There are moments in life when we crave that certain something to eat. Crave beyond just crave. Maybe I should say long for something to eat. And not just to eat because we have a craving or because we need to put food into our bodies. It's a longing that has to do with nourishing our self.
Nourishing that longing that is associated with a memory. Usually a good memory; thus, the longing. And thus today's post.
I know it's not officially fall. And here in Texas, dipping down to 89 degrees during the day certainly doesn't mean fall has arrived. But there's something going on that I just can't quite put my finger on, and it's telling me fall is upon us.
A few more leaves than usual are falling, and they're golden, not drought-shriveled.
Leia and Sonoma are shedding more, and I just know they're getting ready to blow their coats for fall. How do I know? Why, all of the above.
And the truest harbingers of fall for me, prune plums, are sitting like dark purple velvet mini footballs in produce sections all over town. I like how they describe them over at The Kitchn: "little baby-fist-sized plums." Perfect description.
We grew up eating Pflaumen, plums, during the summer. But in fall, the farmers' markets began to display these dark bluish-purple plums, Zwetschgen, more football-shaped than round, with a silvery-blue sheen to them. Kind of like damson plums, but more oval. And Zwetschgen, of course, meant one thing: Zwetschgendatschi!
If you know anything about Zwetschgendatschi, you fall into one of 2 groups: those who like the yeasted dough or those who like the tart pastry dough. Our family has only ever baked the tart pastry version. Sure, most bakeries make the yeasted version, as do some home cooks. Why? I don't know. Certainly, making a perfect tart crust is an art that rivals yeast dough making. I personally don't care for yeast dough fruit tarts because the dough always gets so mushy. I love yeast dough and have made more than my share of yeast-raised breads and pastries in my life, but for Zwetschgendatschi it's got to be tart crust for me.
When I went gluten-free, I knew there'd be things I could probably never eat again, simply because the dough must have gluten to be right. That's fine. The trade-off of feeling good is worth it. But there's that occasional longing that comes from deep inside and just leaves a pit in my core, followed by a deep sigh. The memory alone has to suffice. Like the memory of Apfelstrudel, or a crusty Schwarzbrot.
It's been 40 (!!) years since one of the most memorable autumns of my life: fall of 1969 my daddy came home from serving in Viet Nam. Times have certainly changed because now soldiers are returning from the various war theaters and being hailed as heros. When my daddy came home in '69 it was a different story. Even though my mom, Nini Belle, and I were living in Germany while daddy was in Viet Nam, he'd had enough of a non-heroic welcome when he arrived in San Francisco to not wear his uniform while traveling on to meet up with us in Europe.
Politics meant nothing to this 10 year old. Our daddy was coming home and that's all I cared about. Nini Belle and I got to skip school for the day. We got to wear our long hair, which was always braided, down. We got to wear these beautiful raspberry red dresses with gold-buttoned epaulets our Omi had sewn for us. And I can't say for sure, but I'd be willing to bet that Omi had made my dad a welcome home meal of Leberknödel (liverdumplings in broth) and Zwetschgendatschi.
When I went to Whole Foods the other day and saw the prune plums, I picked out a few pounds and sighed as I thought of making a Zwetschgendatschi. I sighed, because the memory of my daddy would have to suffice as the last 40 years would come rushing by with each mouthful of Zwetschgendatschi.
I got home, got out my recipe, converted it to gluten-free, and it worked beautifully. Matter of fact, I got a bonus from this recipe: I decided to use the butter "trick" below to make my scones and biscuits and it produces the most incredibly light pastry. Here's how I made it:
Prune Plum Tart -- gluten-free
1/3 cup rice flour
1/3 cup brown rice flour
1/3 cup tapioca or potato starch (or a mixture of the two)
1/4 cup sugar
1 stick unsalted butter, freeze for about 30 minutes
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated lemon peel
2 egg yolks
2 tablesoons chilled coconut milk (or any other kind of milk)
sugar and cinnamon for sprinkling
1. Mix the flours, salt, and sugar together in a large mixing bowl.
2. Butter trick: Use a grater and grate in the frozen butter. Stir lightly to coat the butter.
3. Mix in the vanilla, lemon peel, and egg yolks. Add enough of the cold milk to make a smooth dough, but avoid handling too much.
4. Press the dough into a 9" spingform or tart pan with removable bottom. Refrigerate.
5. While the dough is chilling preheat your oven to 375 degrees F and pit and quarter the plums.
6. Place the plum quarters onto the tart dough in concentric circles, starting at the outside.
7. Sprinkle with sugar and cinnamon and pop into the oven for about 40-45 minutes. The dough should be deep golden and the fruit bubbly.
I know you'll want to do like I do and burn your tongue with a piping hot piece, but believe me, you'll be able taste it much more if you let it cool slightly. Place a voluptuous dollop of whipped cream onto each serving and savor a generations-old Bavarian tradition.
What kinds of food memories do you have?