Every week, baking expert Alice Medrich will be going rogue on Food52—with shortcuts, hacks, and game-changing recipes.
Today: Don't pass by those small, not-so-sweet plums at the market. Grab them while they're here, then use them to make 5 company-worthy desserts.
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I always look forward to late summer when the oval plums come into the market. These may be called Italian or French plums or just prune plums. Some varieties have a bluish purple color; others lean towards burgundy. Unlike round plums and pluots, which are dramatically sweet and tart and juicy just eaten out of hand, prune plums are subtle. They are medium-sweet and mellow; their true greatness usually emerges in baked desserts, such as tarts, tortes, and cakes.
But they are also unexpectedly marvelous—with rich flavor and a velvety texture— simply poached in strong coffee with a little brandy. Maya Klein, co-author of Flavor Flours, created this easy and versatile recipe. In winter we make it with pitted dried plums (actual prunes).
You will want to slurp these right out of their storage container or eat them hot, decadent and fragrant, from a brandy snifter in bed—but here are five ways to put them on the table for company:
Spoon plums and their juices around a small scoop of vanilla ice cream; serve with nut cookies.
Spoon plums over slices of nut torte or a nutty sponge cake; garnish with whipped cream.
Spoon plums over slices of buckwheat sponge cake (recipe in Flavor Flours) and top with whipped cream.
Make a trifle—or individual verrines—by layering the plums and their juices with pieces of pound cake, whipped cream, or pastry cream and crushed caramelized nuts (or purchased toffee nuts). Refrigerate for several hours or overnight before serving, then topped with whipped cream.
My career was sparked by a single bite of a chocolate truffle, made by my Paris landlady in 1972. I returned home to open this country’s first chocolate bakery and dessert shop, Cocolat, and I am often “blamed” for introducing chocolate truffles to America. Today I am the James Beard Foundation and IACP award-winning author of ten cookbooks, teach a chocolate dessert class on Craftsy.com, and work with some of the world’s best chocolate companies. In 2018, I won the IACP Award for Best Food-Focused Column (this one!).