Plum Tart with Walnut Cream Recipe

Tarte aux Quetsches à la Crème de Noix

I love plums. I love that they are small and that you can rinse a few of them at a time, whirling them in your hand like Baoding balls. I love that they come in sundry shapes and colors to match your outfit, I love that they have a pit that you can spit out into the sink, and I love that they grow on trees under which you can stand, look up, and feel like all is right in the world. I love even the name, plum, how it rolls off the tip of your tongue, and the French version of it, prune, which makes your lips purse as if you’d eaten an underripe specimen.

I have to say, though, that a sunny September day a few years ago very nearly ruined plums for me: this was the day that Maxence and I stumbled upon a pick-your-own farm in Alsace. We spent a few euphoric hours filling buckets of mirabelles (tiny, goldenrod plums with dark orange freckles) and quetsches (egg-shaped, purple-blue plums, which resemble damsons but are much sweeter) and gorging on them as we went (the sign said we could), after a quick brushing off of the powdery white veil called bloom (pruine in French) — a sure sign of a plum’s freshness, since it vanishes shortly after the fruit has been picked.

I have since then found it difficult to procure the kind of fragrant, tree-ripened plums that would live up to the memory: the Gérardmer market has crates of them of course, but produce shops in Paris tend to offer plums that have been picked a touch early so they’ll travel without bruising, and anyone with half a taste bud knows that plums were not meant to end their ripening on a kitchen counter.

But, if you’re bold enough to ask the merchant for a taste, and bold enough to say, “Um, maybe not,” when the plum is not to your liking (if you develop a friendly relationship with your produce guy, boldness is not required; a simple smile will do), this will guarantee that only ripe, sweet, juicy plums pass your threshold. And when that happens, perhaps you can bake a tart to congratulate yourself.

The following is a simple variation on my mother’s classic tarte aux quetsches: instead of pouring an egg and cream custard over the plums, I lined the tart shell with crème de noix, the same mixture of walnuts, eggs, sugar, and crème fraîche that is used in walnut tarts in the Périgord. I deliberately used little sugar in the walnut cream, so a slight edge of bitterness could be heard through the sweetness of the sandy crust and caramelized plums. The use of unrefined cane sugar added a faintly earthy note to the ensemble, making it a most appropriate treat for a late summer or fall day.

[This post originally appeared in October of 2006.]

Tarte aux Quetsches et Crème de Noix

For the pâte sablée:
– 75 grams (1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon) sugar (I use unrefined cane sugar, but regular white sugar is fine)
– 150 grams flour — if you use American all-purpose flour, use 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons
– 75 grams butter (I use salted, but you can use unsalted and add a pinch of salt) — if you use regular American butter (which has less butterfat than European butter), use 7 tablespoons
– Ice-cold water or milk

For the filling:
– 135 grams (1 1/4 cups) shelled walnut halves
– 2 tablespoons sugar (I use unrefined cane sugar; regular white sugar is fine, honey would be lovely, too)
– 1 egg
– 3 tablespoons crème fraîche (substitute sour cream)
– Optional flavoring: 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract, or 1 teaspoon plum or walnut liqueur, or 1 teaspoon dark rum
– 700 grams (1 1/2 pounds) ripe quetsche plums (substitute any other variety of plum)

Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F). Grease a 10-inch tart pan with butter and set aside.

Prepare the pâte sablée. In the bowl of a mixer or blender, combine the sugar and flour. Add the butter and process in short pulses until the mixture resembles coarse meal. (Alternatively, rub the butter into the dry ingredients by hand with the tips of your fingers or a wire pastry blender.) Add a tablespoon of water or milk and mix again, in short pulses, until it is absorbed. The dough should still be crumbly, but it should clump if you gently squeeze a handful in your hand. If it doesn’t, add a little more water — teaspoon by teaspoon — and give the dough a few more pulses until it reaches the desired consistency.

Pour the mixture evenly into the prepared tart pan. Using the heels of your hands and your fingers, press on the dough gently to form a thin layer, covering the surface of the pan and creating a rim all around. Don’t worry if the dough feels a little dry, this is normal. (You can prepare the dough up to a day ahead: cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate.) Bake for 15 minutes, until lightly golden.

While the crust par-bakes, prepare the filling. Combine the walnuts and sugar in the bowl of your mixer, and grind to a coarse powder. Add the egg, crème fraîche, and flavoring if using, and mix again. (You can prepare the walnut cream up to a day ahead: transfer to an airtight container, refrigerate, and bring to room temperature before using.) Rinse and dry the plums, cut them in halves, and discard the stones.

Remove the pan from the oven (leave the heat on), and let cool slightly. Spread walnut cream evenly over the tart shell, and arrange the plums on top in a circular pattern starting from the outside. Return to the oven for 30 minutes, until the plums are cooked through and the walnut cream is set. Transfer to a rack to cool completely before serving. The tart is best served on the day it is made, but the leftovers will keep until the next day; cover with foil, refrigerate, and bring to room temperature before eating.

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  • http://blissinthekitchen.typepad.com/blissingoesenglish/ flo

    This creme de noix is for sure the nicest way to sublimate a plum tart! J’adore!

  • http://www.willows95988.typepad.com tongue in cheek

    I would put my thumb in this pie anyday!!

  • http://anthonyskitchen.blogspot.com Bachelor Chef

    Awesome picture.. Have to learn baking too.. I am more a Frying Man, Gravy and suchlike

  • http://sugardelirium.daria.be veuveclicquot

    Meilleurs voeux et joyeux anniversaire à ton père!

    Cette tarte à l’air vraiment délicieuse. Dommage que les prunes où j’habite n’ont pas bon goût..!

  • Griffin

    I have to admit, I am not keen on plums… except for the colour of damsons… but Clotilde, your writing is extremely persuasive… I will have to look at them again. Give Plums a Chance!

    Happy Birthday to your father too! What a lucky man to have such a talented daughter… is the tarte a birthday one for him?

  • http://www.pateys.nf.ca/weblog Heather Patey

    There are not many fruit trees in Newfoundland, but damson plums can be found on the Organic Farm run by our friends the Rabinowitzes. I took a picture during a recent visit:
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/hpatey/252351800
    We might be able to cook plums this season, we’ll see… this recipe sounds incredible.

  • http://www.cforcooking.com Jeff

    I’ve got a few plums from my cropshare…not enough to make a yummy tart like that :)

  • http://schnuppensuppe.de/blog/ rosa

    What a coincidence – I wanted to make a plum cake today, and had searched food blogs for recipes – when I returned from shopping for this cake – unfortunately I couldn’t get hold of amarettini – your cake recipe was online. And since I had walnuts in the pantry all ingredients were at hand. It is baking right now and smells great so far :)
    I love the idea of a walnut cream.

  • http://www.boxcarkitchen.com esther

    Seems that quetsches are in the air! Check it out: http://www.boxcarkitchen.com

  • http://eggbeater.typepad.com/shuna/ shuna fish lydon

    “I deliberately used little sugar in the walnut cream, so a slight edge of bitterness could be heard through the sweetness of the sandy crust and caramelized plums.”

    This is my favourite sentence. I love that plums go with all nuts but you chose walnuts, which can be a bit of an underdog.

    It’s interesting to me that a “French Prune Plum” is picked slightly underripe for raw consumption, but definitively overripe for prune making.

    Lovely tart.

  • Linda

    Great recipe but just want to be a little pedantic. Quetsche plums are not like damsons. Damsons are very sour and can only be eaten cooked, where they are delicious in fools, ices etc. Quetsche is a sweetish, bland eating plum – good cooked but nothing like a damson, which is seriously adult and delicious.

  • http://fetchmemyaxe.blogspot.com belledame222

    oohhhhhh.

  • http://wystel.livejournal.com dddg

    Joyeux anniversaire to Clotilde’s dear father!

    and Clotilde, this post cheered me up from the (alas) mealy plum I just attempted to consume. Can they be redeemed, I wonder?

  • http://www.aminglingoftastes.com Julie

    I’ve had a couple plum tart recipes at the front of my “to make” file, but I have been afraid that poor quality fruit will render my baking efforts wasted. I would thrill to visit a pick your own plum farm! I love the idea of a slightly bitter walnut filling. If I come across good grocery store plums again, maybe I will give it a go.

  • http://www.estouest.blog.lemonde.fr est

    Looks delicious – I just spend the day in Alsace making quetsche jam!

  • http://take3eggs.com Tim

    It looks delicious. At first I thought the tart had a chocolate crust. Reading through the recipe I could not find the chocolate… I realised my eyes were playing tricks on me – it is the pan that looks like chocolate!

  • Rachel

    What a lovely idea! I’ve always loved plum tart and walnut tart, but somehow never thought of combining them… I can’t wait to try it. (And if this is your dad’s birthday tart he’s very lucky and must be the envy of all!)

  • http://www.dessertfirst.typepad.com Anita

    What a beautiful welcome to fall fruits! I love the picture!

  • rainey

    Looks delicious but I must say what sounded the most inviting to me was the walnut cream. Yum!

    Joyeux anniversaire à ton père!

  • rainey

    I was thinking about how pretty your tart was and then the word “plummy” came to me. Are you familiar with the idiomatic use of “plummy” in English for especially rich or the most coveted? Seemed apt. ;->

    Do you have such an idiom en français?

  • http://www.whereismydinner.blogspot.com/ vasilisa

    Great recipe. And I love your writing style. Makes everything sound so artistic and exquisite.

  • http://homemades.blogspot.com arfi binsted

    we grow fruit trees ourselves and damson is just one of them. our favorite plum is black amber. it’s so juicy and so sweet and we always pick them fresh from the tree n summer. it’s just lovely. i love to see your pie, it’s refreshing to have plums topping.

  • http://www.stoneafterstone.com anna maria

    Thank you, that recipe sounds delicious. I think I will have to substitute strawberries or something else, because I’ve had no luck with good plums this year. Happy birthday to your papà.

  • http://parisbreakfasts.blogspot.com ParisBreakfasts

    I would give just about anything to know how to pronounce that infernal French word, QUETSCHE.
    Is it Alsacian in origin? It surely looks it. This tarte is mouthwatering..

  • http://foodieandthefeast.typepad.com Foodie and the Feast

    Indeed, I was at the farmer’s market yesterday.. and I was starting to see a lot of plums. You’ve inspired me to go buy some and attempt your tart recipe.

  • http://www.talkoftomatoes.com janelle

    Ah! Have you tried making this in individual tartletts? If so, what size?

    Also, have to agree about the closer the produce to the picking, the better. I received dill straight from an organic farm (instead of via the plastic container at the grocers) this summer, and it became my new best friend. Amazing taste, dill as I had never had it before.

  • http://analisfirstamendment.blogspot.com/ Anali

    Happy Birthday to your Dad! I hope he had a great one!

  • http://www.xanga.com/chef_kayenne kayenne

    try mixing in nectarines if you can find them, and also, roasting/grilling the cut side of the fruits with a touch of sugar combined with a small pinch of fine salt until caramelized adds a different flavour dimension to the pastry.

  • Your papounet

    First, let me express my thanks to all of you who did wish me a happy birthday… It was happy, and it was a birthday all right… Clotilde brought me a birthday cake that was a “gâteau sirop”, and believe me, this is an amazing cake ! Exceedingly good, as was said of Mr Kipling’s (the Brits among you will surely remember the ad…)

    ParisBreakfasts : I’m not quite sure what sort of “anything” you would really be prepared to give… but here goes :

    In French, the word “QUESTCHE” is pronounced “kwetch”. The word itself comes from a regional german word, borrowed by the dialects of the East of France. It was then adopted as a regular french word. The Germans very certainly pronounce it differently, and it would be “kvetcher”, by analogy with the verb “quetschen”, which means “to squeeze”. (the ending “r” is just there to indicate that the final “e” is NOT mute in German, as it is in French”.)

  • http://foodnut.blogspot.com nicola

    bonjour clotilde,

    we found fresh local damson plums here in toronto and baked them into your questche to crown our thanksgiving dinner this weekend.

    It was delicious. I too loved the walnut cream idea and the plums were just ready, perfect for a sacrifice in a pie plate.

    With gratitude…me and my kin!

    Best…nicola

  • http://parisbreakfasts.blogspot.com ParisBreakfasts

    An aquarelle of said “kwetch”?
    Merci
    PB

  • http://pmatthewsblog.blogspot.com/ Matthew

    Thanks for sharing the recipe. Alas, I rarely purchase plums. I understand that it is important to opt for organic plums. And who ever sees organic plums? Additionally, I don’t recall tasting a sweet store-bought plum. They must pick them when way under-ripe, for the sake of shipping.

  • http://free-cuisine.over-blog.com lory

    miam,…délicieux!

  • regerl

    it is called zwetschke, the austrian word for plum

  • http://lavidaenbuenosairesyafines.blogspot.com Sylvia

    I love plum,and if I don´t like you are so persuasive and I certainly, after read your post,like it.The plum season here is in December ans I certainly try this pie

  • http://livingsmallblog.com Charlotte

    Thanks Clothilde — I have plums coming out my ears right now because the tree in my backyard produced a bumper crop this year (I also discovered another tree that produced the most delicious green/gold/pink plums but I ate them all out of hand). I don’t know what my plums are called, but they grow all over town here — they’re small and very purple and quite sweet when they’re ripe enough to fall off the tree. They make great jam too …

  • adsumiam

    The damson season is just ending here, the fruit falling as you pick it and so sweet that you must eat as you pick … our favourite preserve is damson cheese. This year I’m also making sparkling (apparently non alcoholic) damson cordial (very) loosely based on the recipes in Stephen Cresswell’s book ‘Homemade root beer soda and pop’ (Storey Publishing 1998). Elderflower cordial is good too, also lemon and mint; and I’m planning orange and ginger. The blackberry will be ready to drink in a week or so. My ingredients are just water, sugar, ale yeast and the fruit. Does anyone else make these simple fizzy drinks?

  • http://besofood.com kiki

    Hellloooo!!! good recipe… I ll taste it tomorrow. I heard from you in Regal, the magazine. Bravo. Beautiful and intelligent blog. If u want to see mine, not so famous indeed : i try to go to restaurants and make unprofessionnal critics…. nice to meet u…
    http://besofood.com

  • http://www.cooxt.de cooxterella

    i like the way you write…it’s delicious^

  • dounoaille

    I am always so happy to read you. I wonder if you have a good recipe with onions more exactly “confiture d’oignons”. It would be nice to have your advices. Many thanks.

  • http://dianabobar.wordpress.com diana

    God, I’m hungry now! that sounds and looks so good!

  • Emily

    Clothilde,
    I’ve been reading your blog for almost a year but being a college student, this is unfortunately the first time I’ve gotten to try one of you recipes. I’m throwing a cocktail party tonight and made these in muffin tins for miniature tarts and substituted bosc pairs and apples, as plums aren’t available locally anymore and they’re fabulous! Thanks for such an inspiring blog. I just hope my guests like these as much as I do!

  • http://www.thecakedcrusader.blogspot.com the caked crusader

    I adore anything with plum in it – I make so many plum cakes that I think my eatership are starting to get plum-bound!
    I adore a plum/almond combination.

  • Mary

    Clothilde,
    I made this tart yesterday and it was divine! You’re basically living my dream life…I LOVE what you do! So inspiring.

  • tony

    Thanks Clothilde!! Sorry for a late reply to your post, but I have just found this. This is the best best fruit recipe I have found!

    I only had pistacchios so it became a plum and pistacchio tart with a redcurrant glaze!

    • http://chocolateandzucchini.com clotilde

      I’m happy to hear it, Tony, thanks for reporting back!

  • http://acinnamongirl.tumblr.com Crista

    Clotilde- I made this for our Independence Day celebrations (US) yesterday evening, and it was simply beautiful! I received many compliments. Thank you for the stellar recipe!

    Crista

    • http://chocolateandzucchini.com clotilde

      That’s wonderful to hear, thanks for reporting back!

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