Sunday, July 05, 2009

Never fail fruit (and beet!) torte: Thank you, Marian Burros

After mistakenly recycling a treasured 20-year collection of handwritten recipes, the first one that I recovered and entered into a large, heavy leather-bound journal was Marian Burros’ Plum Torte, which she first published in the New York Times on August 14, 1984.

It was one of the most requested Times recipes – ever -- and she republished it along with some great reader stories and questions in The Best of DeGustibus (1988, Simon and Shuster). Between the torte and the recipe for plum jam in Laurie Colwin’s More Home Cooking (1995, Perennial), Italian Prune plums are market prizes for me now.

But this torte is a treasure because it isn’t a One Trick (fruit) Pony. While it sings with Italian Plums, it welcomes all plums, stone fruits, strawberries, blueberries (fresh and dried), and, especially good news for beet lovers – roasted beets. It is also very good with roasted carrots. Beets and carrots may be surprises in dessert, but, trust me -- they will be welcome surprises.

Among this torte's other sterling qualities are its limited tool requirements (bowl, spoon, small baking pan: no stand mixer required), flexibility (although it calls for two eggs, one will do nicely), multiplicity (double, triple, quadruple to your heart’s content), and the fact that it freezes easily and thaws beautifully.

A note on baking pans: this works in a spring form pan, in 8 or 9# square pans or in 8 or 9# rounds. If you have silicone liners, use them, but butter or spray the silicone and the pans well.

All Purpose Torte (adapted from DeGustibus)

For one 8x8 or 9x9, or two six inch rounds

1 cup sugar
½ cup unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
1 cup flour
½ tsp baking soda
¼ tsp cinnamon
pinch of salt
2 eggs (1 egg will work just fine)
Choice of: 12 plums, pitted and cut in half
10 oz strawberries, trimmed and cut in half
1 pint of blueberries
1 cup of dried blueberries, reconstituted in blueberry vodka or water
2 cups of roasted beets or carrots, cut into bite sized pieces
Topping: 1 T sugar, 2 T lemon juice, dusting of cinnamon

1. Preheat the oven to 350. Butter or line a pan (see note above) with silicone liner.

2. Cream the sugar and butter. Add the egg and mix until the egg is combined.

3. Whisk the flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt in a small bowl. Add to the butter and sugar mixture and mix until all of the flour has disappeared.

4. Spread the batter into the prepared pan. Add the fruits or vegetables in rows or circles. If you are using stone fruits, put them in skin side up.

5. Top with sugar, lemon juice and cinnamon.

6. Bake for 1 hour at 350 degrees.

7. IF FREEZING: cool completely, wrap tightly in double plastic and then in double foil. Reheat at 300 for 20 minutes.


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