Summer is at its final stretch, and I can feel the humidity sticking to me like a desperate wrap of tight silk across bare thighs. It doesn't want to leave as much as I want it to. The season calls forth its last effort force of torrential downpour and blazing heat bundled in the burst of a day. In some places it leaves as soon as it arrives, but lately it hugs the familiarity of rivers and gravel and leaks into lives of the ground.

italian prune plums plum wedges

It's been an exciting August, and September is starting off with a delicate sense of newness found in ripening of fruit and the quiet yet bewitching love for a newborn. My niece was born yesterday morning and seeing her tiny frame cradled in my arms filled me with a newer fondness for her and the future she'll inherit in her tiny hands. If I have anything to do about it, she'll inherit a lot of baked treats in her hands soon enough.

Through it all, my bones are quaking under my skin, ready to rattle my limbs into reaching for newer things while holding onto the things that have anchored me in summer sea. I always approach new seasons as an explorer would with a rusted compass and a fierce sense of adventure.

I approached this recipe similarly, but with whisks and a map of where I hoped I'd end up. The plums were perfectly ripe, and the dough had been sitting for more than a day. I plunged through the forest of doubt and sliced, chopped, and pressed as well as my instincts let me to make it to the end. I'm not a weathered baker like the captain of a mossy vessel whose strength stems from decades of learned skill and a lack of need for direction or order. I'm just a girl who wields her tools as a weapon against not any enemy, but as a way of measuring my own strength in the bigger world I live in.

unbaked tart

Brioche plum tart is the magical pairing of a soft bread and the sweet tartness of Italian prune plums. Brioche is my favorite of yeasted breads to make (and not mainly because it's the primary yeasted bread I bake), because of its buttery and flaky taste and texture. It's sweet and perfect for breakfast jams or a dense bread pudding. The plums are sliced and tossed in sugar and chopped cocoa covered almonds, giving the tart its texture and hybrid of flavor. After assembly the tart sits out for another half hour to allow for the dough to rise almost out of the pan, a science that makes me marvel in the magic of baking. 

brioche plum tart baked tart

Brioche Plum Tart
from Dorie Greenspan's cookbook, Baking: From My Home to Yours, a birthday present I will forever cherish

1 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast 1/3 cup whole milk, just warm to the touch
2 cups all purpose flour
3 tablespoons sugar
pinch of salt
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
about 14 ripe plums, preferably Italian prune plums (I used about 9 or 10)
2 tablespoons coarsely chopped walnuts, almonds (I used cocoa covered almonds to add in a hint of chocolate)
3 tablespoons sugar
1/4 cup plum jam 

To make brioche:
Put the yeast and warm milk in the bowl of a stand mixer and stir until the yeast is dissolved.  Add the rest of the ingredients to the bowl, and fit the mixer with the dough hook, if you have one.  Working on low speed, mix for a minute or two, just to get the ingredients together.  Increase the mixer speed to medium and beat for 7 – 10 minutes, stopping a few times to scrape down the bowl and the hook, until the dough is stretchy and fairly smooth.  

Transfer the dough to a clean bowl, cover with plastic wrap and leave it in a warm place until nearly doubled in size, 30 – 40 minutes.

Deflate the dough by lifting it up around the edges and letting it fall with a slap into the bowl.  You can loosen the dough with a spatula before lifting.  Cover the bowl again with plastic wrap and put it in the refrigerator.  Slap the dough down in the bowl every 30 minutes until it stops rising, about 2 hours.  Leave in the refrigerator for a couple of hours, preferably overnight.

To Make The Tart:
Using either a 9-inch metal tart pan with a removable base or a porcelain baking dish, the kind sometimes called a quiche pan.  Generously butter the pan.

Press the chilled dough into the bottom of the pan and up the sides – don’t worry if it’s not even.  Cover the pan loosely with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

While the dough is in the refrigerator, prepare the filling.  Halve and pit the plums, then slice into wedges.  Set aside.  Toss  chopped nuts with the sugar and set aside.  (I actually tossed the plums with the chocolate and sugar to draw out the juices. For a less juicy tart, keep plums and sugars separated.)

Remove the tart pan from the fridge and push and press the dough up the sides of the pan.  Spoon the jam onto the dough and spread it over the bottom.  Arrange the plums cut side down in a concentric circles covering the jam.  Scatter over the nut mixture, and cover the tart lightly with a piece of plastic wrap.  Place the tart on a baking sheet lined with parchment or a silicone mat and let it rest in a warm place for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

Uncover the tart and bake for 20 minutes.  Cover it loosely with a foil tent to prevent the crust from getting too dark, and continue baking for another 10 minutes, or until the fruit juices are bubbling and the crust is firm and beautifully browned – it will sound hollow when tapped.  Transfer the tart to a rack to cool for at least 45 minutes before serving.

brioche plum tart

Happy September. 

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