Ready? I don’t think you should run out and make this recipe.
There. I said it. And see? I’m CHOOSY. Quite frankly, you’re better than this recipe. Let me break it down for you. I had such high HOPES, readers. Maybe that’s the issue. I went to this fruit market mecca on the way back from my pottery class one weekend, and they had these HUGE bags of italian prune plums. And I mean, they looked a little weird, but they were organic and local and whatever, and I had been thinking a lot about plum cake recently, and supposedly italian prune plums are like THE plum to use in a plum cake. So I already assumed everything was going to come together and this recipe would be another winner.
Which isn’t to say it’s not a perfectly fine recipe. I mean, it is. And it’s all traditional german, and the germans probably spent a good long while perfecting this recipe, and you know how fucking precise those germans can be. So I’m sure there are about a million children of germany who are ready to pounce at the very idea that this cake isn’t everything that was wonderful about their childhood plus memories of plump and caring german grandmother hands pushing bright plums into sweet and fluffy yeasted dough. I get it. I mean, some people don’t understand why I literally start salivating every time someone utters the word “dumpling.” We all have our comfort foods, and I really wanted to add this. I liked the idea of a yeasted cake, and I love me some baked plums.
AND I found this double plum, or two butts touching. It’s kind of a special find. It made me giggle. So where did it go wrong?? High hopes, time-tested recipe, plum pornography (please god show me the search results that that phrase yields), sweet yeasted dough. It doesn’t make sense! Was it something I did? Something I said? I find myself going over and over all the steps I took, trying to catch myself in a mistake. Did I come on too hard? Did I act too needy? Should I have introduced this cake as my boyfriend before we talked about it? WHAT DID I DO???
I think it’s just that…me and this zwetschgenkuchen…we’re not made for each other. I find this cake laborious (pitting these plums was a drag, and yeasted doughs that need to rise twice take HOURS) and ultimately boring. There. The truth. It’s boring! Not in the awesomely good way. Not like fresh white bread is boring but I could eat a whole loaf. Not like life in a summer cabin is boring but you can just sit on the deck chair and look out across the scenery and never get tired of it. No. This cake is boring like algebra class is boring (small confession: i may or may not have thought algebra class was pretty interesting). Like watching paint dry boring.
Maybe it’s that the local organic Italian prune plums lacked any discernible flavor at all. When they cooked they just became sweet. No tarty plum tartness. Just masses of sweet tasting flesh. That alone couldn’t carry the very simple yeasted dough. The dough has sugar in it, but no spices, no real flavor aside from yeast (which is a marvelous flavor, really, but it just didn’t play out correctly here, imho).
Whatever it is, if you absolutely love love love zwetschgenkuchen, this recipe is probably pretty good. But if you have no idea what zwetschgenkuchen is and you don’t care about warm yeasted german feelings, then I wouldn’t bake this expecting it to become a regular part of your favorite baked good rotations. See? I’m not always glowing about the things I make. Legitimacy. I have it.
Zwetschgenkuchen (Prune plum cake)
from Marietta Herr via nola
4 cups flour
1 stick softened butter
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup warm milk (more or less)
1 1/2 teaspoons (or 1 packet) dry yeast (tested to make sure it’s viable)
(Optional: Add anytime the grated zest of 1 lemon or orange)
About 50 ripe prune plums, halved and pitted, at room temperature
Put flour in large bowl.
In a small bowl dissolve yeast in 1/4 cup lukewarm water. Mix yeast with 1/2 cup flour, 1/3 cup warm milk and 1 or 2 tablespoons sugar. Stir until smooth. Let that sit about 30 minutes, until mixture bubbles.
Pour mixture into large bowl with remaining flour, eggs, butter, rest of milk and sugar. Beat with wooden spoon until dough blisters and comes away from the side of bowl. Cover and let rise in warm place, 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until doubled in bulk.
Punch mixture down and let it rise a second time.
Combine plum halves with 2 to 3 tablespoons sugar 30 minutes before putting them on the dough.
Punch dough down again, and roll it out on a floured baking surface. Roll to about 1/4 inch thick. Place dough onto a buttered rimmed baking sheet. Cover dough with halved plums, skin-side down. Cover the dough with the plums.
Let dough sit a little while it starts to look puffy, about 15 minutes.
Bake at 350 about 40 minutes, until done.
While tart is baking, cook extra plums in a small saucepan with a little bit of sugar (about 1/3 cup of sugar to 15 plums) and a small piece of lemon peel. After plums are very soft, about 10 minutes, puree them in the blender. Return to saucepan and cook just briefly, until mixture is spreadable, not too soupy or stiff.
After tart is removed from oven, let it cool about 20 minutes before spreading puree over the surface of the cake.