Plum season is in full flow at the moment and the country lanes near where I live are scattered with the fallen fruit of a wide variety and colour of wild plum trees. I hate seeing fruit go to waste, left to be squashed underfoot or pecked at by the birds and the bees, and so on a recent walk I went armed with a couple of buckets and picked to my hearts content. It’s been a very good year for fruit and the trees were literally sagging under the weight of all the plums. Look at how many I gathered in under an hour and there were plenty more.
I found a couple of different varieties, including some teeny tiny little red plums that were wonderfully sweet and a beautiful golden colour on the inside. They were so teeny tiny in fact that I was able to de-stone them using a cherry stoner, leaving the fruit itself intact. I stewed half the plums into a compote which I adore with yoghurt, but I also wanted to bake something with them and decided on a plum kuchen.
Kuchen means ‘cake’ in German but it often represents a certain type of cake. To me it means a dough, yeasted or not, topped with fruit and some more crumbled dough before being baked and served in slices. Some kuchen also include a base layer of custard but I decided to keep mine simple and use only fruit. I used a yeasted dough to which I added a little cardamom as I thought this would go nicely with the plums, but cinnamon would work just as well if you prefer. I fully intended to reserve some of the dough and crumble it over the top of the plums, but I forgot and didn’t realise until after it was in the oven – opps. I don’t think it mattered too much though.
I used a variety of sliced and whole teeny tiny plums and they tasted wonderful once baked, sweet and full flavoured with the juices running down and being absorbed into the dough. I liked it best when eaten slightly warm.
250g plain flour
Pinch of salt
50g caster sugar
½ tsp vanilla extract
½ tsp ground cardomom
15g fresh yeast or 3tsp instant dried yeast
750g plums, stones removed
2 tbsp extra sugar
Melt the butter, stir in the milk and crumble in the fresh or dried yeast and leave to stand for a few minutes.
Put the flour, salt, sugar, vanilla and cardamom into a large bowl and mix together. Lightly beat the egg and pour over the dry mix along with the yeasty milk mixture.
Use the tips of your fingers to bring the mixture together to form a dough, it will be slightly sticky.
Transfer the dough to a work surface and knead for 10 minutes until it becomes smooth and silky to the touch.
Return the dough to the bowl and cover with clingfilm or a tea towel and place in a sunny spot to prove until doubled in volume, about 1hour.
Meanwhile, prepare the plums. Wash them well, remove the stones and cut into halves or quarters depending on size. (I also found some tiny plums that I was able to remove the stones with a cherry stoner and leave whole).
Preheat the oven to 165C. Once the dough has doubled in size, knock it back and then stretch it into the base of a 22cm cake tin or an 18cm x 30cm pan.
Arrange the plums over the surface of the dough, packing them in tightly.
Sprinkle over the extra sugar and bake for 35-40 minutes until the plums are soft and juicy and the dough beneath golden brown, ensure the dough is fully cooked in the centre.
Allow to cool until just warm before removing from the tin and serving in slices. Great eaten warm and best eaten within 2 days.
Note: If you want you can reserve a portion of the dough and crumble it over the top of the plums before baking, but this is not essential.