Tuesday, August 29, 2006

You know Summer’s over when …

Sometimes I don’t notice (or want to notice) that the evenings are already starting to cool. The sun is setting earlier.

I focus on the fact that it is still hot during the day.

And that shorts and bikinis and flip flops still rule.

But, the signs are there.

One of the first is the arrival of what I call ‘Zwetschgen’, or what most people call Italian plums, in the markets.

And in Munich, when these things arrive, we make ‘Zwetchgen Datschi’. Which is a flat fruit tart covered with these Italian plums cut in a very specific way. And a very Bavarian thing to make.

These particular types of plums are especially good for a tart as they are firmer than other types. Therefore, during and after baking they both retain a bit of their form and don’t exude so much juice that the tart becomes a ruined soggy mess.

This ‘datschi’ tart can be made with a variety of doughs: yeast, baking powder, and one they call ‘Muerbeteig’, which references the high fat content of the dough and the resulting moist and crumbly texture of the baked crust. Naturally, most choose to make the fatty dough, which contains lots of egg yolks and butter. But my attempts at it have mostly resulted in a pile of loose crumbs with fruit on top.

I think I mentioned some time ago how me and baking powder and traditional crusts don’t get along. So I always make a yeast dough for my ‘datschi’. This yeast dough is soft, with lemon zest in it, and results in a wonderfully moist base for the roasted fruit.

For the German linguists in the crowd, a short Bavarian grammar lesson: "Datschi": Mir scheint ein Zusammenhang mit "dätschen"/"tatschen" (flachdrücken, flachklatschen) naheliegend.

So, when we saw the signs in our vegetable market last week (already!!), I knew there was no choice but to shift into ‘datschi’ mode.

We picked up a couple kilos or so of the fruit. Smaller than a normal plum, and somewhat oblong shaped. With a flat pit inside, and a seam along the one side.

And we whipped up a batch of ‘datschi’ dough – this time whole wheat (TeenGirl’s influence!).

The trick to this tart is in the cutting and arranging of the fruit.

First you cut the fruit along the seam, but not all the way through, leaving the two halves attached. You CAREFULLY remove the pit, which is sometimes hard to get out, without breaking the fruit into two pieces. Then, you even more carefully cut each half about 2/3s of the way through, so that the two halves can unfold, and so that you have basically the four quarters of the plum, all still attached to each other, and able to be flattened out.

After letting the dough rise (for a yeast dough), you press it into a free form rectangle, and let it rise some more.

If you’re new to this – arrange the cut fruit on the dough as a practice arrangement, making sure you have enough fruit, and getting some idea of how densely to arrange it so that you don’t have too much or too little left towards the end. Correctly arranged, the fruit should almost stand on end, and overlap tightly, with the tips pointing straight up in the air, not laying flat. Once you have your arrangement set, take it all off again. I do this so that if I have completely misjudged the crust size to fruit ratio, I haven’t buttered the dough yet so I can just re-knead the dough and reshape it as necessary.

Once the dough shape is set, brush the dough base with melted butter – so the fruit juices don’t leak through and soften the dough during baking, preventing it from cooking through.

Another tip – don’t sugar your fruit before baking. This will draw juices out of the fruit during baking, and you will have an ocean of juice, a soggy uncooked dough, and some limpid fruit in top. If you have trouble with too much juice, you can sprinkle the dough base with bread crumbs before laying down the fruit. That can help absorb some of the excess juice.

Also, let the tart cool somewhat after baking before sprinkling with sugar, or in my case brushing with honey, for the same reason.

Of course this is best enjoyed with ‘Schlagsahne’ – or whipped cream. Unsweetened, as it more typical in Bavaria. And a cup of strong coffee.

“An Guaten! Loß das schmeka!”

Zwetchgendatschi mit Schalgsahne – Bavarian Plum Tart with Whipped Cream
Recipe from ‘Bayerisches Kochbuch – 53. Auflage’ (Bavarian Cookbook – 53rd edition)
Translated and adapted by surfindaave

Datschi yeast dough (recipe follows)
1.5 to 2 kg Italian plums (3.5 to 4 pounds) cut as mentioned above
1 cup heavy cream, well chilled

Preheat the oven to 400ºF (200ºC).

Place parchment paper on a large baking sheet. Butter the parchment paper.

Press the dough out onto the buttered parchment paper until you get a good 14 inch by 10 inch rectangle or so. Press up the edges to form a good rim.

If desired, lay the cut fruit out on the dough to get a feel for density and arrangement. The fruit should be standing almost straight up, and overlapping tightly. Remove the fruit.

Brush the base of the dough with melted butter. Arrange the fruit on the dough in a tight, standing straight up, overlapping arrangement. Let the dough rise a bit.

Bake in the oven for 20 to 30 minutes. In the last 10 minutes of cooking, it helps to suction out excess juices that are forming if you have one of those fat siphons. Otherwise, the juice will overflow the rim, and make the crust soggy. I use this juice, mixed with a little melted honey, as a glaze for the fruit after baking.

Make sure the crust is baked all the way through – since it will be very juicy, the middle of the tart sometimes is hard to get completely set.

When baked, remove from oven, and let cool somewhat. Melt some honey, and mix it with any of the juices siphoned off during baking, and brush the fruit with the glaze.

In a tall, chilled container, and with chilled beater blades, whip the cream until it just holds form peaks.

Serve room temperature with a dollop of whipped cream. Enjoy!

Datschi Yeast Dough
Recipe from ‘Bayerisches Kochbuch – 53. Auflage’ (Bavarian Cookbook – 53rd edition)
Translated and adapted by surfindaave

375 grams flour (we used 250 grams whole wheat, 175 grams white)
1/8 to ¼ liter warm milk
1 package dry yeast
80 grams butter, softened
1 egg
zest from one lemon
50 to 80 grams sugar, or agava nectar
pinch of salt

Proof the yeast in a small bowl with some of the milk, sugar and a sprinkle of flour.

Add the flour to a large bowl. Make a well in the center. Add the proofed yeast. Add the softened butter, salt, egg, lemon zest, and a little milk. Begin combining into a dough. Add just enough milk to form a soft, pliant dough.

Knead the dough for 10 to 15 minutes, adding as little extra flour as possible. Place in a buttered bowl, covered, and let rise in a warm place until doubled.

Punch down the dough, and without adding any additional flour, give it a light knead.

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