The seasons have started to shift, it’s almost as if you can taste it in the air, as we swap long lazy Summer days for softer sunsets & cosy nights. Hot-headed August has passed the baton to sultry September, bringing with her the bountiful & beautiful beginnings of a delicious Autumn. There is nothing as therapeutic as an early morning meander in the countryside, especially during September! Gloriously gorgeous berries adorn the brambles & hedgerows, while trees are groaning under the weight of their fruity loot. Nature is amazing, turning tiny Spring blossoms into an Autumnal array of plump berries & fragrant fruits, with a little help from her pollinator peeps of course!
One of the most deliciously juicy fruits of this season are plums, especially Victoria plums – sweet, golden centres wrapped in tart, sherry-coloured skins. We were lucky enough to be given a couple of bags of these beauties by a kind neighbour & so I decided to create something a bit special, a sweet but tangy treat – my Plum Tuckered Pud! Now before you get all excited, this is a bit more involved than my usual “chuck it in a bowl & bake” kind of recipe. It’s easier than it sounds, I promise, but the best bit is you can make each stage in advance & fling them together at the last minute, making you look like a superstar dessert ninja. If you don’t have the time to make the pastry or can’t be bothered, you could always skip that step & buy a ready-made pastry case or ready-to-roll shortcrust pastry instead. Ready to bake it happen? Hands washed, aprons on & here we go!
What you need:
For the pastry:
175g Self Raising Flour (with extra for dusting your worktop)
60g Salted Butter, cold from the fridge
1 large Free Range Egg
Zest of half an Orange & half a Lemon
For the fruit compote:
2kg Victoria Plums, washed
3 Star Anise
1 Cinnamon Stick
3 long strips of Orange Zest (I used a speed peeler)
1 ball Stem Ginger, chopped finely
50ml Cold Water
2 teaspoons Ginger Syrup from the jar
A good squeeze of Lemon Juice
25g Cornflour & approx 2 tablespoons of cold water to make a liquid
For the cream topping:
250g Mascarpone Cheese
250ml Double Cream
2 generous tablespoons Greek Yoghurt
1/4 teaspoon Vanilla Extract (the good stuff)
1 generous tablespoon Lemon Curd
Fresh mint leaves to decorate
1 teaspoon Icing Sugar for dusting
What to do:
Firstly, we’re going to make the plum compote. Half the fruit, carefully remove the stones (you can put them in the composter). Set aside a few plums in a dish, cover & pop in the fridge to keep them firm for later (these will be for your topping).
Cut the rest of the plums into quarters – leave the skins on because they naturally contain pectin, which will help the compote thicken up. Put them in a large saucepan with the sugar, water, lemon juice, star anise, cinnamon, ginger, ginger syrup & the long strips of orange zest.
Gently heat until the sugar dissolves into the water, carefully nudging everything around the pan with a wooden spoon or spatula. Bring to a boil & simmer gently for about 15 minutes on a medium heat, stirring regularly to make sure nothing sticks to the bottom of the pan. It should reduce to a sunset-coloured jammy syrup that smells like Autumn.
Turn down the heat, remove the spices & orange strips, then add the cornflour water. Stir swiftly into the fruit compote (not so much you splash yourself, but enough to blend everything). Once the compote has thickened up, turn off the heat immediately.
Leave to cool in the pan, without a lid on (because that will trap condensation & add unwanted moisture). When cool, transfer to a dish, cover & put in the fridge to chill.
Pre-heat the oven to 180*C (fan oven) & prepare your baking tin – I used a loose-bottomed quiche/pie tin, about 9 inches across. Smudge a little butter around the inside & edges, then sprinkle a tiny bit of flour on top, shaking it all around until you have a fine floury layer. Tip out the excess onto your worktop for rolling out your pastry.
Put the flour & sugar into a mixing bowl, then add the butter. Using your fingertips, squish the butter into the sugary flour & rub together, until you have a fine crumb-like mixture.
Break up the egg with a fork, then add that & the zest to the floury crumbs & mix together to form a soft pastry dough.
Roll out the pastry a couple of inches larger than your tin & about half a centimetre thick. Lay it carefully over your rolling pin & gently lift onto the baking tin, allowing it to drape into the middle. Push it into the edges gently, so that it covers the entire base & sides of your tin evenly.
Cut off the excess around the edge of your tin, or you could just use your fingers to press it off against the edge. Prick a few tiny holes in the base with a fork. (Any leftover pastry can be cut into shapes & baked on a flat baking tray, dusted with a little icing sugar – perfect for nibbling).
Grab a bit of greaseproof paper, screw it up to make it easier to shape to your tin & then loosely place on top of your pastry. Tip some baking beads or dry pasta shapes onto the paper, spreading them all across the top & filling the pastry case.
Bake in the centre of the oven for about 12-15 minutes, just until it starts to go golden.
Remove from the oven & place the tin on a cooling rack. Carefully lift out the paper & baking beads or pasta (which you can save for another time). Set them to one side on another rack to cool too.
Tip the Mascarpone cheese, double cream, Greek yoghurt, lemon curd & vanilla extract into a large mixing bowl & briefly whisk together until thick & fluffy. It’s going to be piped on top of your dessert, so it needs to be thick enough to do so. If it’s too thick, add a little more Greek yoghurt to loosen a little (a couple of teaspoons should do the trick). Once you’re happy, pop the bowl in the fridge to chill.
Remember the leftover plums? These are going to be your dessert decorations. Cut the plums into thin slices, cover & put in the fridge.
Time to assemble! Before lifting your pastry case from the tin, here’s a tip to give it a more elegant edge. Take a sharp knife & run it around the top of the pastry, level with the tin edge, slicing off any bobbly bits. Transfer your pastry case to a pretty serving plate.
Spoon the plum compote into the pastry case, filling it to just over three quarters of the way to the top, smoothing the surface. Save any leftover compote (more on that later).
Snip the end off a piping bag (we’re going nozzle-less!) & half-fill with the Mascarpone cream, twisting the top of your bag to make it secure. Starting at the outer edge, pipe round plump splodges of the cream close together to form a bumpy circle. Then pipe more splodges on the inside, working your way towards the centre of your dessert. If you have any gaps, pipe a few smaller ones to fill them in.
Now for those pretty plum slices we made earlier! Place the slices skin-side up at intermittent gaps across the top, like shards of sunshine peeking through the clouds. Add a couple of mint leaves at intervals – you don’t need many, just a few will do. Pop your dessert in the fridge for about ten minutes or so.
Just before serving, remove from the fridge & give it a delicate dusting of icing sugar. Slice & share! This delicious dessert would make a pretty Autumnal centrepiece for a special dinner or celebration. Refreshingly tangy, softly spiced plum compote, crowned with a feather-light fluffy cloud of Mascarpone cream & fresh plums, all sat atop a crisp, melt-in-the-mouth pastry base. If you have any of that delicious plum compote left over, it’s a magical multi-tasker – it tastes rather lovely spread on hot buttered toast, or try a spoonful with a few slices of cheese & crackers too.
So why not make the most of the fabulous plums available this Autumn & try my pretty Plum Tuckered Pud! Stay hungry! Aimee 😉 x