Yield: 4 tarts
My annual gift of fresh plums from Mike Grover via Diane O’Neal partially inspired these new treats. Mike’s tree is prolific and, each year, he harvests more than he knows what to do with, so he generously shares. Last year I created a favorite Vegan Thai Rice Noodle, Plum, and Shitake Salad published in my new cookbook (see below) and Vegan Rice Cakes with Fresh Plum and Sake Maple Syrup; Mike created a beautiful-looking plum bread.
This year, with July 4 tomorrow, I created glistening red plum tarts and hand pies. The jewel-tooned filling is encased in scrumptious dough from The Blooming Platter Cookbook. I prepared enough dough and filling for four, so I shaped two as tarts and two as hand pies. Though both require equal amounts of my tasty dough, I decided that I prefer the tarts because the beautiful filling shows more. If you really want to serve hand pies, though, you could cut sluts in the top surface to reveal some of the colorful interior.
The filling is based on a recipe in the July 2011 issue of Bon Appetit for Cherry Hand Pies. It was the result of combining both fresh and dried cherries. That sounded like it would deepen the flavor, yet still taste fresh. The best of both worlds! So, since I happened to have both fresh and dried plums, that’s what I used.
After sampling one, it seemed to need just a little something to take it over the top. So I did what I always do: closed my eyes while taking a bite and mentally pairing the tart with other flavors until I hit on the right combination. In this case it was caramel sauce and basil whipped cashew cream! However, since I didn’t have any cashews and didn’t want to purchase some and then have to wait while they soaked over night, I decided to make a quick Basil Caramel Sauce. Yowza! Just perfect.
The sauce only takes about 5 1/2 minutes to make, and 5 minutes of that time is simmering. Adding the basil at the end, allows it to stay fresh and green, but opens its flavor up. It would be good with a spoon! Note that it thickens as it cools.
1 cup fresh chopped pitted plums (my plums were only about the size of a walnut, so I simply pitted and halved them)
1/3 cup dried chopped plums
1/2 cup natural sugar (adjust as necessary, depending on the tartness of your plums)
pinch of sea salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla (or try a liqueur like Chambord)
2 teaspoons arrowroot powder (or cornstarch)
2 teaspoons cold water
In a quart saucepan, combine both kinds of plums, sugar and salt. Simmer, stirring frequently, for about 5 minutes. While mixture simmers, stir together arrowroot powder or cornstarch and water to make a slurry. Stir vanilla into the plum mixture, followed by the slurry. If using arrowroot powder, remove the mixture from the heat immediately after adding or it could “break.” If using cornstarch, return the mixture to a simmer and then remove it from the heat. Allow to cool to room temperature. While mixture cools, make dough.
Dough (this recipe is from The Blooming Platter Cookbook, page 168):
Note: this dough is the worlds easiest and best-behaved around. I’m just sayin’…I thought I had added too much ice water, but I just pulsed it a couple more times, lifted out the ball, and placed it on my very lightly floured surface, turning it over once to coat both sides, and it was perfect.
3/4 cup + 2 tablespoons white whole wheat flour (or unbleached all purpose flour)
pinch of sea salt
3 tablespoons non-hydrogenated coconut oil (semi-solid at room temperature; now considered part of a healthy diet!)
Scant 1/3 cup ice water
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with Silpat or parchment paper, or use a seasoned baking stone, and set aside. Combine the flour, salt, and coconut oil in a food processor, and pulse a few times until the coconut oil is evenly distributed and the dough looks like coarse sand. Begin adding water, 1 tablespoon at a time, pulsing a few times after each, just until the dough comes together. It should be slightly moist, but not sticky, very easy to handle, and formed into somewhat of a ball. Lift it out of the processor, gathering up any loose bits, and divide the dough into fourths.
On a very lightly floured surface, shape each into a small disk and then roll out, using a lightly floured rolling pin, to about 5 inches in diameter. The dough should be quite thin, but not so much so that it will tear. Gently lift each dough circle and place on prepared baking sheet, gently reshaping if necessary. (I like to use the tried-and-true method of rolling the circle of dough around the pin, transferring it to the baking sheet, and then unrolling in place)
Place one-fourth of the cooled filling in the center of each circle of dough. If making tarts, fold up about an inch border of dough around the edges, gently pleating it to form a circle, but leaving a nice circle of filling showing in the center. If making hand pies, fold one half of the dough over the filling, matching the edges of the dough circle to create a half-circle, crimping with a fork to seal. (You may use a tiny bit of water rubbed on the edges with your finger to help seal, but I didn’t find it necessary.) Make a couple or three slits in the top surface if desired to allow a little of the pretty filling to show through.
Bake for approximately 15 minutes, but check periodically to avoid over-browning. Remove the baking sheet from the oven and, as soon as the tarts/ hand pies are easy enough to handle, use a metal spatula remove them to a wire rack to cool slightly.
While they bake, make Basil Caramel Sauce.
Basil Caramel Sauce:
1/2 cup natural sugar
1/4 cup cold water
2 tablespoons vegan soy creamer
1 tablespoon fresh minced basil
Garnish: for each tart/hand pie, a dab of vegan sour cream or whipped cream and a sprig of fresh basil
In a one-quart saucepan or small cast-iron skillet, combine sugar and water. Heat over medium-high until simmering. It will froth up liberally. Stir frequently for about 2-2 1/2 minutes. Add creamer and continue stirring and simmering for another 2- 2 1/2 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in basil. Cool a minute or so to thicken every-so-slightly and serve immediately over tarts/hand pies and garnish them as desired. Store any leftover tarts/hand pies or sauce in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Reheat before using.