A couple of weeks ago, I woke up in a distinctly different season. It was damp and cool, with wisps of fog trailing across the park. I tiptoed into the kitchen and put the kettle on boil, then curled under a blanket with my tea and a book. I can’t stand the winter or the cold, but the summer had been long and hot, with lazy golden days that finished in outdoor dinner parties and I felt … satisfied. If the weather was ready to shift into fall, then so was I.
And then the heat wave arrived.
It’s been nothing but sticky limbs, burst bike tires, and the kind of relentless humidity that forces you to stop walking and pop into a bank every couple of blocks just to catch your breath and enjoy the air conditioning. If I could have survived on popsicles alone, I probably wouldn’t have eaten anything else.
Not surprisingly, it’s the kind of weather that makes recipe testing, especially baking, a complete nightmare. I’d scored a ridiculous number of fragrant plums from the market and had originally planned to do something like a dessert I’d made the year before at Potentino when they were overrun with the little gems. It was a combination of the almond crust from this tart (which remains one of my favourite crusts of all time), plus some slightly sweetened mascarpone, and roughly a bazillion little plums, roasted until tender.
I took one look at the oven, and knew I’d have to make some serious changes.
I pulverized a package of gingersnap cookies with some butter, and pressed that into my tart pan. I whipped up some mascarpone with a little cream and honey (though you could probably use milk without the flavour suffering), and spread it across the crust. Then I topped the whole thing with plums cooked just for a minute or two in a stovetop quick caramel sauce, and voila! It was barely 15 minutes of hands-on work, and the results were heavenly: a tart that tastes like the best cheesecake you’ve ever eaten, but lighter and spicier and just a hint of savoury/floral notes from the thyme. I loved the plums here, but this would work equally well with peaches, nectarines, cherries — actually, with any summer fruit!
It’ll definitely tide you over until the ovens can be turned back on. 😉
No-bake plum tart with mascarpone, thyme, and gingersnap crust
For the crust:
- 250g gingersnap biscuits
- 1/2 cup room-temperature butter, cubed
- pinch salt
For the plums
- 300g small plums (about 7-10)
- 1 Tbs butter
- 2 sprigs of fresh thyme (plus a few extra sprigs for garnishing later)
- 2 Tbs muscovado (or dark brown) sugar
- 1 Tbs water
For the filling
- 1 cup (225g) mascarpone cheese
- 2 Tbs cream
- 1 Tbs honey
For the crust:
- Pulse the gingersnaps in a food processor until finely ground into crumbs (you should have about 2 1/2 cups of crumbs). Add the softened butter and pulse a couple times until the dough begins to come together. If you squeeze a clump in your hand and it sticks together, it's ready. Press into a 13 x 4" tart plate and refrigerate for at least 1 hour until solid.
For the plums:
- While the crust is refrigerating, halve and pit your plums. In a medium pan, melt the butter. Add the thyme sprigs and the muscovado sugar and stir. Throw in a tablespoon of water and stir for a minute until everything comes together and begins to bubble/caramelize. Add the plums and cook them just for a minute or two per side, until they've begun to soften. Remove from heat and set aside.
For the filling:
- Beat the mascarpone in a bowl until it softens up, then add the cream and honey and beat until incorporated and fluffy.
- Just before you're ready to serve, remove the tart crust from the fridge and spread with the mascarpone filling. Top with the plums and their juices, and garnish with thyme sprigs.
- Best enjoyed the day it's made, but will keep, wrapped in the fridge, for about 3 days.