Summer is unfortunately over. It's a fact. It has only been over for 4 days, but to me, it ended the day I came back from vacation about two weeks ago. As much as I love the cooler fall days, it's always hard to say goodbye to warm nights- the perfect excuse to go out for drinks and sit outside, farmers markets FULL of fruits and vegetables, and my favorite "it's a Friday in August so I'm leaving work early" excuse. Fall means back to school, back to work and the start of the root vegetable season at the farmers' market. Before all brightly colored fruits hibernate for the winter, fall gives us a few last bursts of color, like the pomegranate, the plum and figs (OK I know some figs are black but there are some pretty lime green ones too!)
I've discovered a new interest in cocktails. I never really enjoyed sweet cocktails like the Cosmopolitan but I thought those sugary/sour/fruity drinks were my only option if I wanted something other than a beer or a glass of wine while sitting at a bar. This isn't the first time that it turns out that's I'm wrong.. Over the summer I found several bars, in DC and other cities, that are "re-creating" the cocktail, using creative new combinations of flavors and ingredients. Fruits, herbs, bitters, infusions- the possibilities are endless. I've made Limoncello before and I just infused vodka with lemon verbena but those both have vodka. I wanted to try a new liquor. To go along with my "fall" mood, I thought I would try a recipe for plum brandy my sister found for me in the New York Times. She sent me two recipes: "Brandied Plums with Cinnamon and Vanilla" and "Pomegranate Gin Preserve". Brandied plums it is! The pomegranates will have to wait.
Brandied Plums with Cinnamon and Vanilla
Adapted from The New York Times - published on September 21, 2010
2 lb of plums
1/2 cup sugar
1 liter of brandy
one cinnamon stick
1 vanilla bean, halved lengthwise
This really could not be easier. I changed the original proportions a little but nothing really changed all that much. The recipe is put together in under 10 minutes and then you just have to wait.
Wash the plums and prick them all over with the tip of a sharp knife. Put them in a large jar (the kind with a top that clamps shut). I used 3 liter jar and it was not full.
Pour the sugar over the plums and then add the brandy. Plop in the cinnamon stick and the vanilla bean and voila!
Let the jar sit in a cool dark place (not the fridge) for at least 6 weeks, and up to 3-4 months. Gently "shake" the jar from time to time, by turning the jar over. Who knows. This is an experiment. The ingredients sound like they would go together and it if works, I'll have a delicious drink to sip when it's cold this winter (or give away as Christmas gifts because let's be honest, that's a lot of brandy). I'll keep you updated on the brandy's status!
I had some plums leftover so I thought I would make a cake. Last week I made a delicious peach upside down cake with the last of my summer peaches. I've learned that most stone fruit desserts work with just about any type of stone fruit (or any sort of fruit in general really because a tart tatin is the apple version of this cake.)
Plum and Rum Raisin Upside Down Cake
Adapted from the Honey Peach Upside Down Cake from Hotpolkadot
About 8-10 plums depending on the kind you use and how big they are- quartered
1/4 cup of maple syrup
1/4 cup of golden raisins soaked in about 1/4 cup of rum - drained.
1 cup of flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter - room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup honey
Preheat your oven to 350. Butter a 9 inch round cake pan (sides and bottom). Cup out a round piece of parchment paper and put it on the buttered bottom of the pan. Butter the parchment round. (I know it sounds like a lot of butter but this is an upside down cake. You really don't want it to stick when it comes time to flip).
Pour the maple syrup on top of the buttered parchment paper. The original recipe called for honey but I thought the deeper flavor of maple syrup would taste really nice with plums. Take your plum quarters and arrange them, cut side down, in a nice circular pattern. Take your rum raisin and sprinkle them evenly over the plums. Set this aside and now. It's time to work on the cake batter.
In a small bowl, mix together your dry ingredients (flour, salt and baking powder).
In your mixer's bowl, cream the butter and sugar together. Add the honey and then the eggs. I added a little nutmeg because I think nutmeg tastes like fall. You can omit it, of course, or add your spice of choice.
Slowly add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and you're done! The batter will not soupy. In fact, you probably won't be able to pour it out of the bowl. Use a spatula to scoup and plop it into the pan (kind of like mashed potatoes). Don't be afraid to use your fingers to gently convince the batter to fill in the little holes between the plums. Work the batter into the pan and put it in the middle of the oven.
The recipe calls for baking the cake for 30-35 minutes. Both times I made this it took me more like 40-43. See what works for you.
When the cake is done (clean toothpick test), let it cool until you can pick up the pan with your fingers without burning them (idiot test). Put a large plate over the pan and quickly flip it and put the plate down on the table. If all the buttering did its job the cake should easily slip out of the pan. If the parchment paper came out of the pan with the cake, just carefully peel it off.
Serve it warm or refrigerate it for the next day.