.With fall fast approaching, I feel excited about this season’s fruit bounty and the countless possibilities in baking and jam or preserve making. The fall fruits: plums, pears, apples, figs, cranberries, persimmons are delicious and juicy, full of diverse flavors and rich in nutrients and antioxidants that slow aging and help protect from cancer.
Shorter and cooler autumn days are perfectly conducive to spending more time indoors, making our creative ideas come to life. Saying goodbye to barbecues and bonfires on the beach, we are slowly coming back to the regular rhythm of life, tapering the intake of raw produce and cooking more food at home. Our meals are becoming more grounding and substantial, suitable for the cooler weather, as we remember that eating with the seasons is healthier and keeps us more energized.
My favorite fall pastime is baking, which is even more fun when done with others. Sharing ideas and stories, sipping tea or warm cider while kneading and rolling out the dough, getting it ready for the oven, makes the baking process easy and effortless. Fall is a perfect time to invite friends, gather around the kitchen table and prepare our favorite tarts, pies or cookies to satisfy the fall cravings.
I usually invite two or three friends, because my small kitchen will not accommodate more people baking their goodies at the same time. During our baking sessions we stay within the same theme: this week’s theme was plums. While others produced spectacular plum tarts and cakes using traditional, gluten containing ingredients, I decided to tweak the regular shortbread dough recipe into a gluten free one, on the verge of vegan (I used one egg). The treats made with that dough came out delicious and safe to eat even for those who suffer from gluten intolerance.
For this recipe I picked prune plums, also called Empress or Italian plums — noticeably different from other varieties: they are smaller and oval rather than round in shape with a dark blue color and yellow-green interior – perfect for baking because of their low water content and natural sweetness.
Yields 12 treats (3.5 in x 1.75 in rectangles)
- 11/2cup oatmeal flour
- 1/4 cup almond meal
- 1 egg, lightly beaten
- 1/4 cup brown sugar, plus 2 tbsp
- 2 tbsp coconut oil, softened (or softened clarified butter), plus 1 tsp
- 2 tbsp apple sauce
- pinch of salt
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 1 tbsp lemon juice
- approx. 12-14 medium prune plums, sliced
Slice up the washed prune plums and set them aside. One medium plum should yield about 6-8 slices.
Preheat oven to 375 F.
In a medium bowl mix both flours, salt and brown sugar. Add the lightly beaten egg, apple sauce and the coconut oil. Combine all ingredients well, until the dough is smooth and uniform. If the dough is too loose, add more flour. Wrap the ball in a plastic or aluminum foil and place it in the refrigerator for about 20 minutes.
On a table or countertop place a sheet of parchment paper and transfer the slightly hardened dough from the fridge. Flatten the dough with your hands and cover with another sheet of parchment paper of the same size. Roll out the dough until about 1/4 inch thick. From the rough cut rectangles about 3.5 in long and 1.75 in wide and place them on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. For mine, I used a 3.5 in square cookie cutter and then I cut each cookie in a half. Place in the oven for about 10 minutes or until light golden.
Remove the baking sheet from the oven and cover the pre-baked, gluten free rectangles with the plum slices, placing them rather tight next to each other. Sprinkle a bit of cinnamon, lemon juice and brown sugar on each treat and top them with a tiny bit of the coconut oil. Put the baking sheet back into the oven for about 15 more minutes. Transfer the treats onto a cooling rack and watch them disappear!😉
I used only 1/4 cup brown sugar for 13/4 cup flours. That may seem like very little sugar, but the sweetness of the plums sufficiently compensated for that small amount of added sugar. The brown sugar and lemon juice sprinkled on top of the treats perfectly balanced the tart/sweet flavor of the plums.
The post would not be complete without mentioning the health benefits of plums. They contain plenty of antioxidants, fiber, vitamins A, C and K and potassium. Moreover, plums have the ability to increase absorption of iron into the body, possibly because of high vitamin C content.
Ending the post on a poetic note I will quote a poem “Plum” by Tony Mitton from his book under the same title. It is a collection of fun and thought-provoking poems for children, with magnificent illustrations. The poems are as delectable to read for kids and adults, as sweet, ripe plums are delicious to eat.
Plum by Tony Mitton
Don't be so glum, plum. Don't feel beaten. You were made to be eaten. But don't you know that deep within, beneath your juicy flesh and flimsy skin you bear a mystery, you hold a key, you have the making of a whole new tree.