Fall Plum Tart

Even though I haven’t been in school for many many [many] years, September always feels like the start of the new year for me.  I used to love getting all of my school supplies organized and ready, pack and repack my backpack and lay out my first day of school clothes (any wonder that I wasn’t invited to one party all of high school?).  I have been trying to remember my last first day of school, which would have been my third year of law school, and I don’t remember anything at all except that I really probably didn’t want to go.  I was over the whole law school thing before it even started, it seemed, which is not the best way to go into a situation that will leave you in debt well into your grandchildren’s adulthood. When I graduated from college—aimless, jobless and with a degree in International Studies and French—my family gave me a year to find gainful employment or go back to school.  Easy choice at the time.  I spent the summer after college in a tug of war between “oh my god, how embarrassed would I be if I don’t get in anywhere” and “oh crap, if I actually get in, I’ll have to go.”

My reward for my months of studying and writing essays and typing my name and social security number over and over was to spend four months in Paris.  I saved all of my money from the job I had for six months so that I didn’t have to think about lying to French employers about having a work visa.  I packed two huge suitcases and tried to forget that I would need to make a decision about the rest of my life by May 1.  I had no idea what I would do in Paris for four months by myself, which is exactly what I wanted.

My days quickly took on the pattern of being completely random;  my path decided based on how I felt or who could come with me or whether I’d stayed out too late the night before.   The only thing I did almost every day was go to a café a few blocks from my apartment called Les Recettes de CharlotteCharlotte

It was this beautiful tea shop done up in lavender and yellow and run by a striking older woman (I never got up the courage to ask if she was Charlotte), with shocking silver hair and a waist-line that made me think she’d never tasted any of the pastries in the store.  She had the usual croissants and pain au chocolat, but then there was a separate part of the display case with millefeuille (talk to me about why they are called Napoleon’s in English…), and pot de crème and delicate petits fours.  I sampled everything at least once, I think, but for some reason I always returned to the tarte aux pruneaux, the plum tart. It was kind of like a turn-over (which is such a sad way to describe something that good), with a flaky crust and a warm sweet filling.  I would order my tart and a cup of one of her specialty teas and she’d serve it to me on beautiful china.  I’d sit there for hours reading or writing in my journal and she’d walk around the store and we never spoke once, even though the place was usually empty.  I’m sure that I was on my way there when I dropped my deposit for the law school I finally chose in the mailbox.  I probably ordered two tarts that day.

I discovered that Charlotte and her tarts have moved on to places unknown [to me].  I can’t find a recipe that even comes close to what she made, but this one I made up will do in a pinch, especially since I cheated and used pre-made pie dough.   Italian prune plums are in season right now, and they are a perfect balance between sweet and tart.   IMGP0474

Any pre-made dough will work, and I did mini-double crust pies, but you could fold them over to make turnovers or make one big tart, if you want. IMGP0499

 Now if only someone would serve one to me on fine china with a cup of tea….





Not Quite Charlotte’s Plum TartIMGP0519


  • 1 pre-made pie crust (thawed)
  • 1/2 pound Italian prune plums
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/2 teaspoon cornstarch
  • egg wash (1 egg yolk and 2 tablespoons water , lightly beaten)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees and line baking sheet with parchment paper. 

Cut plums in half, using line down center as a guide; remove pit and cut plum into quarters.  Put  plums, sugar and water into saucepan over medium and cook until  plums have softened a bit but still have some firmness.  Pour a bit of the liquid in to a cup and stir in the cornstarch.  Add this mixture back to the saucepan with the plums and stir until liquid thickens.  Let cool.

Roll out pie dough and using a small saucer as a guide, cut out four equal circles.  Place on parchment paper and add filling to middle of two of the circles.  Cover with rest of dough, crimping edges all the way around.  Brush with egg wash.  Bake for 20 minutes or until golden brown.


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