As I write this, I have my back turned on my office and kitchen, both of which have been completely devastated by my tornado-like working methods, which go something like this: 'start one thing then another then another then another then forget what you were doing, make a snack, then decide to write a blog post and if you don't look behind you then the mess doesn't exist, right?'. I might not be the most efficient person in the world, but I don't think that was ever a question. The last couple of weeks have been a bit of a whirlwind, between catching up on work from my month away, making products for Surprise Boxes, and driving up into the mountains at every given opportunity. Things of note that have happened since I was last here:
1. The light changed. Silly bright white summer light is no more, and has been replaced with the soft golden tones of fall. The sun no longer rises onto the buildings across the street, now it rises and the tree in the front garden is lit up orange. Those seconds are my favourite seconds of the day, and every morning when I get to see it is a good morning as far as I'm concerned.
2. As a result of said light change, I have replaced the sandals by the front door with my four favourite pairs of boots. This, for the record, was slightly preemptive and stupid as the last week has been hotter than hell and I keep having to run upstairs to get sandals from my closet. But seeing boots by the door makes me happy. I was built for boot weather.
3. I've been reading The Plant Healer's Path, while I sip my coffee in the mornings. Thoughts and musings from some of my favourite people (and yes, a couple of my articles are in there); truly life and path-affirming stuff. Highly recommended...
4. I finally strained the nocino I made last year. Yes, its about a year after I said I was going to strain it, no, it has not affected the flavour negatively, and yes, it is being sent out to my Surprise Box subscribers on Monday. Which is ruining the surprise, somewhat, but there are three other true surprises in there...
5. I have been gathering like a madwoman. The end of summer brings pine nuts, mesquite pods, and acorns, all three of which are my favourite flavours-- things I could (and probably will) combine ad infinitum for years to come. I didn't get enough of any to eat them for years to come, but there might be a few months of acorn, mesquite and pine nut recipes. You have been warned.
5. The acorns are dropping. This was, at the time, early. Ridiculously early actually. I just happened to be driving up a windy mountain road, after gathering mesquite pods, and *happened* to see big clusters of perfectly ripe acorns hanging heavily from the oak trees as I drove under them. I pulled over, glad for a constant supply of canvas bags in my trunk for these very occasions, and I gathered what I could. Acorns are a magnificent wild food, despite the hard work that goes into making them edible. As far as I'm concerned, all that work is rendered '100% worth it' upon tasting anything made with them. As evidenced below.
6. Make this tart. Please make this tart. If you don't have oak trees growing near you, you can find acorn flour at a Korean market (it'll be called 'acorn starch') or online. If you don't still have plums at the market because you don't live in the magical fruit-loving realm of Southern California, you can use frozen, or plums shipped from halfway around the world (THE HORROR!). If you don't have a gluten intolerance then you can substitute all the funny flours in the crust (except the acorn) with regular flour. If you do have a gluten intolerance, this recipe is gluten free. Regardless, it is mind-blowing. Plum and acorn is one of my favourite flavour combinations, and this does not disappoint. Make it. That's an order.
You will have a lot of custard left-- may I advise to fill crepes with it and top with some leftover plums.
And as far as acorn flour goes, check out Hank's article on the matter here.
Plum and acorn custard tart
For the crust:
2 sticks butter, at room temperature 1 cup acorn flour 1 cup cornstarch 1/2 cup white rice flour 1/2 cup arrowroot flour 2/3 cup sugar 1/2 tsp salt
In a big bowl, dump the butter, and beat for a little bit until its light and fluffy. Add the salt and sugar, mix, then one by one add the flours. By the time you add the last one you can probably just mix it with your hands.
Once its all mixed, you can press it into the base of a tart pan. Rolling this dough is quite difficult, simply because it lacks gluten to hold it together. I've found it much easier to just press little pieces of it into the tart pan until the whole thing is covered. Make sure its even, and that the whole thing is covered. Save the rest for another tart, because you'll want to make one soon.
Prick holes in the base with a fork, then put the pan + uncooked crust in the freezer for about an hour. After an hour cook at 350 degrees fahrenheit for 40 minutes, until the crust is slightly more brown than it was before. Leave on a counter to cool.
For the acorn custard:
2 cups milk 1/2 cup + 1 tb sugar 1/2 tsp vanilla extract 1/2 cup cornstarch 1/8 cup acorn starch 1 egg 4 egg yolks 4 tb acorn infused butter 1/4 tsp salt
To make acorn infused butter, the easy way, melt two sticks of butter over half a cup of acorn flour, and keep warm for a few hours. Mix, and strain the whole thing into a jar.
Combine the milk, sugar and vanilla in a heavy-bottomed pan and heat gently. Meanwhile, beat the egg and egg yolks in a bowl. Add a cup or so of the milk mixture, then add the cornstarch and acorn starch. It will make a thick paste. Whisk is until its smooth. Once the milk on the stove is warm, add a cup at a time to the cornstarch-egg mixture, whisking it, until it is liquid, then pour the whole thing back in the pan and turn up the heat a little so that its at a medium . Stirring constantly, making sure nothing sticks to the bottom, until the whole thing starts to thicken, then boil. Its ready when a wooden spoon dragged across the bottom leaves a noticeable trail, and its noticeably thicker.
Pour into a bowl, press a piece of plastic wrap onto the surface (to prevent it forming a skin), then refrigerate until cool.
For the plums:
4-6 plums, sliced 2/3 cup sugar juice of 1 lemon 1/4 cup brandy, eau de vie, or kirsch
In a pan, place the sliced plums, and sprinkle the sugar over the top evenly. Add the sugar and brandy, then turn the heat on low. Keep heating until the plums start to soften, and change colour, flipping them over on occasion, and rearranging so that they all get an even coating of the brandy-lemon-sugar mixture. The skins will start to shrink. Press a fork or wooden spoon into the surface of a plum-- they're ready when they give but don't crumble. You want them soft but not destroyed. Remove from the heat and let them sit so that the rest of the liquid can absorb.
Put it all together:
Using a spatula, spread the acorn custard into the base crust, filling it until the top of the crust and the custard are level. Smooth it out as much as possible. Lay the plums out on top in a pretty pattern. Then, if there's any liquid left, it should be quite thick and delicious, pour that over the top in a drizzle. Serve cold or at room temperature.