When September rolls around in New England home cooks can look a little grim at the prospect of dealing with too much. Too much zucchini, too many tomatoes, too much corn. Your CSA, your friends, or your own garden runs amok, filling your fridge and kitchen counter with ever more too much of a good thing. This year a new offender for us, prune plums. And a time crunch. Too little time + too much fruit = Plum Cookies. In more relaxed times we’ve made jam, or a plum cake. We might finally get to Sophie James’s Sautéed Plums with Dark Chocolate Pudding and Crushed Amaretti Cookies, but not today. Nope. Just these buttery little flying saucers hoving into view with sugary purple pilots.
Prune plums are the outliers of the plum world. Used to make prunes or, as we’re wont to sniff in the US these days, “dried plums,” they’re smaller than their conventional relations, and oblong rather than round. They’re also a freestone fruit; that is, the pits come away easily, which makes them ideal for cookies or other pastry, unlike regular clingstone plums, which require a bit more torsion or the business edge of a paring knife to extract their obdurate pits.
Jody’s schedule has been grueling of late–a new GM and a new chef coming into focus and a previous chef transitioning to his own restaurant. All good things, but the kind of stuff that demands her presence in the kitchen (I dare you to look at her hands in these photos), which has put a crimp in her blogging time, so we needed something reliably fast for this week’s post. Crossed signals had led to a superabundance of prune plums in our kitchen. Is it any wonder these rustic (read, rough around the edges) cookies were the result. No matter. They still taste delicious. And that’s the problem, isn’t it? I can resist cookies, but not homemade cookies. The photo at the end of the post isn’t a prop. It’s the top of my desk, after lunch, as I head back to work with a fresh double espresso and a plate of plum fortifiers. All in all we’re pretty safe from temptation, unless it’s Christmas, or our kids are in town or, evidently, it’s prune plum season. Enjoy. Ken
Dorie Greenspan’s Gateau Basque turned into a Plum Cookie
- 2 cups all purpose flour
- ¾ teaspoon baking powder
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 6 ounces unsalted butter at room temperature
- ½ cup white sugar
- 1 large egg, at room temperature
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 14 prune plums, washed and dried
- ½ cup Demerara or turbinado sugar
- Put the flour, baking powder and salt in a bowl and stir to combine.
- In the bowl of a standing mixture, beat the butter and white sugar together until light and smooth, about 3 minutes. Add the egg and vanilla extract and beat until well combined and smooth. It may curdle a bit initially but keep beating until it smooths out, about 2 minutes. Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the flour-baking powder combo to the bowl in three steps. Stop the mixer a give everything a quick stir by hand after each addition in order to prevent a flour cloud. With the last addition, stop the mixer as soon as the ingredients are fully incorporated.
- Turn the dough out onto a flat surface lined with a sheet of parchment paper and form into a log about 14 inches long and 1½ inches thick. Roll the dough log in the parchment, fasten the ends with a twist and refrigerate for at least an hour. If you make a double batch you can wrap the extra dough logs in plastic and freeze for a few months.
- Preheat the oven to 350°.
- Line 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper.
- Pour the Demerara sugar onto a small plate.
- Cut the log into 28 half-inch slices, they should be about ¾ ounce. Dip one side of the dough into the sugar and set, sugar side up, on the parchment. Using the base of a glass dipped in the remaining sugar, squish the dough out slightly, into a circle about 2 inches across. About a third of the sugar will be left on the plate.
- Cut the plums in half, remove the pits and score the skin side with a crosshatch–3 to 4 slashes each way. Toss in a bowl with the remaining Demerera sugar. Don’t pit the plums and toss with sugar ahead of time. The sugar will breakdown the plums and cause them to release their juices. Set a plum skin-side up on each disc of dough. Bake until the edges of the cookies are brown, 15-20 minutes.
- Cool on racks.
We didn’t omit any ingredients – the salt and baking powder are in the same artsy little bowl, upper left.
When you find a perfect recipe, it’s hard to not make your way there… like a homing pigeon. How many of us found the prune plum torte recipe in the New York Times a hundred years ago and claimed it as our own? In fact, we have a dessert in our book, In the Hands of a Chef, that I think is an adaptation, via my mother, of that recipe. When I saw prune plums in our farmers market last week, I almost walked away. How could I trump that recipe? But Ken had challenged me to make cookies. I don’t really do cookies, but a challenge is a challenge. I got it in my head to make a cookie that could absorb the plum juices the way the torte does. I started paging through Dorie Greenspan for inspiration, then saw her recipe for a Gâteau Basque. Right idea, wrong shape–it was just a matter of transforming it into cookies. After tasting the first try, everyone agreed the dough needed more butter. The second batch is the one you see here. They’re a little funky looking–I’m sure Dorie Greenspan would have made perfect rows of identical cookies, but as a sometime baker I’m afraid I’m not that consistent. But they’re easy to make, they taste great and they took care of the extra prune plums, mostly. With Ken and Roxanne and her friends on site, and a few set aside to take to my mother on the Cape, the batch lasted about a day.
P.S. I posted a picture on FB last week of the completed cookies, and someone asked if there were cornmeal in the dough. There isn’t, but I bet it would be awesome. And I think I might add a little anise seed next time.