First it was pears, now it's plums... although they aren't my plums, they are my neighbors. I got a big beautiful bag of Italian prune plums next week, about 5 lbs worth and I've been looking through various recipes to figure out what to make of them. I am very tempted to try Bea's plum calfoutis... in the meantime, I decided upon a reprise of an earlier dish I made... a plum bread. Last time, I made the bread as a fruit-topped focaccia from a recipe out of The Last Course. This time, I was inspired by a variation of Donna Hay's simple olive oil based loaf in New Fast Food.
"New Food Fast" (Donna Hay)
Her rendition featured concord grapes and cinnamon swirled together into a beautiful golden loaf. My bread featured plums instead of the grapes and just a hint of cardamom instead of the cinnamon. I hesitated for a moment in using the olive oil I had on hand in this dough, afraid that it might clash and overwhelm the plum tartness, but after a quick taste, I decided that the flavor would likely be more nutty than olivey in the bread. And, I was right... but I do recommend using an extra virgin cold pressed olive oil with a fairly clean taste or you may end up with a pretty weird tasting bread.
The dough for this recipe is incredibly versatile. In the 4th step, you can decide what you want it to be... a simple focaccia, a light pizza crust or calzone, or maybe little poppy or sesame seed rolls. In fact, it's one of the things I really love about the New Fast Food cookbook... the whole back of the book is filled with basic recipes and techniques that can be slightly varied to make a whole range of different dishes. Master these few ideas, and you can cook anything. I suppose that is true of most cookbooks, but this one does it with such style it's hard to resist.
Plum & Cardamom Loaf
(based on Donna Hay's New Fast Food dough recipe page 179)
Makes 2 small rounds or one standard loaf
1 t active dry yeast
a pinch of sugar
2/3 cup lukewarm water
2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 t salt
1/4 cup olive oil
1 cup plums, stones removed, quartered
1/2 t cardamom
1 T sugar
Combine the yeast, sugar and water in a small bowl, give it a swirl, and let it sit for about 5 minutes to proof. There should be some small bubbles on the surface.
If you have a heavy duty mixer, place the flour, salt, olive oil and yeasty water into the mixer bowl with the hook attachment on and mix on a fairly low speed until you have a nice dough ball. If you are mixing by hand, do the same, using a wooden spoon to mix.
Next, knead the dough for about 20 to 25 minutes by hand, using the basic fold and turn technique: Push down on the dough with the heal of your hand, turn a quarter turn (clockwise or counter clockwise doesn't matter... just whatever feels comfortable), fold about 1/3 of the dough down from the top toward the bottom, and then repeat. Or, just keep the dough in your Kitchen Aid and knead with the dough hook for about 5 minutes. When ready, the dough will be smooth and elasticy. Place it in a lightly oiled bowl, and cover with a damp towel to rise. Let it sit for at least 20 minutes, or until double in size.
Remove the dough from the bowl, and lightly punch it down onto a floured surface. This is the point to start making your variations.
Mix the cardamom and cut plums together in a small bowl.
If you are making two small rounds, split your dough in half. Leave one half in the bowl and keep it covered to prevent it from drying, and follow the steps using just 1/2 of the ingredients, repeating with the other 1/2 with the second dough.
Slightly flatten the dough and top with a small handful of plums in the center and sprinkle with sugar. Fold the top of the dough down to meet the bottom edge, and carefully knead the plums into the dough. Flatten again and add more plums and a bit more sugar. Continue with this until the plums are incorporated or the dough can't take any more (you'll know if this happens).
Place the dough in a baking tin. You can line the tin with parchment to make removing it easier... or you might try using a small round spring form cake pan, which makes unforming a snap. Cover the dough with a damp towel and let it rise again until doubled. Bake at 400F, 35 minutes for a single loaf or 20-25 for two smaller loaves. Allow to cool on a wire rack for at least 10 minutes before slicing.
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Lara Ferroni is a former tech geek turned food geek who spends her days exploring the food culture of the Pacific Northwest. As a food writer and photographer, you might spy her learning to make kim chee in the back rooms of a local church, foraging for wild berries, or snapping away in the some of the Seattle and Portland's finest kitchens. You can find her work in publications such as Epicurious.com, Gourmet.com, Edible Communities (Seattle, San Francisco), Seattle Magazine, Seattle Metropolitan as well as numerous cookbooks, including Doughnuts: Simple and Delicious Recipes to Make at Home.