September got away from me. I turned around and the month was practically gone. If I was going to do this month’s Baketogether, it had to be today. No time for multiple drafts or lingering over how exactly to vary the recipe – this was going to be “real time” bake-and-blog, with almost simultaneous posting of the results. At the end, we’ll know how it turns out. But for now, I’ve got one batch of my plum hand tarts in the oven and another just about to go in.
In Baketogether, we take Abby Dodge’s “master recipe” and vary it however we want, sharing our recipe and technique modifications in blogposts posted during the month for a particular recipe. For September 2012, Abby posted Brown Butter Apple Hand Tarts, to celebrate her newest book, Mini Treats & Handheld Sweets ~100 Delicious Desserts to Pick Up and Eat!
Although I used Abby’s dough recipe without modification, I knew that my filling would not be apples; I wanted to use up a few lingering summer fruits whose tasty days were numbered. With four decent-looking red plums in hand, I moved on to how I would turn them into a more interesting filling than plain plum stewed fruit. I peeled the plums using the same technique I use for peeling tomatoes. Then I cut them and used Abby’s basic formula to make a filling, except that plums don’t brown the way apples do. I used 2 tablespoons of butter, the fruit, 2 tablespoons of honey, and 2 tablespoons of Grand Marnier (instead of an apple-flavored liqueur or cider. After tasting the filling, I realized it need a little extra “punch”, so I added several turns of fresh nutmeg (using the nutmeg grinder my mom gave me years ago and I have only recently unearthed among my kitchen gadgets) and ¼ teaspoon of cinnamon. The resulting mixture was good – not startling, but nice – we’ll have to see how it works in the tarts.
My contributions to the accumulated wisdom of the Baketogether crowd on how to make these adorable treats are these 5 tips:
- Browning butter – This process is not difficult, but requires careful attention and frequent stirring of the butter as it moves from bright yellow to nutty brown. Abby is not exaggerating when she urges you to keep a close watch on the process – most of the change happened in my case in the last 2-3 minutes of the 10 minute total time from total melting of the butter to completion.
- Rolling out the dough – The dough is quite soft. I refrigerated it for an hour (instead of leaving it out for 3 hours) and that worked fine. Parchment paper is essential for rolling it out, but instead of using just one piece, I used a 2 – a lightly dusting of flour on the top of the dough and a piece of parchment between the rolling pin and the dough (as well as underneath the dough) helped a lot.
- Cutting the dough – I used a pizza cutter to cut the squares, which worked really well.
- Don’t overfill – I am living proof that you can teach an old dog new tricks. This time I didn’t fill my tarts too full. (Check out my pop tart misadventure.) I used about ¾ teaspoonful of filling per square.
- What if your tarts burn? – If you burn some of yours, as I did with my second batch (because I was too busy writing this post), you can salvage all but the most burned, by waiting until they cool and then gently scraping off the burned edges with a sharp knife. I don’t guarantee that they will look gorgeous, but if you can see past the jagged edges, they’re still tasty.
I made square shaped tarts, roughly 2” x 2”. The baking time was roughly as Abby specified – 20 minutes at 375 degrees.
And now that I’ve tasted my plum hand tarts as I finish this post, I can attest that the ones I didn’t burn beyond recognition are indeed, delicious.