We were at Costco over the weekend and my kids were busy gorging themselves on the free samples a.k.a the 'Costco lunch buffet' when they came upon the table giving out samples of Italian prune plums. Of course, in the spirit of Costco, the product was a 5 lb tub of plums. Now, usually I'm very picky about buying only organic stone fruit, since stone fruits have a very high pesticide content, but the kids implored, and I gave in. What the heck! It's not like they asked for a ginormous tub of Twinkies. In any case, we ate a bunch and then I guess the novelty wore off, or our guts could not quite handle consuming several pounds of plums in addition to our usual fruit share from the CSA. But the fact of the matter is some of the fruit was threatening to go down the path of certain demise, so I decided we'd better bake something with it.
I surfed the web thoroughly to see what I could come up with. I saw a whole bunch of entries for Dorie Greenspan's Plum Cake (which I am sure is absolutely divine), but I quite wasn't in the mood for that. And then, a-ha! German Plum cake it was to be! Now, I am no expert in the culinary history of this cake, but from what I gather there are two types of plum cakes - one made with a yeast dough, and one made with a buttery, baking powder dough. I tend to favor yeasty breads, so I decided that is the path I'd follow.
Verdict, you ask? Well, I think J, the boys, and I can certainly attest to the fact that it was absolutely delicious. But I'm not sure I'd call it a cake. It was more like a delectable, soft, chewy, sweet, yeast bread, with the most succulent plums on top. But who cares? Bread, or cake, you decide. What I care about is that I can promise you that the smell is heavenly and the taste is simply sublime. We had a huge slice each, warm from the oven, with some powdered sugar on top. A cup of coffee on the side, and that is it! The simple pleasures in life....
If you don't have Italian plums, you could go ahead and use regular plums, but these little Italian plums are just fantastic and I'd say, quite essential for ensured success in this recipe! They hold their own when baked, and instead of getting all mushy and oozing juice all over the cake, these little guys bake up into intensely sweet-tart little jewels, with a texture that is oh so velvety and chewy.
Hungry? What are you waiting for? Get in the kitchen.....
Oh, and if you're like me and have a Bread Machine, go ahead and use it to make the dough. I *hate* baking breads in my bread machine (they taste steamed - yuck!), but it sure does a good job making doughs.
German Plum Cake
Adapted from an article on SFGate.com
2 3/4 cups all purpose flour (I used King Arthur flour)
1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup water
2/3 cup granulated sugar
6 tbsp butter, softened, cut into slices
1 tbsp canola oil
3/4 tsp salt
2 1/2 tsp instant yeast (I use SAF yeast)
2 1/2 lbs Italian Prune Plums
1/2 tsp cinnamon (plus more for dusting)
1/4 cup turbinado sugar
1. If you use a bread machine, combine all the cake ingredients in the order suggested by your bread machine manual. Process using the 'dough' setting. Note: I was not satisfied with the proofing in the bread machine, so I turned the dough out into an oiled bowl and proofed in a warm place for an additional hour.
If you would like, you can make the dough in a stand mixer, or by hand. Place in a greased bowl, cover and let rise till doubled in size. Allow 1 -2 hours for proofing.
2. While dough is rising, wash plums, cut in half and remove the pits. Place the oven rack in the lower third position and preheat oven to 375F (350F if using a convection oven. I do).
3. Punch the risen dough down and roll into a 10 x 15 rectangle (that is the size of my jelly roll pan). Lighlty grease the pan, and place te dough in. The dough is very elastic, and will resist conforming to the shape of the pan. Don't be afraid to stretch the dough with your hands to fit the pan. Yeast doughs are very resilient.
4. Place the plums, cut side up, and shingle them in rows. Sprinkle the cinnamon, if using, and the turbinado sugar evenly over the fruit.
5. Bake until the crust is golden brown and the fruit has drawn juices. If your crust browns too fast, loosely cover with foil and let finish baking.
6. Cut into generous slices and serve warm or at room temperature. I bet this would be great at any temperature though :-)