Blue Goose Italian Prune Tartlets for the First Day of Fall

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It is an afternoon of dramatic lighting, rain and thunder.  Much needed cooling temperatures and a bowl of Blue Goose Prunes for baking simple tartlets.

They sit in an old metal bowl as  the light slowly dims seeming to have an inner glow.

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I am enchanted with the texture and flavor. Somewhat like a plum but not…smaller and more oval, just a bit dryer in texture but every bite as sweet.  I do think they will be wonderful baked in a simple crust.

DSC_1194A rare sight is a bag of fresh prunes in my local grocery.  Why is this? It seems this particular and specifically grown Italian prune, which is not eaten dried but fresh,  has a short growing season and is pretty uncommon in the Southern USA. A good reason to try these beauties while I have the chance.

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Cut in half and easily pitted….tossed with dark brown sugar & Ligonberry liqueur I leave them to macerate for about 20 minutes.

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Some whipped cream cheese blended with lemon zest and a bit more brown sugar.

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See how beautiful the flesh of the prunes are after their soaking? I am using some thawed, frozen homemade pie dough, rolled out and cut into squares, with a smear of the cream cheese mixture before adding a 5 prune halves.

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I gathered the dough up and around the fruit and then drizzled the leftover juice from the bowl of fruit into and over each tartlet. Ready to bake on a parchment paper lined sheet pan…..

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25 minutes later….warm, juicy fruit in a crispy, not soggy bottomed, crust!

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Finished with a  dusting of powdered sugar..

Blue Goose Italian Prune Tartlets

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Ingredients:

  • 1 lb Blue Goose Italian Prunes (or any other fresh prune or plum)rinsed & patted dry
  • Pie crust dough for a double crust pie (homemade, refrigerator crust, frozen)
  • 3/4 cup dark brown sugar, divided
  • 1/4 cup Ligonberry liqueur (or any not too sweet fruit liqueur)
  • 8 ounces whipped cream cheese at room temperature
  • zest of one lemon
  • 1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper.
  2. Half and core the prunes and place them in a mixing bowl.
  3. Sprinkle 1/2 cup of the dark brown sugar and the Ligonberry liqueur over the prunes and toss well. Set aside for about 20 minutes for fruit to macerate. Toss with a spoon a few times during this time.
  4. In a small bowl blend the softened whipped cream cheese, remaining 1/4 cup dark brown sugar, lemon zest and juice together until spreadable.
  5. Meanwhile roll out pie crust dough on a lightly floured surface into a large rectangle. Cut into 6 squares. Each should measure about 6 x 6 inches more or less.
  6. Smear an equal amount of the cream cheese mixture in the middle of each square and top with 4 or 5 prune halves. Gather the dough edges up and around the fruit mixture to create a pouch with an open center. Place each one on the prepared sheet pan not touching.
  7. There will be some sugared fruit syrup left in the bowl where the prunes were macerating so pour this evenly into the openings of each pouch letting some run over the outside of the dough.
  8. Place sheet pan in the oven and bake for about 25-30 minutes or until tartlets are golden brown and crisp on the outside with a bubbly fruit center.
  9. Remove pan from the oven and let cool for about 10-15 minutes before serving dusted with powdered sugar. These are also very good the next day cold or at room temperature.

Teresa Blackburn       http://www.foodonfifth.com     http://www.teresablackburnfoodstyling.com

Ruby Red Strawberry Victoria Sponge Cake with Lemon Mascarpone Filling

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I like to make things. I’m pretty sure that is one of the reasons I ended up being a food stylist by trade and a jack-of-all-trades by nature. Making “beauty” is really what all my
“making” obsessions are about. Beauty that is organic & natural, beauty to look at, beauty to use every day, beauty that you can eat, beauty that is often an ode to times past, times in the future, or times that never were.

Such is this cake. A riff on the classic “Victoria Sponge Cake”, an ode to a time of lawn parties, women strolling across green parks in white dresses, croquet games where men wore bowler hats & seersucker suits. To a time when cakes were special, beautiful and meaningful.

Here is how you make my “Ruby Red Strawberry Victoria Sponge Cake with Lemon Mascarpone Filling”

Shopping list: 2 pints of small strawberries, 1 pint of whipping cream, 1 carton of mascarpone cheese, 1 lemon, super-fine sugar or regular granulated sugar, powdered sugar, vanilla extract, self-rising flour, 5 eggs, salt, parchment paper, oil to grease pans

Make it:

1. Preferably use local Spring strawberries, (these ruby red beauties came from the Downtown Nashville Farmer’s Market), 2 pints rinsed & drained, caps removed. Leave berries whole unless they are large, then cut in half. Set aside.

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2. To make this very easy sponge-cake you will need 5 large eggs separated, 3/4 cup superfine sugar (if you don’t have then pulse regular granulated sugar in a food processor for a few seconds to make your own), 1 1/4 cups self-rising flour sifted with a pinch of salt.

3. Grease & line two 8 or 9 inch cake pans with parchment paper. Grease the paper. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

4. Whisk egg yolks & sugar together until a pale yellow.  Using a stand or hand mixer whip egg whites until stiff.  Whisk egg whites into yolks. Gently sprinkle sifted flour over eggs in batches and fold into eggs using a large metal spoon until all the flour is mixed in.

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5. Divide batter between two prepared pan. Bake for about 20 minutes or until cake layers are light golden brown  & cooked in the middle. Remove from pans to cool completely on wire racks.

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6. Mix 1 cup or container of marcarpone cheese, which is slightly sweet,  with the juice & zest of half a lemon. Blend well.

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8. Place one cooled cake layer on a cake plate or stand. Spread lemon mascarpone on top. Arrange half the berries over &  gently press them into the cheese. Dust with a bit of powdered sugar.

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9.  Top layer of berries with the second cake layer. Whip one cup of heavy cream with 2 tbsp powdered sugar & 1 tbsp vanilla extract until stiff peaks form. Spread on top of second cake layer. Top whipped cream with the remaining berries. Dust with additional powdered sugar if desired.

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11. Serve immediately or chill until ready to serve.  I made this cake from start to finish in 1 hour. It keeps well lightly covered for a day or two in the fridge.

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Notice the texture of the cake….very sponge-like!

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Making this cake will create a sense of well-being, make you think about the historical context of baking cakes, allow you to use fresh, local, just picked strawberries that taste like berries should.

Happy Mother’s Day!

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