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Alsatian Italian Plum Tart (Zwetschgenkuchen)

The "Italian" in this recipe refers to Italian plums, which are in season in early fall. Joan Nathan got this recipe from her Aunt Lisl, who recommended a light hand on the cinnamon -- a spice she felt was overused in America. Putting bread crumbs and then preserves into the crust before the plums helps to keep the crust crispy.

1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
Dash of salt
1/4 cup sugar
1 stick unsalted butter
1 large egg yolk
2 teaspoons plain dried bread crumbs
1/3 cup apricot preserves
1 tablespoon brandy
2 pounds Italian plums
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
Confectioners' sugar

To make the crust using a food processor fitted with the metal blade, pulse the flour, salt and 1 tablespoon of the sugar together. Cut the butter into small pieces, add them to the bowl and process briefly until crumbly. Add the egg yolks and process until the dough forms a ball, adding a little more flour if necessary.

To make the dough by hand, use your fingers or a pastry blender to work the butter into the flour, salt, and 1 tablespoon sugar until mixture resembles coarse bread crumbs. Add the egg yolk and work the dough into a ball, adding a little more flour if necessary.

Remove the dough from the bowl, dust it with flour, and pat into a flattened circle. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 30 minutes.

When you're ready to make the crust, dust your hands and the dough with flour. Place the dough in the center of a 9-inch pie plate, spread it up the sides. Trim the crust and prick the bottom in several places with the tines of a fork.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Prebake the crust on the middle rack for 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool slightly. Turn oven down to 350 degrees.

Pit and cut the plums into quarters. Sprinkle the bread crumbs on the crust, then spoon the apricot preserves on top and drizzle with the brandy. Place the plum quarters on the crust in concentric circles, starting from the outside and working inward, so that each overlaps the next into the center. Sprinkle with cinnamon and remaining sugar. At this point, you may wrap and freeze the tart to bake later. Just remember to remove it from the freezer an hour before baking.

Place the tart in the oven and bake 30 to 40 minutes, or until the crust is golden brown and the plums are juicy. Remove from the oven and allow to cool at least 10 minutes before slicing. Just before serving, sprinkle with the confectioners' sugar. Makes 6 to 8 servings.

Thursday, September 28, 2000

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