Recipe from an old cookbook: plum pie

plum pie recipe from the Taste of Memories countryside kitchen www.taste-of-memories.com

This year we don’t have so much plums in our orchard, there was a lot of rain which didn’t help the ripening process. The ones who use pesticides face the same problem this year as the ones who don’t: plums fall from trees moldy and wormy. Anyway, our orchard remains organic. Our plum tree is old, this year we didn’t have time to prune it. Part of the tree trunk is rotting, branches grow in a chaotic way and the tree itself is way to high. Still, it serves us with enough plums for me to experiment with the first plum syrup in my life, I can give some for my grandmother and still have enough for cakes and pies. In my childhood we didn’t use plums for cakes, more for jams, so instead of looking for a family recipe, I open the old cookbook from the 1930’s which I found in an antique shop last year. Its pages are yellowed, have spots and the scent of time and past cookings. Since plum was apparently neglected in our kitchen, i find a good opportunity to change this by baking a wonderful plum pie as written in the book. Although it had been 80 years ago when this book was published, the recipe is easy to follow and understand. Or at least it seems.

Just to be sure I call my grandmother for a few advises, sit down under our cherry tree and start taking notes. Recipe contains exact quantities of ingredients except of milk and plums. So we guess. We find it strange to use so many eggs compared to the given quantity of flour, and also it is unusual to bake the dough with the meringue from the beginning. Anyway we hope that people knew what they were doing at that time and I start preparing the pie with great enthusiasm.
I could tell you it was wonderful and could share recipe immediately with you. Instead I am going to tell you what happened after in reality.
Pie is ready, it looks nice. Áron doesn’t say anything only hums and haws, however for him real, good sweets must contain chocolate. I think it tastes good, but somehow…it is not the best. So instead of writing the blog post I go out to our kitchen garden to calm down my nerves, pick a basketful of tomatoes, peppers and plums, put two slices of pie on a plate and drive to my grandmother’s house. I definitely need a professional discussion. She is waiting for me with a big smile on her face and calls me Little Red Riding Hood, because I always bring something in my basket.
“So how it is? “- she asks, while she takes a bite of the pie, and I observe her face while she tastes it.
“It’s good!”- she says with surprise in her voice, and I response with surprise as well.
“Is it? I think it lacks on something…I don’t know…maybe not enough milk”.  I am a bit disappointed and helpless.
My grandmother takes her job as a cake critic seriously so we sit down at the table in the living room, she takes another bite and eats it slowly and thinks.
“Maybe its dough is a bit dense, I must say”- she says slowly then pushes the meringue with her fingertip. “And the meringue is too sticky. Let’s go through this recipe once more!” – she advises and we discuss the process step by step until we agree in a final version. I will add more milk, won’t sprinkle the plums with cinnamon and sugar because it softens the dough. Beating egg yolks will help to lighten dough as well. More plums on top. And what should I do with the meringue? Better pre-bake the dough with the plums, than reduce heat and top it with the meringue. I have to go, but we continue discussion until I reach the front door. Half an hour after my phone is ringing, it’s my grandmother. “Sweetheart, I found a similar recipe in my book, you should definitely pre-bake the pie! Don’t worry it will work out well!”
So did I. The dough became light, amount of plum is just perfect, meringue is just as sticky as it should be.
So happened, that 80 years after this recipe had been published, my grandmother and I – with whom we have exactly 50 years difference in age- rebaked, rewrote this plum pie recipe so I can share it with you for further rebaking, rewriting and discussions.

Plum pie from a 1930’s cookbook reformulated by my grandmother and me

Ingredients:
500 g flour
140 g butter
1 pinch of salt
3 tsp + 4 tbsp sugar
30 g fresh yeast
150 ml milk
5 eggs
600 g plums
fine breadcrumbs

Cut the plums into half, remove seeds. Cut the butter into pieces and mix it with a flour to make a crumble. Dissolve the yeast and a teaspoon of sugar in the half of the milk, cover it and let it rise a bit for a few minutes. Beat the egg yolks with two teaspoons of sugar until foamy, add the rest of the milk and together with the yeasted milk add to the flour and knead to a flexible, soft dough. Roll it out to 1 cm thick, try to form a rectangular. Sprinkle the top with the fine breadcrumbs and dispose plums on top. Cover dough and let rise for 45 minutes. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees. Pre-bake the pie for 15 minutes, in the meantime beat the egg whites with the rest of the sugar, fill it into a pastry pipe bag, and decorate the top of the pie. Reduce heat to 150 degrees and bake the pie for further 15 minutes until the egg white gets a nice golden brown color.

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Judit Neubauer

Judit Neubauer

Judit Neubauer is a food photographer, chef and writer living in a small village in Northwestern Hungary. Her bilingual blog, Taste of Memories is about life in the Hungarian countryside. While she is bringing new life into the 90 year-old house and orchard of 18 fruit trees she cooks and bakes her family’s old recipes and tries to preserve traditions and old knowledge about how to live in rhythm and harmony with nature.

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