Little did I know it back when I was a kid, but making a Tarte aux prunes, a Classic French Plum Tart, would hold a special place in my heart.
Memories from France
My grand-mother in France passed away a few years ago. It still feels weird to think that she is gone. Not too long after she died, while cleaning some of my old boxes, I found a few letters from her (I had regularly written to her since I was 12), and reading them made me laugh and cry. I’m like her in so many ways. In one specific letter, she mentioned how someone had visited her and while looking at a picture of me in her kitchen, said that I looked like her, and how happy it made her. She had a big heart, but she was also a stubborn old lady when she wanted to. haha
She was born during the first world war in rural France. Her parents didn’t have much money, especially when her father lost his sight during a bomb explosion. Times were difficult, but she loved to read to her father and learning. She lived through the second world war as an adult with young babies. She didn’t have an easy life by far, and I don’t mean for this post to be sad, but she was a strong woman and a great model of strength. After she divorced (a big deal in France in the 50s), she bought herself a small piece of land on the edge of town, with a tiny house on it.
She didn’t have a lot of money, so food came primarily from her garden and her chickens giving her eggs and meat, and some rabbits for meat as well (she killed them herself, in the most humane manner possible). In one of her letters, she says (even in her 90s) how much joy she got from taking care of her garden, watching the vegetables grow, and of course… eat it! haha My grand-mother was a gourmande and a talented self-taught chef. Some of my favourites were peas and small onions fresh from her garden, slow cooked in an old clay pot, with fresh thyme. She’d serve them to me with slow roasted crispy baby potatoes. Oh my! So delicious (I was a very picky eater as a young child, battling chronic anorexia, so she created special little meals for me). She would also make one of the most incredible paella. I know, not traditionally French, but she sure made a delicious one!
She was 98 when she passed away, and lived alone until just a few years before that. She had her small potager with various vegetables and fruit trees like cherries, plums, figs, peaches, grapes, as well as groseilles (red currant) and cassis (black currant). She’d use everything up, nothing was wasted. She’d make jams, preserves, pies, cakes, broths, etc. She’d freeze some of her vegetables for the winter, like peas and green beans. The scraps would go to the happy chickens and rabbits. Without knowing, she ate pretty much all organic, she was the ultimate eco-friendly person, before it was popular, and before I knew how important it was.
Tarte aux prunes
This brings me to this post. When I get plums in my organic delivery in the summer and wonder what to do with them before they go bad, I often have memories of my grand-mother’s tarte aux prunes. Most French women made plum pies back in the days. She used to make it often during the summer, using her own plums, of course. The funny thing is, as a kid, I remember not liking it very much. Later, as an adult, when I went back to visit her in France, I learned to like it, and now, nothing seems to make more sense to me than to use those organic plums and make a classic French plum tart. I almost never use butter or white flour in my baking, but this is for a special occasion.
Tarte aux prunes (Classic French Plum Tart) | Low Sugar
A classic French plum tart, made healthier by choosing better-for-you ingredients, and less sugar!
- 1 lb plums (ripe, but still firm), washed, cut in quarters, pit removed
- 2 tsp organic cane sugar
- 1 cup white pastry flour unbleached
- 1 cup spelt flour
- 1/2 cup organic butter cut in small cubes
- 3 Tbsp organic cane sugar
- 1 organic free-range egg
- 2 Tbsp filtered water
- 1 organic free-range egg
- 1/4 cup organic cane sugar
- 1/4 cup organic butter melted
- 1/3 cup raw almonds (use whole raw organic almonds in a coffee grinder)
- 1/3 cup almond butter
To make the dough, whisk the flours and sugar together in a large bowl. Then add the cold butter cubes, and using a dough cutter or 2 regular butter knives, cut the butter into the flour mixture in a criss-cross manner, until it is coarsely mixed. In a small bowl, whisk the egg and the water, then add to the flour mixture. At first you can mix it using the dough maker, but it gets tricky, so you'll most likely need to use your hands at the end (wash your hands first!). You don't want to mix the dough too long. Make a ball out of it and wrap it in plastic film. Put in the fridge to cool down (at least 10 minutes, but no more than 30 minutes, otherwise it'll get too hard to roll out).
Wash all your plums well, cut in half and gently twist to separate, remove the pit and then cut in half again, so you end up with 4 quarters per plum (leave the skin on). If your plums are extra-large, cut each quarter in half again, so you sendup with 8 slices per plum. Put the cut plums in a bowl, sprinkle 1-2 Tbsp of sugar on top and mix well to coat.
Get your dough out of the fridge. It's easier if you use a sheet of (unbleached) parchment paper with flour on it or the plastic film that you wrapped it in. Put the dough on top and add another sheet of parchment paper on top and start pressing down a bit with your hands, then use a rolling pin or a clean wine bottle. Always roll from the inside of the dough to the outer edges. You should have enough dough to make at least a 12-13" diameter crust. You don't want the dough to be too thin, but not too thick either. I used a 10" ceramic pie dish.
Pre-heat the oven to 350 F/180 C.
Using your fingers, rub some butter all over your pie dish, then sprinkle some flour (that will stop the pie from sticking to the dish). Gently, but quickly, fold the rolled-out dough in half, and then in half again. Gently lift and put it in the pie dish and unfold without waiting. You can carefully push the dough to the bottom, making sure not to break it. If you do, try to patch it, using your fingers. Fold the extra dough on the edges (no point in wasting any of that yummy dough). Using a fork, prick the bottom of the dough and put in a pre-heated oven at 350 F/180 C for 10 minutes.
Next, using a clean coffee grinder, you'll want to grind your raw almonds (1/3 cup whole almonds should give you almost 1/2 cup once it's ground). In a medium-size bowl, mix all the ingredients for the cream filling: egg, melted butter, sugar, ground almonds and almond butter. I used a whisk to make sure everything was smooth.
Remove the pre-baked dough from the oven and pour the egg/almond mixture in. Add all the plum quarters/slices on top, as close together as you can. Sprinkle extra sugar on top if you wish (optional). Bake in oven at 350 F/180 C for 35-45 minutes, until cooked and the crust is golden brown.
Can be served warm or cold. I couldn't wait to eat mine so I had a piece right out of the oven with a nice scoop of organic vanilla ice cream.
Depending on the size of the plums you use, you might need 4 extra-large ones or 7 regular size ones.
Note: I do not believe anyone should worry about counting calories, but here is the nutritional information for one serving
Calories: 348kcal | Fat: 20g | Saturated fat: 10g | Cholesterol: 83mg | Sodium: 157mg | Potassium: 190mg | Carbohydrates: 38g | Fiber: 4g | Sugar: 14g | Protein: 7g | Vitamin A: 745% | Vitamin C: 5.4% | Calcium: 38% | Iron: 1.6%
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What a delicious dessert!
Marie-Pierre Breton says
Wow! Cool Grandma you had there! Ahead of time with so many things! I’m intrigued by that fabulous paella of hers… is it somewhere on your blog? a seafood paella or a rabbit valencian style one? Oh and this pie looks to die for! I would jump right in, and yes it’s permitted once in a while to cheat on wheat and butter;) You have French roots after all… butter is part of the genes. Superbe la presentation! Sur ma liste de recette a faire! Yum!
haha yes, she definitely had confidence and style going on. No I’ve only attempted to make her paella once, many years ago. It’s a ton of work and didn’t taste as good as hers. I think her paella was influenced by her Portuguese friends. She would put everything in: chicken, merguez sausages, mussels, shrimps, and white fish, as well as a ton of vegetables (something most paella misses!). It was by far the best paella I’ve ever had in my life. And that pie is sooo good, you won’t regret it! Merci! 🙂
I’m sorry that your grandmother is gone now, but you have some wonderful memories to cherish. This was a great read, thanks for sharing. Your plum tart looks amazing too!
Thanks for visiting 🙂
Your reminiscences of your grandmother are beautiful. She sounds like she was a strong, kind, and fascinating woman. And I think you’re awfully lucky to have had such a wonderful culinary influence in your life. I know there’s a habit to look at grandparents and older generations and their connection to the land and its food in a sort of ‘back in the old days’ kind of way, but I think that there’s great potential to inform our culinary future as well. We all need to be more connected to our food and where it comes from. Your grandmother had the right idea.
I love plums, and I would eagerly eat one or two too many slices of this tart. It’s beautifully executed – rustic yet refined – and a wonderful treatment of a soft and often tricky fruit. I’m sure your grandmother would be proud. 🙂
Thank you for these kind words Sean. Means a lot. I completely agree about connecting with food and where it comes from. Having my grand-mother in my life’s a child had a huge impact on my adult life, even if it took a while for me to understand all that knowledge, but I am so happy I had that information to access and learn from.
That pie is simple, but that’s what real food is all about: letting the freshness of ingredients speak for themselves. 🙂
Alexandra | Occasionally Eggs says
So pretty, and what a beautiful story of your grandmother. She sounds much like my great grandmother here in Germany, although I never met her. She had a big garden to feed her family after her husband died during WWII and taught my mom to cook. Thanks for sharing, Gabrielle.
I often wish I could’ve met my great-grand-parents too. So much knowledge and history. Thanks for dropping by and sharing a bit of your family’s history
I love that you found those old letters and can relive memories of your grandmother through them! Such a great family story.
Great story. Your Mamie sounds like a wonderful lady.
Can’t wait to try your recipe.
Thank you so much, she was! I hope you like this tart as much as I do 🙂