When trying to find a dessert that would go well with our beef and prune tagine, I turned to my new favorite cookbook: A Year in My Kitchen by Skye Gyngell. Even though I have more cookbooks than it's possible to regularly cook from (I started a spreadsheet of the recipes I'd like to make, their key ingredients, and the books they're in. I managed to record all that for one of book), I have only 3 or 4 that I'll really turn to for inspiration, and Skye's book has already increased that number of core books to 4 or 5. Since the book is arranged seasonally, I optimisticly turned to 'spring' hoping I could speed the season toward me with my choice of recipe.
And so the prune and armagnac tart. This is a very classic French flavor combination, and I was still in a bit of a reverie from a friend's description earlier in the week of his home-made prune and armagnac ice cream. With prunes in the main course as well, I thought it would be a nice flavor arc through the meal. With two times the prunes initially needed, though, I actually had to go out and buy another packet of prunes - something I didn't think I'd be doing until I was in my 80's and afflicted by a certain sluggishness.
The prunes I bought were not pitted which turned out to be something of a poor choice since my hands were hunched in cutting and pitting position while covered in sticky prune goo for what felt like much longer than it was. My patience grew short, and I'm not known in the A&N household for being The Patron Saint of Patience to begin with. The pastry recipe for the tart was excellent - crispy, subtly sweet and nicely buttery, and kept well for a couple of days. The pastry combined well with the prunes, which tasted like a rich jam. Next time, I would probably double the almond mixture on top since I do like my almond topping and I didn't get much of the sense of the orange blossom water. Other than the torture of pitting the prunes, it was an easy but sophisticated dessert to make, and is very open to being tweaked with different flavors and combinations.
Both Pastry and Tart from Skye Gyngell's A Year in My Kitchen
- 250g plan flour
- pinch salt
- 125g unsalted butter, shilled and cut into cubes
- 25g caster sugar
- 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
- finely grated zest of 1/2 lemon
- 1 egg
- 25-40 ml ice-cold water
- Sift the flour and salt into a mound on a cool surface.
- Scatter the butter, sugar, vanilla and lemon zest over the flour, then toss the ingredients together using a knife or pastry scraper.
- make a hollow in the middle and add the egg and water and toss again.
- Gather the dough close to you and, with the heel of your hand, work it away in a quick movement. Keep bringing the dough back to you and working it until it is evenly combined (don't worry if little bits of butter show through, it is important not to overwork the dough).
- Once the dough has come together, continue to knead to a minute or so, very lightly.
- Wrap the pastry in greaseproof paper and chill for 20 minutes (no longer or it will be difficult to roll).
Prune and Armagnac Tart
- The pastry recipe above (already halved)
- 300g good quality prunes
- 30 g unsalted butter
- 2 eggs
- 120g caster sugar
- few drops vanilla extract
- 1 Tbsp orange flower water
- 5 Tbsp double cream
- 3 Tbsp ground almond
- 3 Tbsp armagnac (or brandy) to drizzle
- icing sugar, to dust
- creme fraiche, to serve
- Roll out the pastry on a lightly floured surface to about 3mm/just over an inch thick.
- Lift the pastry carefully and place over a 25cm/10 inch flan tin. Press the pastry into the sides and bottom of the tin, then use your rolling pin rolled on top to cut the excess pastry off.
- Prick the base all over with a fork, then place in the fridge to rest for 30 minutes.
- Preheat the oven to 180C / 375F.
- If not already pitted, pit the prunes and place in a bowl. Cover with hot water and leave to soak for 10 minutes and then drain.
- Melt the butter and allow to cool slightly.
- When the half hour is up, line the pastry tin with greaseproof paper and fill with baking beans in order to blind-bake the pastry.
- Bake for 15 minutes. Remove the beans and bake for another 5 or until the pastry is golden, then remove from the oven and allow to cool.
- Increase the oven temperature to 190 / 390.
- In a large bowl, combine the eggs, sugar, vanilla, orange flower water, cream, and almonds. Whisk together lightly until evenly blended, then stir in the melted butter.
- Scatter the prunes evenly over the pastry base, then ladle the whisked egg mixture over the top.
- Carefully place on the middle shelf of the oven and immediately turn the temperature back down to 180 / 375.
- Bake for 25 - 30 minutes until the topping is golden brown on the surface and slightly wobbly in the center.
- Remove from the oven, and while still warm drizzle with the armagnac.
- When the armagnac is absorbed, lightly dust with icing sugar. Serve either warm or cold.