Joanne Yolles has long been my colleague, friend and baking buddy.
More proof that Julia Child’s advice to young people works: “Get into the food business and you’ll be part of one big family.”
Joanne is a pastry chef whose stellar career in Toronto spans 30 years. Her Coconut Cream Pie remains a trademark dessert on the menu at Scaramouche where she spent 13 years. After an eight-year hiatus raising young children, she worked at Pangaea. These days, she’s a part-time instructor at George Brown College sharing her baking expertise with budding chefs.
And for about 20 years, I’ve been picking her brain about an array of cooking conundrums – with excellent results.
There was an episode involving Tarte Tatin. The two of us experimented over a period of weeks, alternating lively tart-baking sessions in our respective kitchens and varying varieties of apple, cooking methods and types of pan. Our goal: To produce the ultimate rendition.
That was in the late 1990s. Some years later, the same modus operandi was applied to Sticky Toffee Pudding. In both cases, the results were amazing. Recipes for both can be found in the Recipes section of this site.
But happy day! No such effort was required for Joanne’s exquisite Plum Tart.
It appears on Page 80 of the recently-published Toronto Life Cookbook – actually a glossy magazine jam-packed with top-notch recipes from Toronto chefs.
The pre-baked cookie-like crust for this, says Joanne, is a “Breton sable” made with egg yolks and baking powder. The almond filling, she explains, is “a frangipane I’ve often used.” Roasting the plums before baking the tart produces syrup that’s used to glaze it.
I have one word for all this: Brilliant!
The dessert I baked, in between dealing with roofers – an untoward event that caused me to over-roast the plums and over-bake the pastry – looked, in spite of the aforementioned glitches, like a pastry chef had made it. The taste and texture were nothing short of divine.
Joanne’s inspiration, she says, was an Apricot Hazelnut Tart she has in her repertoire. The pastry idea came from a blog called Cannelle et Vanille.
All I can say to you, dear readers, is: Bon Appetit and, on behalf of me and my baking buddy, you’re welcome!
Joanne Yolles’s Plum Tart
I used a couple more plums than the original recipe and baked the tart for less time – both of which get the okay from Joanne. You can make the pastry and roasted plums ahead of time. This moist, delicious dessert keeps well and is wonderful served with ice cream, thickened yogurt or creme fraiche.
6 tbsp unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/4 cup plus 2 tbsp granulated sugar
1/4 tsp kosher salt
2 large egg yolks
3/4 cup plus 1 tbsp all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
About 10 firm, ripe purple plums
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/2 vanilla bean
1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs, preferably at room temperature
1 cup ground almonds
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
Icing sugar for dusting
For Pastry, cream butter, sugar and salt using electric standing or hand mixer until smooth and light in colour. Beat in egg yolks one at a time.
In small bowl, sift flour with baking powder. Add to butter mixture; mix on low speed until dough comes together. It will be soft. Shape into disc; wrap in plastic wrap. Chill at least 2 hours.
For Roasted Plums, preheat oven to 375F. Cut plums in 1-inch slices. Place sugar in 9 x 13-inch baking dish. Cut vanilla bean in half lengthwise; scrape seeds into sugar. Stir to combine. Add plums; toss to coat. Bake in oven 18 to 25 minutes or until tender but still holding their shape. Cool. (These can be done ahead. Syrup and plums should be stored in separate containers.)
Grease 8-inch fluted springform tart pan with butter. Preheat oven to 350F.
Roll dough roughly into 11-inch circle. Place over rolling pin; fit and press into tart pan, patching as necessary. Line with foil or parchment paper; fill with dried beans or pie weights. Bake about 15 minutes in centre of oven. Remove beans and foil. Bake 10 to 15 minutes more or until pastry is golden brown. Cool completely on wire rack.
For Almond Filling, cream butter and sugar using electric standing or hand mixer until smooth and light in colour. Beat in eggs, one at a time. Add ground almonds and flour; mix just to combine. Spread filling in cooled tart shell.
Drain plums, reserving syrup. Arrange plum slices in concentric cicles over almond filling, overlapping slightly.
Bake tart in oven 40 to 50 minutes or until almond filling puffs up and becomes firm and golden brown. Cool completely in pan on wire rack.
Brush tart with reserved plum syrup. Dust edges with icing sugar using sieve.
Makes about 8 servings.
Easy French Apple Cake
This is inspired by terrific cookbook author Dorie Greenspan’s recipe for Marie-Helene’s Apple cake in “Around My French Table.” It is the easiest and one of the best versions of this tried-and-true fall fruit dessert I’ve made. The apples may remain a tad crunchy if cut in the size prescribed. I like them that way but you could make the chunks smaller. It is wonderfully moist and keeps well. Serve as is or with ice cream, creme fraiche or whipped cream.
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 tsp baking powder
A pinch of salt
4 large apples (if possible, 4 different kinds)
2 large eggs
3/4 cup granulated or light brown sugar
3 tbsp dark rum, whisky or brandy
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted, cooled
Preheat oven to 350F.
Generously butter 8-inch springform pan; place pan on a baking sheet lined with silicone baking mat or parchment paper.
Whisk flour, baking powder and salt together in small bowl.
Peel apples, halve and remove cores. Slice apples into 1-inch chunks.
In medium bowl, whisk eggs until foamy. Whisk in sugar, then rum and vanilla. Whisk in half of flour mixture until combined, then half the melted butter followed by remaining flour mixture and remaining butter, mixing gently after each addition so you have a smooth, rather thick batter.
Using rubber spatula, fold in apples until coated with batter. Spoon mixture into pan; smooth top with knife.
Bake on middle rack of oven 50 to 60 minutes or until top of cake is golden brown and a knife inserted in centre comes out clean; cake may pull away from sides of pan. Place on wire rack; cool about 5 minutes.
Carefully run a blunt knife around edges of cake; remove sides of pan. Cool cake until it is just slightly warm or at room temperature.
Makes about 8 servings.
Cake will keep for about 2 days at room temperature and actually improves. It’s best not to cover it as it’s too moist. Leave on its plate and just press a piece of plastic wrap or wax paper against cut surfaces.