Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Glut of Plums? Cake!

The purple Italian prune plums are available in abundance right now, at least at the Middle Eastern groceries in my neighbourhood. Last weekend I bought a huge bag for €1.50 a kilo, which I think is incredibly well priced.

Coincidentally, the blogosphere is awash with recipes  for German yeasted plum cake (Pflaumkuchen). Who am I to resist?

I've tried several recipes, all good, although not equally successful. I've had trouble with getting the dough to rise, which I first attributed to old yeast, but have now concluded is due to using the wrong kind of flour. I only had cake flour (patent bloem, in Dutch) and it's low gluten content just doesn't work with yeast. When I used ordinary flour, success!

This cake is an amalgam of several recipes, producing a fresh, not-too-sweet cake that goes well with the morning coffee. I think you could serve it for brunch or as part of luxurious breakfast. It also freezes reasonably well.

Yeasted Plum Cake

The recipe is large! It makes one sheet cake, baked in a rimmed cookie sheet, which will feed a good crowd (ca. 20). You can half the recipe and bake it in a square or round cake form. In this case, you can make it as an upside-down cake instead of a streusel cake.

I am providing alternatives for making a vegan version (soy milk, margarine, egg replacer), which is the version I made for my colleagues. It was excellent. I (and some but not all of my testers) thought adding a bit of salt would lift the flavour, so I've added that to the recipe. Consider it optional.

250 ml (1 cup) lukewarm milk or soy milk, divided
4 teaspoons active dry yeast
85 grams (6 tablespoons) sugar
500 grams  (ca. 3 cups) all purpose flour
90 ml (6 tablespoons) melted butter or margarine, cooled to lukewarm
2 eggs , at room temperature (or slightly warmed by sitting in a bowl of warm water  for 5 minutes)
    (or 2 teaspoons egg replacer powder mixed with 4 teaspoons of water)
1 large pinch of salt
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
4 teaspoons grated lemon zest (zest of 2 lemons)
1.4 kilos (3 pounds) plums, pitted and sliced

Note: don't make the streusel if you half the recipe and make the upside down cake.
40 grams almonds, pecans, or walnuts
50 grams light brown sugar
50 grams flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
pinch of salt
45 grams butter or margarine

  1. Heat the (soy)milk to lukewarm and pour  half of it into a small bowl. Add the yeast and sugar and let stand for 10 minutes until the yeast foams.
  2. Put the flour in a large bowl (of a stand mixer with dough hook, if you've got it), make a well in it,  and add the yeast mixture. Add the rest of the (soy)milk, the eggs, melted butter or margarine, vanilla extract, lemon zest, and salt. Mix thoroughly.
  3. Beat the dough on medium slow speed for 8 minutes until it is shiny and elastic. If you haven't got a mixer that can do this, turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 10 minutes. You can add a little four to prevent sticking but don't add to much, otherwise the cake will be quite dry.
  4. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicon baking sheet.
    Spread the the dough evenly over the pan, right out to the edges. You can use a rolling pin to do this, or just use your fingers. Cover with a tea towel and let rise in a warm, draught-free place for 1 hour until it has approximately doubled in height. I put it in the oven with just the light on. While the dough rises, prepare the plums and make the streusel. 
  5. To prepare the plums, cut them in half and remove the stone. Cut the halves into quarters and cut the quarters into halves or thirds. 
  6. To make the streusel, put the nuts and other dry ingredients in a food processor and pulse until the nuts are chopped (not too finely). Add the butter or margarine and pulse until the mixture is more finely ground and starts to clump together. 
  7. When the dough has risen, gently press it down. Starting on the outside and working inward, lay the plum segments on the dough, gently pressing them in and creating an attractive pattern. (I had one plum that had deep red flesh instead of yellow flesh, so I used it to create a flower pattern in the center.) Sprinkle the streusel over the top.
  8. Let the cake rise for another 20-30 minutes while you preheat the oven to 180 C (350 F), then bake for 30-35 minutes until the cake has turned a golden brown and the plums have softened and cooked.

Note: For an upside down cake (using half the recipe!), let the dough rise in a ball instead of spreading it. Liberally butter a 9 or 10 inch round or square pan, and sprinkle it with 3 tablespoons of sugar. (I use a fluted quiche dish.) Lay the plum segments into a pretty pattern in the bottom of the dish and after the dough has risen for an hour, carefully spread it on top of the plums, making sure you don't disturb the pattern. Let rise for another half hour before baking. When it's done, let rest for 5 or 10 minutes. If the sides are sticking, loosen them with a knife. Place a serving plate upside down on top of the pan, hold them together and quickly flip over. The cake should come out easily, with the lovely plums in a jelly-like glaze made from the sugar and their own juices.

1 comment:

  1. Barbara, in books I looked at patent bloem is all-purpose flour, and I have the idea it's unbleached, but could be wrong about that. See
    I used it for everything, bread and cakes, and it worked more or less fine -- errors attributable to me.

    But who knows. My experience trying to sort out the French flour system leads to much confusion. I've settled on what works for me and that's it, right or wrong.