nature of a tart. But not this one. The shell of this tart more closely resembles a shortbread cookie both in taste and ingredients.
There’s no need to fret about overmixing the dough, or using too much water. There is no water, and this couldn’t remotely be described as dough. Flour, sugar, butter and a pinch of ground cinnamon are all that make up the shell’s ingredients. It’s completely mixed by hand, literally, fingers only, and will achieve the consistency of barely wet sand, or if you’re familiar with children’s toys—Moon Sand. It can be pressed together, that’s good for us, but will quickly fall apart under the slightest provocation. From start to finish, the shell takes about 3 minutes to put together. This includes pressing it into the tart pan.
The pressing might take a bit of practice. The sides should be an even thickness all the way up. Allowing them to stay thick at the bottom and taper at the top (something they want to do) will almost certainly result in overbrowned sides. You can use a small rubber scraper to help you keep the edges consistent. After that, it gets even easier.
The plums are of course the most important item in this entire tart. Choosing properly ripe plums will ensure this tart has enough liquid to form the “sauce” that holds everything together. We’ll also give ourselves a tiny helping hand by tossing the sliced plums with ¼ teaspoon of very finely ground kosher salt before adding anything else. The salt will help to draw out some of the moisture from the inside of the plums to the outside—this is vital for dissolving the sugar while the entire tart bakes. Too little liquid and the entire tart ends up dry.
Slicing the plums evenly is the most important part of this entire dessert. Uneven sizes give you unevenly cooked plums. Some might be complete mush while others are still firm. Each plum should be cut into 12 pieces. Starting with evenly sized plums should give you the results you need. If you find your plums are extremely juicy, slice them over the bowl that you will be mixing the plum filling ingredients in. The more liquid, the better this dessert will be.
This tart bakes for about 45 minutes. But it’s more important that the plums are very tender and the shell isn’t overcooked. Check the tart at about 40 minutes to see if it’s ready to come out. During the cooling process, it’s unlikely the plums will soften further. Use a sharp knife to pierce a few. You should have almost no resistance when they are done.
This year’s plum season is nearly complete. Don’t miss out on a deliciously easy dessert that takes only a small amount of time and patience to assemble. Those who get to eat this dessert will be glad you did.
Purple Plum Tart
For the filling
- 1½ pounds ripe purple plums, pitted and sliced (12 slices per plum)
- ¼ teaspoon very finely ground kosher salt
- ½ cup white sugar
- 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon almond extract
- ¼ cup slivered almonds
For the shell
- 1½ cups all-purpose flour
- ½ cup very soft butter, not melted
- 1/3 cup white sugar
- pinch of ground cinnamon
Preheat the oven to 375°F. Add the dry ingredients for the shell to a large mixing bowl and whisk together. Add the very soft butter to the bowl, cutting it into pieces. Using your fingers, combine the ingredients until the mixture resembles barely wet sand. Pour the contents into an ungreased tart pan with a removable bottom. Press the mixture evenly over the bottom and up the sides of the tart pan. Set this aside.
Slice each plum in half and remove the pits. Slice plums into 12 slices each. In a large bowl, mix the plums with the finely ground salt. Combine the plums and rest of the ingredients for the filling except the slivered almonds and thoroughly mix. Arrange the plum slices on the tart, skin side up, overlapping the pieces in a circular pattern. Scrape any additional filling mixture on top of the plums. Sprinkle the slivered almonds over the top of the plums.
Bake for 40-45 minutes, or until the plums are tender when pierced with a sharp knife. Cool the tart on a wire rack until it’s completely cool. Remove the sides of the tart pan and gently slide the tart on its serving plate off the bottom of the tart pan. Serve with whipped cream or ice cream.