Sunday, September 20, 2015

Zwetschgendatschi, ein Mal noch ("Long German word for 'plum tart', one more time")



With what I'm sure will be the last of the plums for the summer, I attempted my third zwetschgendatschi, the German plum tart I fell in love with when I was in München in1984. My first two attempts really didn't meet with my personal approval, although other folks enjoyed them. There was something off about the crust, as well as the taste and consistency of the plums for me: too gummy, not tart enough, and too runny, in that order. I really wanted to get this one right, as per my memory, since one of the reasons I bake is to recreate my pastry past. Having some folks over for a little afternoon chin wag and nosh, gave me the perfect opportunity to give this a go.

Once again, I referred to the recipe I found on NPR, trying to pay attention to subtleties I might have missed before. The plums, this time, came from my favorite farmers market apple vendor. None of them were firm, which told me I was right on the edge of not being able to make this attempt. I didn't buy the amount required by the recipe because if these weren't going to be any good, I didn't want to waste so much money if I was forced to 86 the dessert.

A Word For Those Not In The Know:

The term, "86" is something I learned when I was a room service waiter at a Marriott hotel the summer between my sophomore and junior years of college. When something is "86" that means the kitchen is out of it and some customer is going to be sorely disappointed to have to change his or her order. It works both ways, too. For example, I will order a burger but tell the waitperson to "86 the onions". More times than not, they know exactly what I mean.

A Word For Those Not In The Know Ends.

Another decision I made on the fly was to use my square tart pan instead of my round one. I remembered that I never got a slice of this dessert that was wedge-shaped when I was in Germany. (Not that I thought that had anything to do with the taste, mind you, but it sure couldn't hurt.) Besides, I just like using that pan; I've had it for about twenty-five years.

I made the crust by the numbers, as I did the last time, but I looked at the process with two years additional years of experience with crusts, plus a more recent experience of making my own pasta, to back me up. The dough felt better as intuition I didn't even know I'd cultivated helped it come together. 

My intuition about the amount of plums turned out to be spot-on, too. I picked just enough to cover the crust in the size and shape of pan I was using. The plums were a little watery but I figured that wouldn't be a problem because of my plan for baking time.

The recipe called for forty-five minutes at 350º and my experience with my oven told me that it would probably have to go longer. I actually ended up baking this for about fifty-five minutes, using not only my eyes but also my nose as guides to when it was done. I'm finally beginning to trust my sense of smell when it comes to telling when baking fruit has reached its peak in the oven. 

Quite a sight!
It looked right and smelled right. And the slice?


Rectangle slice, not wedge.
Yep. A nice rectangle that was easily cut. 

The first bite told me that my patience had been rewarded. The plums were tart but with an underlying, offsetting sweetness. The crust wasn't gummy and had the right mouth feel. Memories of late summer afternoons in München came flooding back with that bite. And all the bites that followed. 

I don't think I'll have time to make another before decent plums totally disappear from the farmers market. I'll be headed to San Diego this week to visit with my brother and his family, so I won't get to do any tart baking until the following week. We'll see what the future holds. For now? I'm going make myself a nice cuppa and enjoy my zwetschgendatschi to my heart's content. After all, I've only been waiting thirty-one years for this.

Currently listening to: Juventa - Superhuman (Feat. Kelly Sweet) (Culture Code Remix)

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