Ugh, Bon Appetit is driving me CRAZY lately. I get it, they have to update and embrace the digital age and revamp the magazine and try to please Gourmet’s former customer base etc. etc., but I’m just finding it so . . . SMUG. It’s like reading GQ, just with food. I’m not knocking GQ, so much, because one of my good friends is a phenomenal writer and once took me out to sushi on GQ’s dime and it was the most transcendent $400 sushi dinner I’ve ever had in my life (or probably will have again, for that matter). But, look, I kind of taught myself a lot of my cooking and baking technique using Bon Appetit, from the time I was about eight or nine years old. I learned about mousse and ganache and genoise and sauteing and stuff from Bon Appetit, and lately the magazine seems so much more interested in trying to impress me with its sophistication and name-dropping than it is in, you know, cooking. So the August cover trumpets a “Pie Party: Cherry Bourbon, Chocolate Cream, and More”, and by “more” they mean “one more, unless you want to put down the magazine and turn on your computer and go to this link online, oh and also do you want to make, you know, the crust for these pies? You have to go to a different link for the crust, we don’t do that in the magazine.”
Also, I’m sorry, but who has a pie party with only three pies? Back in my day, a proper dessert feature in Bon Appetit would have, like, 10 different recipes to drool over. Fine, at minimum it would have six. THREE? That’s all you can muster? Eff you, Bon Appetit. Get over yourself and also never, ever, ever put Gwyneth Paltrow on the cover again. I like her just fine and all, but celebrities are telling me how to do everything everywhere, and I really don’t want Gwyneth telling me how to make pasta on the cover of my Bon Appetit. Grow up.
Ahem. End rant.
As cranky as the magazine makes me, their recipes are generally pretty solid. I am notorious for making these super elaborate things for people without trying them first, and Bon Appetit usually does not embarrass me. Also, I’m finally recovered from the Most Debilitating Illness of All Time (I had a cold. For like a week. Rough, I’m telling you. My Life Story: soon to be a TV movie), so my appetite and enthusiasm for food are coming back. The Plum and Mascarpone Pie looks delicious, seasonal, simple, and sloppily elegant, and it’s not chocolate! I know, we’re all in shock. Let’s do this thing.
I refused to look at Bon Appetit‘s stupid pie crust on their stupid website on principle, so I turned to Smitten Kitchen’s. Is it weird that I don’t freak out about pie crusts? I don’t usually. Pie crust is supposed to be one of those tricky baking things that separates the weak from the strong, but I’m of the opinion that as long as your ingredients are super cold and you just don’t interfere too much, you’re set. Deb’s recipe was quick, intuitive, and pretty fool-proof. I have yet to master making pie crust that’s actually pretty, of course, but it tastes good.
For the crust:
2 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
1 tbsp. sugar
1 tsp. salt
2 sticks (8 oz., 1 c., 16 tbsp.) unsalted butter, very very very very cold
Pour about a cup of cold water into a measuring cup and add a few ice cubes. Set aside. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, and salt. Dice your very, very cold butter and dot the butter cubes into the bowl of dry ingredients. Using a pastry cutter, slowly cut the butter into the flour.
You can leave pretty generous gobs of butter in there; as long as the mixture starts to go kind of shaggy and messy as opposed to floury-with-distinct-butter-cubes in it, you’ll be good to go. Once your bits of butter are about pea-sized, add about 1/2 c. of the ice water (no ice cubes, mind) and begin to fold the dough together using a rubber spatula. You will probably need some more ice water, but add it tablespoon by tablespoon until the dough binds together. Using clean, dry hands, gather the dough into a ball, then divide into two equal portions. Wrap each in plastic and refrigerate while you prep your plums. Heavens, that sounds naughty.
For the pie:
4-5 lbs. firm ripe black or red plums, halved and pitted (about 20-25)
1 1/2 c. plus 2 tbsp. granulated sugar
2 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
1 vanilla bean split lengthwise (or vanilla extract)
8 oz. mascarpone
1/2 c. creme fraiche
2 tbsp. honey
whipped cream, to garnish
When you are in the grocery store weighing your plums, you will be all “this can’t be right”, but yes, you do in fact need 4-5 lbs. Like, a small suitcase full (not really, but it’ll feel like it). Halve the plums, remove the pits, and place in a large mixing bowl.
Get out your pie plate, clear your work surface, dump plenty of flour on said work surface, get out your rolling pin, and preheat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.
Get one of your blobs of dough out of the fridge (I really didn’t refrigerate mine all that long, and it was still fine. Again, handle the dough as little as possible and you’ll be set).
Flour the top of your dough blob and roll it out to a 12″ circle, fold the circle in half over your rolling pin, use the pin to help you lift the dough into your pie plate, and unfold. Gently settle the circle into your pie plate, fold any overhanging dough under itself so that the edge of your crust is smooth, and then crimp or trim the edge of the dough. Let it rest for about 10 minutes.
Meanwhile! Add 1 1/2 c. sugar (I think you could safely scale this back to 1 cup; my pie is delicious, but pretty darned sweet), 2 tbsp. lemon juice, seeds from 1/2 a vanilla bean or a generous teaspoon of vanilla extract to your plums. Stir to combine, then arrange plums cut-side down in two 9×13 Pyrex baking pans. I had one 9×13 pan and one smaller one, so I made do with what I had. They turned out mostly fine.
And then! Back to the pie crust for a bit: prick holes in your pie crust with a fork, gently cover crust with foil, fill with a pie weight of your choosing so your crust doesn’t puff up while it bakes (I used lentils, and dried rice or beans will also work), and bake at 425F for about 25 minutes. Remove crust from oven, remove foil and weights, reduce oven temperature to 375 degrees Fahrenheit, and bake the crust for another 15-20 minutes or so, until golden brown. Remove from oven and set aside at room temperature for fifteen minutes. Place uncovered in the refrigerator while the plums are baking.
Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees Fahrenheit, and bake plums, uncovered, for 40-60 minutes, until tender but not falling apart. GUESS WHO FAILED AT THIS PART? I was watching Parks & Rec on Netflix and spaced out. I went to stick a fork in one plum to see if it was tender, and it collapsed entirely. About half my plums turned into delicious plummy goo, the other half did the tender-but-not-falling apart thing they were supposed to do. Tra la la.
Allow plums to cool for about 10 minutes before transferring them with a slotted spatula to a rimmed baking sheet. Refrigerate, lightly covered with plastic wrap.
Meanwhile! Transfer the absolutely beautifully-colored plum juices to a small saucepan and set over medium-low heat. Bring to a healthy simmer and allow to cook until reduced to about 1/2 cup (Bon Appetit alleges this process should take 5 minutes. It took mine, like, 30 minutes, but this could be because I cooked half the plums down into juice anyway and had more to deal with). You will wind up with a very thick, luscious, deep red syrup. Strain into a small measuring cup, cover, and refrigerate.
Your kitchen will now smell amazing.
While everything is chilling, combine creme fraiche, mascarpone, seeds from 1/2 vanilla bean or a generous teaspoon of vanilla extract, and 2 tablespoons honey in the bowl of an electric mixer. Beat on high speed until the mixture holds firm peaks (this doesn’t take very long– for me it was maybe a minute or two), being careful not to over-beat.
At this point, I expected to have to throw in the towel and call it a night, but everything was pretty much ready to go, temperature-wise, so I persevered. I’m glad I did, because assembling this sucker takes like five minutes, tops. Evenly spread the delicious mascarpone cream in the cooled pie crust. Arrange (bedraggled, gooey) plum halves in a single layer, close together, on top of the cream. Beginning at the outer edges and working your way in, arrange (lovely, intact, tender, attractive) plum halves in concentric circles, mounding them together in the center of the pie. Brush pie with generously with plum syrup, reheating the syrup gently if it’s solidified too much. To serve, top individual slices of pie with freshly whipped cream and more plum syrup, if desired.
Enjoy the hell out of it.
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Speaking of plums, I need this in my life:
It’s plum-colored, it’s gorgeous, it’s still available in my size, and if you sign up to be a Very Important Addict over at The Lingerie Addict, you’ll get a Kiss Me Deadly discount code. I need to buy blinds and get pictures framed and other responsible things, but OH! if I could eat my plum pie wearing this naughty, naughty plum thing of beauty, I would die of delight and debauchery.