Yeasted Plum Tart

plum tart

I’ve gotta say, I’ve taken a few dings for not presenting only the best parts of life in a foreign city. People may, or may not, want to hear about dealing with cranky cashiers, rigid administrators, or worse, paper-thin bath towels, instead wanting a perfect story of life in an apartment with a balcony, and watching sunsets every night over chilled glasses of Champagne, toasting yet another day in paradise. Invariably, however, almost all those “love letter-style” books end with the author moving back home in the final chapter or epilogue. And I always wish I’d hear the real story about why they stayed, or why they left.

In My Berlin Kitchen, Luisa Weiss of the terrific blog, The Wednesday Chef, explains it all. She was born in Berlin, and although she lived in several other places, including Paris and New York City, there was a strong connection to Berlin that kept drawing her back. Berlin is a very interesting place. It’s not very glamorous, but has a certain charm in the old, faded buildings, rumbling streets and subways, and sprawling parks. For years it was a city divided, then reunited. However one feels a bit of the scars of the past as the city still struggles to find its footing.

italian prune plums

Luisa loved New York, but wasn’t so smitten with Paris, where she studied. And she found the omnipresent tristesse of Paris -”the sadness” of Paris, as it’s called, rather difficult. And in spite of the beauty of the city and her fluency with the language, she was frustrated by administrative barriers she faced. And she didn’t have someone to share those long, leisurely walks with her along the Seine to walk them off with, either. But in New York, that loneliness was diminished by the swarms of people and the casual friendliness of the people around her.

But something tugged her back to Berlin, and it was love. It was a deep love of the city and a romance that was kindled in Paris with a Berliner. So she finally moved back, once and for all, and continued cooking and baking, to make Berlin “home” for her, at last. It wasn’t all perfect and she had to get used to “hatchet-faced” bus drivers and the stern and disciplined way of doing things that is foreign to people who’ve lived in cultures with more fluidity.

plums for tartdough rising
streusel toppingassembling plum tart

Each chapter of the book ends with a recipe, and the chapters tell stories of shuttling back-and-forth between Europe and America, and the customs of each. Although the book is a terrific read, it’s nice to find recipes for German desserts that are explained in clear terms for home bakers because many of them simply don’t get their due. Luisa edited cookbooks for many years and I like the friendly, reassuring tone she used as she wrote them.

Each recipe makes you feel like you are being talked through them, with her by your side in her kitchen, and I’m hoping to tackle the Basler Leckerli, a Christmas cookie that I’ve had some difficulties with, and a simple Früchtebrot, a dried fruit and nut cake with figs, dates, and a substantial pour of dark rum to keep everything moist, that also sounds perfect for the holidays.

plum tart

One thing that France and Germany…and even Americans across the Atlantic, share in common is a love of quetsches, otherwise known as Italian prune plums or simply ‘prune plums’. The Germans make yeasted kuchens out of them, a hybrid cake-tart, which don’t rise as high as a typical American cake and is much less-sweet, making it appropriate for a breakfast treat or an afternoon imbiss (snack). My German isn’t as fluent at Luisa’s (actually, it’s pretty nil, and I hope I didn’t spell ‘imbiss’ wrong), and while I’m sure that kuchen translates to cake, like moving to a foreign country, I don’t want folks to set their expectations too high – so I’m calling it a tart.

Quetsches are usually the last of the summer fruits to linger around longer than the others. In France, we get them at markets through October, then they disappear. I grabbed a bag at the market and brought them home, mixing up the simple yeasted crust and baking a tart from them, with thanks to Luisa for the recipe from her Berlin kitchen, to mine.

Yeasted Plum Tart

Recipe adapted from My Berlin Kitchen (Viking) by Luisa Weiss


One could argue (and if you’re German, win the argument) that this is more of a cake than a tart, which is what Luisa calls it. In her original recipe, she tops the cake with 3 tablespoons of sugar mixed with 2 teaspoons of ground cinnamon, but says it’s also common in Germany to use a streusel topping. So that’s what I did. However if you want to make the original recipe Luisa presented it as, drizzle 3 tablespoons of melted butter over the plums and sprinkle them with the cinnamon sugar rather than use the streusel topping, in Step #5.

This tart is on the less-sweet side because prune plums aren’t super-sweet although they are traditional for this pastry. Prune plums are also less-juicy than regular plums and I’m looking forward to trying it with other varieties, when they’re in season.


Dough and plum topping

  • 1 1/2 cups plus 2 tablespoons (225g) flour
  • 2 teaspoons active dry yeast, or 1/2 ounce fresh yeast, crumbled
  • 1/2 cup (125ml) whole milk, divided
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 3 tablespoons melted butter, cooled to room temperature
  • pinch of salt
  • grated zest of one lemon
  • 1 1/2 pounds (700g) Italian prune plums, pitted and quartered


Streusel Topping

3/4 cup (50g) sliced almonds
1/2 cup (70g) flour
6 tablespoons (70g) light brown sugar
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 ounces (55g) unsalted butter, cubed, cold
pinch salt

1. Butter a 9- to 10-inch (23 cm) springform pan.

2. Add the flour to a mixing bowl and make a well in the center. Add the yeast and half of the milk as well as the 3 tablespoons of sugar. Mix the liquid ingredients with a spatula, incorporating just enough of the flour to make a wet paste. Let sit 15 minutes.

3. Stir in the remaining milk, egg yolk, 3 tablespoons of melted butter, salt, and lemon zest, and mix everything together well. Knead the dough on a lightly floured surface until smooth. Shape the dough into a smooth ball and put in the buttered cake pan. Cover with a kitchen towel, and let rise in a warm place for 1 hour, until doubled.

4 While the dough is rising, make the streusel topping. Put the almonds, flour, brown and granulated sugars, cinnamon, and salt in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until the almonds are broken up. Add the 2 ounces of butter and salt and process until the mixture first becomes granular, then begins to clump together.

4. Use your fingers to smooth the yeasted dough across the bottom of the pan and about an inch (3cm) rim up the sides. Place concentric rounds of prune plum wedges over the dough, within the rim, pushing them close together.

5. Strew 1 cup (120g) of streusel topping over the top (there may be a bit leftover) and let the dough rise 20 minutes. Preheat the oven to 350ºF (180ºC).

6. Bake the tart for 45-55 minutes, until the streusel topping is golden brown. Remove from the oven and let cool.


Serving: One could serve this tart with sweetened whipped cream or vanilla ice cream If you want to jazz it up, some raspberries or raspberry sauce would work nicely with the plums.

Storage: This tart/cake is best served the day it’s made. However it will keep a couple of days, at room temperature.



Related Recipes and Posts

Le glaneur

Plum Kernel Ice Cream

Easy Jam Tart

Plum-Rhubarb Crisp

125 comments

  • Again, your pictures delight. I could eat this tart right off the computer screen. What I like, well one of the things I like, about your blog is that we DO get to hear about the minor (and sometimes major) frustrations of living in a culture to which you were not born. Paris is, indeed, as perfect as a city can get. But it is still not completely perfect and it’s quirks just add to its beauty and charm. Anyway, I don’t recognize the name/s of the plums but will be looking for them in the States. This tart/cake looks delicious and perfect on the not-too-sweet side.

    Thanks,
    Claire

    • It’s interesting that people just want to hear the “ups” – because I think flaws are what makes cities (and people) more interesting and multi-dimensional. Plus you need to be able to laugh at those things that aren’t perfect every once in a while.. Conversely, Parisians love New York and go on and on at length about how much they love the city and the energie. I love New York, too, but not sure if the reality of living there is the same as visiting for a week and sightseeing.

      • I do enjoy hearing about ‘real’ life in Paris. People in my city are addicted
        to their smart phones. Newspapers are passe.TV of any sort not so important. People will pay for Internet over cable. How does that compare?
        Course note I am commenting on a blog….

  • Thanks, great post, and very good recommendation for a cook book. I’ll definitely get it for me – especially as I can connect quite well to Luisa’s issues with being abroad, and returning to Berlin. I’m currently entering the ‘back to Berlin’-phase, after years in France and London.
    One more thing though…I think what you mean is ‘Zwetschgen’?

    • Thanks – I looked up zwetschgen and saw that it means quetsche which I suppose is the French word for them (although maybe I’ve been living overseas too long – and that’s just the natural word for me to use)
      ; )

      As you know, Berlin is a rather special place. I like it but it is a big city with a heavy history. Luisa talks about how the city affected her in much broader ways than I could convey, but it’s a good read and I’ve bookmarked the split pea soup recipe to make next, since that seems quintessentially German!

  • Damsons are popular here, but this year they are being very tasteless and hard to ripen. I’ve been stewing them and turning them into ice-cream with a sloosh of a friend’s damson gin (alas finished! But I have some plum brandy from Bulgaria that is pretty lethal), some yoghurt and some cream. Excellent!

  • Hello, probably you do not known but this type of plum cake is also very well known in Poland.

  • Your streusel version looks delicious. I ran out of prune plums and used a couple everyday plums I had around the house, and it worked just fine. In the end, you couldn’t tell the difference between them under that blanket of cinnamon sugar. I also used the zest of a whole lemon.. loved it in the cake! I mean, tart. I mean cake!

  • Zwetschenkuchen (yeasted plum tart) – my favourite cake in the world! Wonderful childhood memories of my mum making this cake year after year for my birthday and me sitting in my pyjamas eating it for breakfast and then for 3 o’clock coffee and cake again. But then I’m not alone with my love for plum cake – it’s Kasper’s (German Mr Punch) favourite cake, too. My mum made it as a “Blechkuchen” (does this translate as traybake?) and that’s how you can buy it at all the bakers/confectioneries in Germany at the moment. Traditionally you eat it, like David suggested, with sweetened whipped cream. So if you see some damson plums give it a go and soon like me you can’t wait for autumn to arrive.

    A big hello from the land of “Zwetschenkuchen”!
    Sandy

  • I love plum kuchen mit streussel. Favourite autumn recipe, excellent for a gray dismal Sunday.

  • I just finished Luisa’s book yesterday at 5:00am. I couldn’t put it down after I started reading it. I loved the poetic way she described each city having traveled to New York and Paris. And I was fascinated with her account of traveling to East Berlin with her nanny as a young girl, and her description and love for Berlin. I’ve got to visit there now. Her honest revelations about her personal struggles growing up and living in so many cities were inspiring to me too. And I didn’t know much about German or Berlin food either — it was a fascinating read. Since I love to cook for family and friends, I reveled in her cooking and food descriptions — it made me want to go straight to the kitchen and cook! I can’t wait to make the braised endive, green pea soup, yeasted plum cake, quark cheesecake(never heard of quark), and many of her Italian dishes too.

  • My stepfather is German and I’m always trying to find good recipes to replicate at home whenever he visits. Thank you for sharing this recipe, it looks delightful and the photos are gorgeous.

  • I made for a friend of mine from Munich what she called “zwetschgendatschi” — which is essentially the same as this cake. Her family has a zwetschgen (quetsche/damson/Italian plum) tree in their backyard whose fruit always ripens at the same time. They make zwetschgendatschi on a full sheet pan to use up all of the fruit in one shot. When I made the cake, I bought nearly 5 pounds of plums!

    As for la tristesse of Paris – I too have felt it, and Luisa’s “Depression Stew” is on my list of to-make dishes this winter.

  • Sandy’s quest for Blechkuchen found its answer in Gayle’s posting. It is indeed best translated with full sheet pan cake.
    Dashing to catching some Zweschgen at the market, hopefully. Thanks for reminding us of the time. All bakeries have it on offer from the moment the first quetches make their appearences, but it is now that they’re really ripe (though 2012 wasn’t a good year for them)

  • I grew up in the Czech Republic, with the shared Bohemian-German-Austrian culinary heritage typical of a country in the very center of Europe. Plum kuchen is one of my favourite tarts of all time, this is the recipe of my childhood (with streusel!): http://www.growntocook.com/?p=193

  • One of my absolute favorites, the recipe I have is nearly identical – passed down from my grandmother (who was from Vienna.) Plum season has just passed here in the Northeast, now I’m already craving some for next year.

  • Not bad, your German. Make sure you capitalize the first letter of every noun, then you will be a real pro :)

  • This is the cake I stupidly didn’t order at the end of a group lunch in Bavaria back in August — a taste from a generous neighbor confirmed the grave error in not having dessert. This recipe, plus the promise of recipes for Basler Leckerli and fruchtbrot, will send me to Amazon as soon as I post this. Luisa is a lovely writer.

  • Ohhh I love plum tart, I will sure make this within the next 2 weeks! My mom is from another part of Germany where they top those kind of plum tarts with dollops of “Schmand” which according to my dictionairy is sour cream.

    As for the kuchen being cake or tart – linguistically speaking one could refer to the semiotic triangle which basically states that words are connected with different images in our head. So, for example when you think “bird” you may think of sparrows in Europe, but in Australia when you think of birds you have pictures of parrots in your head. And the same could apply for kuchen!

    PS: Sorry for the dose of uber-nerdiness!

  • Hi David! your tart looks amazing. I was wondering if I could substitute other fruits for the plums for this recipe. Thanks.

  • I love plum tart / Pflaumenkuchen. Especialy with crumbs / Streusel as your’s.
    Luisa is a wonderful (blog) author and person. I’m glad to have met her and I share the same passion for the city we both call home. Thanks for the book review.

  • Looks exatly like my Hungarian Plum Tart! I love Italian plums!

  • This looks great. I’ll keep my eyes open for plums at the Marche de Bastille this weekend!

  • Nothing like a perfect plum cake!

  • I really love books and blog posts.. where its more than a recipe.. where’s there’s always a little story attached to it… I have been reading about Luisa’s book and have been intrigued.. your post justs adds to the interest!!

  • I for one enjoy hearing the whole story, not a varnished story, about your life in Paris with all of the good, bad, frustrations, elations, and about your tastebuds dancing with joy. I have passed your book on and often your newsletters. Thank you.

  • Berit, please don’t apologize for referencing the semiotic triangle. I’d never heard the term, but was familiar with the concept. And it is certainly applicable here! Food and curiosity go together so well.

    This tart sounds totally yummy, as does Luisa Weiss’s cookbook/memoir.

  • Yum, my Austrian hubby will love this…once the pecan pie is finished. We too have switched back and forth from the US to Europe and back…and forth again. Imagine that combined with an Indian heritage! Who knows where home is? Lots of desserts from everywhere. One question though (sorry to be a pedant) I always thought that damsons were smaller and much more tart than the zwetchgen/prune plums. Good for jam with lots of sugar but not for much else.

    From the looks of them, I thought Damsons were the same. But perhaps botanically speaking, they do differ. I removed them from that line – thank! -dl

  • Made my first tart with these lovely plums last week and was reminded of my German/Hungarian grandma’s Pflaumenkuchen with the same, though she always made a yeasted tart. I never learned how to make hers, and of course she didn’t use a written recipe (as most babas and grannies did not). Now I look forward to trying out your adapted recipe from Luisa. The tartness of these plums when baked is wonderful!

    I very much appreciate reading about all aspects of life in Paris, the ups and the downs, real life. You share your experiences with wit and insight (and wonderful recipes). Don’t change a thing!

  • Wonderful timing! I’m not much for “regular” shopping but I’ve never met a box of fruit I didn’t need. Fortunately I live about 20 minutes away from a major fruit growing region and am able to buy as many boxes as I would like. Yesterday I was just looking at the end of my box of Italian Plums (my favorite) trying to decide what I would do with them. This looks perfect. Thank you.

  • How warmly you tell stories….I wish I could let myself go and do the same. I love the description of the feelings one has for a place. I have been out of place for many years and am about to embark on a new adventure to perhaps …hopefully find my place in the sun. Maybe then when you are where you belong you can open up and live and belong even in cyberspace…. Thanks for this post that made me think.

  • My Austrian grandmother made the Zwetschken Kuchen without the Streussel….but with a yeast dough….My mother – made it with a cake batter…if you are interested you can see my version at: http:www.majaskitchen.com – where my last post is the Plum Cake….baked in a tart pan.
    I am enjoying all your posts…greatly!

  • When I was young, I wanted so hard to go to live in Italy !
    This country was, for me, as Heaven on Earth ! Everything was wonderful ! Nothing could be bad !
    At 20 years old, I went to live in Italy. And I discovered the “down points”.
    This Heaven became suddenly “normal”, with good points and bad points which made me regret my country.
    My country wasn’t better, no… It was just that I was accustomed with. I knew the bad points and I used to accept them.
    Today, I’m back to france. But Italy will always keep something magical for me. Maybe because I know her, now, truly and deeply in her reality.
    I think we have to live in a country to know exactly if one day you’l feel at home or if you’ll go back to home ;)

  • Ich bin ein Berliner!

    (Somebody had to say it.)

  • having married into a german family and having traveled to germany twice i have made a plum kuchen every fall. learned to love the sweet,sour tastes. mine doesn’t use yeast but looks the same and came from mimi sheraton in new york times.

  • I look forward to reading your column about Basler Leckerli. I lived in Basel for 3 1/2 years and although Leckerli is available year-round I also loved the seasonal pastries, cakes, and cookies, such as zimtsterne, anisbrot, etc.

  • “hatched-faced”? or “hatchet-faced”?

  • David, another memorable posting. Thank you.
    You are so observant, articulate, witty, knowledgeable and inspiring.
    Please don’t ever stop writing. I’m heading to the kitchen right now!

  • Beautiful tart, I love the streusel topping!

  • Although I live on the West Coast of the US, I’m originally from Augsburg, Germany. A city located a little northwest of Munich.

    Augsburg specializes in everything “Datschi.” Zwetschgendatschi (as described above), Reiberdatschi (a potato pancake). Datschi is a Swabian word meaning something flat.

    Yum! Thanks for reminding me what I better do before the plums are gone.

  • This is to reply to Mary Sanavia – yes you can easily substitute apples or tart/sour cherries.
    Having grown up in Berlin and living in North Carolina now, I very much miss not having Zwetschgen around in the fall. My mom always made Streuselkuchen as we called it and depending on what fruit she had, she used either apples, cherries or plums.

  • I think it’s so funny that people only want to hear the good parts of living in a city. I also live in a very touristy city (Tampa/St. Pete), and I’m coming to find (as Luisa did) that just because you enjoy VISITING a place doesn’t mean that you’ll love LIVING there. That was what made her book so enjoyable for me – that moment of recognition of, “Hey! I’m not the only one who feels that way! I’m so glad!”

    Love your blog and your stories of living in Paris, warts and all!

  • I love hearing about the less than glamorous side of living in Paris. As an Australian living in London, I have to say it’s refreshing to know that there are other people out there experiencing the same frustrations that inevitably come with living in a foreign city.

    Don’t get me wrong though, I also enjoy the descriptions of Parisian pastry shops and trips to the French countryside too. Just as long as things don’t get too morose, it’s interesting hearing about the realities of a city as well as the niceties. It’s the spice amongst the sweetness the blog!

  • One of the best things about your blog is the honesty you always employ. Everyone knows Paris is romantic and lovely, but everyone also knows that life isn’t only romance and beauty. I certainly appreciate your willingness to acknowledge all of it! And you provide a lovely summary of Luisa’s journey in this post. I, too, have been wanting to make this tart ever since I read of it in her wonderful book.

  • The tart is gorgeous and I love that it is a yeasted dough.
    I have to ask, do you find it very different to live in Paris versus New York? I am a Brit who had to move with her parents back in the day to the US and now I’ve been here forever. But a day doesn’t go by when I don’t want to go back home to England or even Europe. Would I find it hard to adjust to European life again?

  • With a surfeit of Autumn fruit and berries, the German fruit tart is a very welcome addition to our repertoire.
    My Brother has been a long term resident in Germany having married a German girl and subsequently producing a daughter who speaks both languages (English albeit reluctantly). He is fluent in German to the degree of speaking English with a German accent, forgetting some English terms especially ‘new’ additions to the language and only says ‘Ja’ not yes! He is an executive Chef at a well known Mountain Spa resort and speaks fluent ‘Kuchen’!
    My good friend who is Austrian makes a wonderful Cake made with ground Almonds/Hazelnuts or Walnuts. You can ice it with whipped cream Chantilly if you prefer.

    NUSSTORTE
    2 oz fine breadcrumbs
    5 oz grated walnuts or hazelnuts
    A little rum (or rum essence to flavor)
    A little sieved apricot jam
    5 oz sugar
    5 eggs

    FOR THE FILLING
    1 egg yolk
    2 oz chocolate
    1 oz butter

    FOR THE ICING AND DECORATION
    6 oz sugar
    Halved walnuts
    Juice of 1 lemon

    1. Sprinkle the breadcrumbs with a little rum.
    2. Whisk the sugar and egg yolks; fold in the stiffly beaten egg whites, the breadcrumbs and nuts.
    3. Put in a greased and floured cake tin and bake it in a moderate oven (375°F) for about ¾ – 1 hour.
    4. Test it by sticking a steel knitting needle into the middle-if it is dry on withdrawing, the cake is ready; when it is quite cold, turn it out of the tin.
    5. Halve, and sandwich together with a filling made by melting the chocolate and stirring in the other ingredients.
    6. Turn the cake upside down (so that there is a completely flat surface on top) and cover with a very thin layer of sieved jam.

    TO MAKE THE ICING:
    1. Stir the sugar with the lemon juice and add a little water, stirring carefully, until you have a very thick liquid.
    2. Gently heat this mixture, continuing to stir, until it becomes quite runny, and then pour it quickly over the cake.
    3. Decorate with halved walnuts.
    4. Mark the surface into sections before the icing has time to set, in order to make the cutting easier.

    To Make: 1 cake

  • I lived in Kyoto for a while. It’s a gorgeous city, I love the country, but I’d hit crash mode every so often. It was the midst of a variety of small things; the commute into the city for work, not quite getting the language (I’ve learned that once one is able to joke and understand jokes in a language, you’ve hit home!) or trying to explain a particular problem to someone. But I loved it, it wasn’t perfect, no place is perfect, one ends up comparing one country with another. I was a very obvious westerner and found the little customary behaviour confusing. Got the hang of most, not all, I assume that would take a lifetime.

    When I for various reasons arrived back I found myself missing not the most obvious, like the big tourist destinations. I missed the fish market. I worked a street over so every lunch was fish in one form or another. I missed the tiny little temple in the neighbourhood that was tucked in between a small supermarket and an electrical company. I missed my neighbour who was into bonsai-trees and kept them out on his porch. When he saw my interest he’d invite me in and I’d sit and watch how he cared for them, pruning new plants. Some, he carefully explained, he had inherited from his own father. The big things in a city resides in the little. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

  • I have yet to read your book about living in Paris, and this review of her book makes me want to read both yours and hers even more. Reading for pleasure is such a luxury right now since I’m a full-time student, but someday!

  • I appreciated your candor in Sweet Life in Paris. I helped me understand why I don’t always get an answer from my French art supply vendor. You’d think they would answer so they could sell more products, but they it seems answer my questions only if they feel like it. I have to wing it the rest of the time. And in Paris I knew to avoid the yellow stains on the step corners and edges leading down to the Seine (ugh). I didn’t leave lots of space in front of me when standing in line, knew how to greet someone in French — the list goes on and on. Thanks for your book — it was a great help while I was in Paris.

  • I was born to a Japanese mother and American father and only visited my father’s family home, Boston, twice before moving there after high school to attend college. I stayed for ten years in Boston until moving to San Francisco soon after my parents retired (in California). I have been here for almost 35 years and still continue to call Boston “home.” Family keeps me here for now but I hope to one day return to New England.

    My first trip to Europe was several years ago to see the Passion Play in Oberammagau (sp?) and spent time in Vienna and southern Germany. I fell in love with Vienna and hope to return again. This year I will be spending Christmas and New Years in Paris (I read your book when it first came out and just finished rereading it knowing I will be in Paris soon!). And after seeing Luisa’s book on your site, I purchased it and read it from cover to cover and just loved it.

    I am entertained and informed by your stories and I am counting the days until I step on the Air France flight on December 22. Thanks to you, I will be traveling without a backpack and blue jeans (at my age, I would never wear jeans in a foreign country)!!

  • Hi David. Love your blog and can’t thank you enough for all you’ve taught me. Just tried to make the Yeasted Plum Tart and had a disaster. Can you kindly double check the flour amount. I ended up with a mess. Many thanks, and best regards

    The flour amount is the same as in the book, page 95 (I use 1 cup flour=140g as a conversion). She noted that you could use more, if needed. But it was just right when I made it. I had initially dialed down the sugar in the dough but ended up adding the amount that Luisa called for in the book. However the amount of sugar in the dough should not make a great difference in the texture, just the sweetness. -dl

  • Basler Leckerli aren’t just a Christmas thing- we eat them all year round! Or at least we do down here in heathen Suisse Romande! My toddler (now 20 months) practically lived off them when she was 11-13 months. She thought they were the most wonderful thing ever, and we could barely get her to eat anything else. Maybe the kirsch in them was something to do with it… after all, she’s half Swiss and half Irish!

  • In my family, aunts, mother, sisters…..except for me….only express the absolute perfect things in life. It’s a real Mickey Rooney Judy Garland outlook. I’m the outcast….I refuse to gloss things over. I see beauty but I also can critique a situation for what it is.

    David, this is why I love love love your blog….you tell it like it is. And for this reason….and many many more…..I keep coming back for more doses of reality.

    Thanks, Victoria, Bellingham, WA

  • What us the difference of fresh vs dry yeast? Is fresh used more in Europe? Thanks!

  • As to yeast. I only use fresh. The dry yeast needs higher temperatures to become active. I like to have loafs etc., rise over night, haven’t had any luck doing that with dry yeast. Here (Sweden) fresh is the most common.

    • Yes, people in Europe seem to prefer fresh yeast (which is what Luisa used in her original recipe). In the states, it’s a little harder for folks to get, so I use active dry yeast. I’m still resisting ‘fast-acting’ yeast, just because I like the flavors that develop during the longer rising and I don’t mind waiting : )

  • I can understand why Luisa loved New York and didn’t feel alone there. I traveled to NYC a lot on business but never felt alone. Everyone from cab drivers to waitresses to
    the business people I interacted with were constantly talking to me — one even told me their life story (and their families) in the span of a 15 minute cab ride. New Yorkers love to talk and aren’t shy :) I remember coming home and sitting in the cab ride from the airport and wondering why the guy driving was so quiet…I still miss New York.

  • I love your posts… feel like your sharing real information and always in an amusing upbeat style.

  • David, am writing this from under my bed. I’m cowering here after receiving the biggest bollocking of my life from my wife. Seems I misread the recipe and included 1 1/2 cup of milk instead of 1/2 cup. I made it again and it’s perfect. Awfully sorry to have bothered you……Incidentally, we are visiting Paris for our wedding anniversary November 19 through 24. If see a 67 year old man on a leash it will be me. She vows to keep me under control in case of another “incident”…..All the best

  • Carolyn, will you be able to share Mimi Sheraton’s recipe? Or send ot over to nijntjenator@gmail.com Many thanks for your help!

  • Basler Leckerli and, also, speculoos are spectacular cakes/biscuits. I fear the former somewhat for the work. the end result is always great but well, there’s the work effort vs. the time in which it’s all eaten.

  • David, the way you talk about the cranky cashiers and the rigid administrators in Paris makes me all the more able to laugh off the snubs and confusion that I encounter while living abroad here. Thank you for reminding me that that life isn’t perfect anywhere, and that if I really want to stay in Paris I must learn to shrug off the difficult bits, that another culture’s way of doing things isn’t wrong, it’s just different!

    (I don’t want my own French adventures to end with an American epilogue, so to speak). I’m intrigued by the way you described Luisa’s connection to Berlin — I’ve often wondered if some people are made for one special place. Now I can’t wait to get my hands on My Berlin Kitchen!

    • It is curious how many of the books written by expats end with them moving back “home.” The reasons are often vague, but I think that once the shine of somewhere has worn off, and you have to start dealing with the administrative details of life abroad, things get a little/a lot more complicated. I know that when I moved to Paris, I spent a lot of time in chocolate shops, discovering new bakeries, and at the movies (!) – and now I spend a fair amount of time on paperwork and so forth.

      Still, I’d like to know why people leave rather than just “In the end, we decided to head home” – and I think it’s honest to talk about that stuff. As mentioned, no where is perfect and living in a foreign country has a lot of challenges & isn’t for everyone. I find it fascinating, but you do need to learn how to shrug off those difficult bits, as you say.

  • Oh my gosh, David… I haven’t checked your blog in months, and today on my day off, I wanted to check out some fall recipes and your site….Man…you are so good at what you do! Absolutely great recipes that I can rely on, wonderful commentary and photos…what an absolute delight! Thank you so much! You have so many good savory recipes. Are you preparing a savory cookbook anytime soon? You have worked with some really talented chefs – Julie Jordan (would someone PLEASE reprint the Cabbagetown Cafe cookbook in hardback please), Alice Waters and others, and although you have your Dessert niche, you know how to cook probably everything. Please share your knowledge with us!

  • I love reading about all the hardships, quirkiness and difficulties in a new place (sometimes it doesn’t even have to be a different country to feel foreign) – that’s what makes it real and enables me to relate to the stories (I also renovated an apartment and had a hard time finding the sink I wanted).

    I moved to my current city 7 years ago. The first year was difficult and I kept listening to “People are Strange” by the Doors. Then I started to really feel at home. I even bought, for the first time, a place on my own.
    About a year ago things started to change in my city and in my neighborhood – the people moving in, the atmosphere, the activities, and in the last 3 months or so I’ve started to feel a stranger again. I’m still trying to fight for my home, see if it can be saved but I’m also thinking that maybe it’s time for me to move on. Maybe I wasn’t meant to live the rest of my life in one place.

    Keep up the good work – I really enjoy your blog.

  • ooo, I used to regularly make one just like this with apricots and a glazed top. Was so good, so I know this one will be delicious!

  • David –

    I’m curious, especially in light of your new ovens, whether you do any of your baking using convection heat rather than traditional heat. I have a 36″ euro oven that is quick to heat up on convection, but, like yours, takes forever with just normal pre-heating. Similarly, I have a smaller “speed oven” with convection, microwave, etc.

    For instance, what kind of heat did you use for this plum tart?

    Any tips on this topic generally would be most appreciated.

    Thanks! And thanks for the great blog and cookbooks!

    • I had a major discussion with my oven repairman about the way my ovens heat, since both are different and he replaced the thermostat in the big one because it wasn’t accurate. The conclusion was that the convection setting was about 10ºC higher than what the dial read, but it was dead-on when used in the ‘regular’ baking mode. Interestingly, my digital oven is more accurarate than my larger oven, in spite of the keypad that I am still trying to figure out.

      For recipes that I’m testing and writing about for the public, I use the regular mode because most people don’t have convection ovens – it’s impossible to figure out how all ovens work, so I usually give visual clues about doneness and people are usually familiar with their own oven’s peculiarities.

  • I personally ran into the “exact change only or I won’t sell to you” thing last month in Paris. I rented an apartment for a month in the 7th and right around the corner was a G 20 grocery store. It made me crazy when they would just stare at me when I would hand them a 20 Euro note for a 7.68 Eruo purchase. They would literally cluck at me. I finally started shopping on Rue Cler and got a better selection of cheese, meat, wine, bread and veggies with no clucking. All things being equal, I love Paris and wish I were still there. But I do love how our cashiers don’t bat an eyeball at making change.

    • What’s funny is that cashiers would rather wait while you dig out change from all your pockets (and other sources), looking for 7 centimes, rather than reach into the drawer of the register and simply make you change. I’ve also withdrawn money at my bank and when they hand me larger notes, I ask if I can have smaller ones, and they say that they can’t do that. #huh?

      When I go to the states and hand someone a $20 for something small, I always apologize profusely, out of habit – and the cashers are always, like “No problem!” ….

  • Thanks for posting this delicious looking cake. I look forward to trying it with my damsons. No, damsons are not the same as Italian prune plums; smaller, tarter, but they are fabulous for much more than jam or fruit cheese (for which they are superb). I use them in cobblers, put them in a buttery batter cake (lovely!), and thanks to my Irish neighbor, I know they make an intriguing ice cream.

  • For those of you with an abundance of plums, they keep beautifully frozen. Cut them in quarters, remove the stone, and freeze them on a tray. Pack the frozen plum quarters in a zip lock freezer bag. When you are ready to use them, no need to defrost, just arrange on your tart crust, add the topping and go.

  • What a review of a book. Your description of it makes me yearn to read it. I knew it was going to cost me money after the first paragraph.

    That tart looks delicious and a perfect dessert.

  • I am excited to make this. (That first photo with the sliced plums jumped right out and grabbed me!)
    I think this book is calling my name, too. ;)

  • Oh yes, I lived in Paris for 5 years in the late seventies, early eighties and it sounds like NOTHING has changed. Have you tried a dentist yet? Everything you have experienced (well almost) has brought back the memories of my sojourn in Paris. BUT it is still my favourite city out of all the cities I have visited or lived.

    Also thanks for the great pics and details of you kitchen. It’s given me some ideas for my own petite kitchen.

    • I actually have a great dentist; his office is very modern and he is extremely competent, but dental care here doesn’t have the same “level of involvement” that some of us are used to. People here think dental care is really expensive, but I think they would lose a gasket if the saw the prices in the US. (However I think a good dentist is worth whatever their fees are – and that’s one place I don’t want to save money.)

  • I live in France too, although not in Paris, and I love hearing about how you cope with daily life and its ups and downs. Food is just one aspect of living in France – real life does go on, no matter where we are. Please continue writing about the whole rich pageant of life in France.

  • Prune plum vs plum……….. Is there a difference ??

  • Today I made Martha Stewart’s Austrian Lady Jam Tart, or, I should say that for the past three days I have been making it and finished today. Whew! It’s great. Everybody loves it. I’m never doing it again. Your plum tart looks terrific, and a lot less ‘sturm und drang.’

  • We girls at the Monday Morning Cooking Club do a Czech version of this cake, which is just outstanding. I can’t wait till it’s late summer in Sydney and I can try your recipe!

  • Your commentary on life in Paris is wonderful and a great reminder of the yin/yang balance of life lived anywhere. People have often gushed to me about how fabulous living in Kyoto must have been and I learned to say it was heaven and hell in one breathe. Unlimited sushi with extra charges on phone bills for being a foreigner.

    • @Kathleen. I lived in Kyoto, too. I almost had a complete melt-down when I arrived with my neatly stacked forms, only to get a return appointment since I HAD to have a hanko-stamp. Heaven and hell in one breathe is a great way to explain it.

  • I eagerly await the appearance of prune plums each year! I prefer them to the other varieties. I eat as many as I can and love to bake with them. I usually make a plum cake or tart for Rosh Hashanah each year. So good “mit schlag.”!

  • Oh yum! This reminds me of all those hours I spent warming up in cafes during the freezing cold winters when I lived in Germany. At least it was a good excuse (hmmmm) to eat tarts like this! I can’t wait to try this recipe! Thanks!

  • Thanks David.

    Although it has an important effect on flavour, I think plum can be replaced with one of the other fruits depending on the regional tastes or individual preferences.

    Best Regards.

  • What a lovely article and review of what looks to be a wonderful book.

  • I am an American who has been an expat for a long time and I do not plan on ever going back. I became an expat at the beginning of high school, and while I like to visit the US I do not feel comfortable enough to live there (I tried it a few years back and decided it was not for me).

    People like me are called Third-Culture Kids by psychiatrists who like to write academic papers. My husband is also a TCK but he is not American. We have not stayed in one ‘foreign’ country but have lived in quite a few in the Asia-Pacific region together. Part of this due to my husband’s job and part of it due to us looking for something we have not quite found yet.

  • Posts like this are part of why I love reading your blog. The realism of day to day experience is what life is about, and it is always punctuated gorgeously with delicious food. I think Luisa is amazing also, I’m thrilled to read you both in one post! Thanks!

  • Oh wonderful, I just ordered a few books from Amazon a week ago including My Berlin Kitchen and your Sweet Life in Paris. As an expat myself I am always interested to learn how others have coped with settling in a new country.

    Save me a slice of the plum tart…

  • Hi there, thanks for the great tip on what looks like a fabulous book. I wanted to share a tip for a great on-line bookseller, Better World Books. They donate one book to literacy for every book they sell. They also donate cash, accept used books (keeping them out of landfills) and offset all their carbon emissions with carbon offsets. They are awesome and I thought you’d like to know about them so you could link to them when you talk about a book. The more people who use them, the more good they can do!

  • I’m conflicted. I want to hear about only perfect food in Paris, so I can salivate and eat vicariously (and maintain my fantasy), but I also want to hear about the flaws of living in this city so I can deal with my envy about not being able to emigrate there. Call me delusional AND mean!

  • HI David. This is my first time commenting, but I have followed your blog for a long time! I love your recipe for Spiced Apple Cake, and hope it is OK i share it on my norwegian blog; Kokk&Chanel(kokk=cook). If you want me to remove it from my site, just let me know.
    Mari-Mette

  • I enjoy your “real life” stories about living in Paris, especially when you have to deal with utility companies or store clerks. Please keep them coming. They make me appreciate my life in Kansas, and make my frustrations seem minimal. There’s no place like home…

  • I’ve always described my relationship to cities this way: New York was my first love, and one never forgets their first love. New York taught me about passion and pain, and I’m tempted to run back to it when things get rough…but I know I will be met with the same problems that drove us apart so many years ago. Paris is my torrid love affair, to whom I run when I want raw pleasure and pure indulgence. Nothing will ever be as sexy as Paris, but it will never fill every need I have. San Francisco, this is the love of my life. It knows me inside and out, anticipates my needs and fills them without expectation of reciprocation. There is beauty in San Francisco that I can see only because I love it so deeply that I can overlook it’s flaws. I can’t imagine myself anywhere else, but I am so grateful for every city that brought me here.

  • I cannot tell you how excited I am to read this book! It’s been all over the place lately and I love the Wednesday Chef. I met my husband while living in Dublin, Ireland, and we live in New York City now. I grew up in a small town in the Midwest. Both Dublin and New York City have certain charms and frustrations that couldn’t be more different from each other, or the Midwest. I love your warts and all version of Paris- the bureaucracy in Ireland is at times inane, but it’s nothing compared to Paris, and I am at times both confused and reminiscent with your stories!
    Annnd I love plums. So the whole post is a winner. :) Thanks to you and Luisa, this looks like a gorgeous tart!

  • David,
    It’s precisely the ups and downs you write about that keep me coming back for more. There are other places for the “love letter” approach, and I’m sure they are not hard to find if one wants to read that.
    I can’t wait to find time to read Luisa’s book. She is the “product” of three cultures (or more?), I myself “only” German and American. I know what it is to not really have a real home and find so few people who can relate to that. From the excerpts of her book it sounds like she is a kindred spirit, at least when it comes to being bi-cultural and a bit torn (and maybe frayed).
    Your German is pretty spot on, it is Imbiss (capital “I”, all nouns are capitalized in German, but probably not when using them in English). Kuchen is plural and singular at the same time, so you can drop the “s”.
    As for the recipe, well, it’s one of the few things on your site that I don’t really feel like trying. Here in Bavaria it is now “Zwetschgendatschi” time and everyone is baking them (like your kuchen, but on a square tray and flatter). The last few invitations for “Kaffee und Kuchen” were proud presentations of said datschis. Unfortunately, I think I must be the only person in Bavaria who would rather eat the quetsches as they are.
    Adrian

  • You might be depressed to read on to my question. But I hope not. Because I love your recipes, and your witty sanguine tone. And this tart/cake looks fabulous. What caught me enough to make me comment here was, “will keep at room temperature for a few days.” Do you really store moist baked goods (ie ones with a lot of fruit) at room temperature? I always used to, and think they taste so much better that way. Refrigeration ruins cakes in my opinion. But I stopped storing juicy pies and tarts at room temperature when I heard it can cause food poisoning.

    But I really did get so much more out of your post than this, I assure you.

  • I loved Luisa’s book because it really hit the nail on the head for me about living abroad. It’s not always the romantic life it’s made out to be by so many. Paris frustrates the heck out of me but I still miss it desperately and love my annual sojourns which, themselves, are not without their frustrations either. Luisa’s book is a must read for anyone who even thinks they might like to up and go – realistic yet hopeful. The yeasted plum tart was one I had my eye on and now I’ve seen it… well it might just have to be on my menu this weekend.

  • Speaking personally, I lived in several different countries as a child and teenager- mexico, France, Hong Kong and Korea because of my Father’s career. I had to be dragged back to the UK kicking and screaming (literally as a young child) each time. We spent four years in Mexico on a fixed contract and two years apiece in the other countries. I would have stayed given the choice.

  • Hi David, I’ve been meaning to write to tell you about the amazing visit we had recently to your other hometown…San Francisco. I live in Halifax, Nova Scotia so it was a bit of a trek. But well, well worth it. While my husband sat in a techie conference, I did as many food-tourist things as I could manage. Smitten Ice Cream, as promised, was fabulous! Actually I loved all the places I tried in Hayes Valley…but especially the chocolates at Christopher Elbow. Words. Fail. We ate at State Bird Provisions, the Slanted Door, Boulette’s Larder and the Wayfare Tavern (which was lovely actually) and had a blast at them all. Happy to say we avoided Boudin, and since we were staying near the Ferry Building, were able to stock up on Acme bread and Cowgirl Creamery Cheese. Sigh…kinda wish I was back there now. Plus the Saturday morning market was divine. Lucky you…to be connected to two such amazing cities, warts and all.

  • While this looks great I love the plainer yeast pastry plum cake they make I’m Germany and the Italian and Swiss alps . It’s basically Plum pizza pizza dough with plums on top.

    There is a recipe for it I think on that other great source of German recipes simply delicious

  • Looks like a tart to me, too. Y’all make me want to go to Paris. I shall wear my best jeans and my cowboy boots and it will be just fine. David, your usual gracious review of a juicy – sounding book.

  • Hey David,
    I’m not sure if I can post an unrelated question here, but here goes;
    I have recently made your marjolaine recipe, and I have two questions:
    1- When making the frostings, should the creme fraiche be at room temperature? We don’t have creme fraiche here, so I made a substitute [buttermilk+heavy cream] and used it in room temp. It hardly whipped, and I don’t know if it’s because the home-made version, or the temperature!
    2. Also, I’ve baked the meringue [layers] for about 20 minutes, and while they did taste good, they weren’t really crunchy, like a normal meringue, or how I’ve seen a dacquoise in the past. but kinda spongey. I don’t know if it’s because I didn’t bake it long enough or maybe I’ve chopped the nuts too small [I used a processor], but it didn’t match the wonderful description in the book.
    Though it was still delicious..
    Hope you’ll be able to help me!
    Thanks!

    • Bunny, I can get Creme Fraiche easily enough but sometimes I substitute Mascarpone or even Ricotta instead. Mascarpone mixed with icing sugar (confectioners sugar) to taste then beaten until creamy is wonderful and thick. Also cream cheese (good old Philly) works perfectly too- probably better then Ricotta. I sometimes frost/ice carrot cake with a mixture of mascarpone, icing sugar, lime juice and fine grated lime zest. This tastes wonderful.

      BTW I prefer chewy meringue. We tend to have both in the UK and you can make meringue crisper by baking longer and allowing them to dry out in the oven after you’ve switched it off.Meringues can be made chewier and gooey by adding a tiny amount of white vinegar or cornflour. They are also gorgeous made with demerera (Turbinado) sugar and seem to stay gooey.

      Hope this helps in lieu, there is no sub for Dave though!

    • Hi Bunny:

      The meringue for Marjolaine is, indeed, different than a meringue one would make for a daquoise; it’s not meant to be crispy for the Marjolian (although it’s fine if it is) – but with all the nuts in it for that recipe, it’s somewhat soft and used as a “cake-like” layer for the cake and is not meant to be crackly but a bit pliable.

      Like heavy or whipping cream, crème fraîche (homemade or store-bought) should be chilled before whipping. The butterfat needs to be cold (and firm) so that when whipping, it can have air trapped between those so it stiffens.

  • David, I love how you write about what it’s actually like to live Paris and do not just present the clichéd picture-postcard view. I have read several memoirs by people who have spent three whole years in Paris (rarely venturing beyond the left bank), whose experiences do not at all resemble my daily life here at all. Your site is great because it reminds the readers of all the good aspects of Paris, while allowing us to commiserate about the bad.

  • David, love to read your storries – I must say I just discovered you and your passion and discovered Paris again – as of plum tart, we share that love to plum yeasted cakes in Poland too. and Im so creaving for one just now .. lol… have to make it over weekend. :)

    Thank you for being you and being such a great story teller.
    I love to read books based around passion for food and cooking/baking so please continue to recommend such books … maybe you could add “top ten” of such stories

    Thanks again
    Mags

  • David, I recently used your Apricot-Marzipan tart recipe from Ripe for Dessert, but used wild damsons instead which was a huge success! Looking forward to trying this, as I love the taste of yeasted dough.

    I’m slightly obsessed with food terms in different languages, and being British and living in Berlin I think the term “prune plum” must be a US term, maybe to differentiate them from American varieties, as in the UK we simply call them plums.
    Zwetschgen is in Germany used for both plums and damsons in the daily language, but botanically speaking the correct translation is damsons. The German word for plums is Pflaumen. Damsons are oblong and often a more intense in flavour and a bit sour while plums are round and mostly a wee bit sweeter.

    Both in the city and around Berlin you can easily pick wild growing plums, damsons and other varieties (greengages, mirabelles), but the season is sadly now ‘vorbei’…

  • This post touches my heart. As a native German, having lived in Paris for 15 years and now being a New Yorker since eight years, I recognize myself a little. In my native Bavaria we call this Kuchen a Zwetschgen Datschi.
    (and Bavarians wouldn`t ever think of baking a Datschi round. It needs to be square, and is done on a baking sheet (Backblech).
    Anyway, thanks David for this little piece of emotion I got to read this morning! And for all the other posts that never fail to delight me – and sometimes make me nostalgic for gay paree!

  • I love plums! I think they are SO OVERLOOKED as an ingredient (at least among my friends). I cook and bake with them all the time. I even use them to make drinks.

  • I’m now packing my bags for the Sur la Table trip to Paris …. wish I’d started reading your blog a long time ago! …. a bientot!