Perhaps narcissistically, I tend to think of autumn as officially starting as soon as my birthday is over in mid-September. That means that, whatever the weather, as we approach the end of the month, I’m no longer toying with the idea of soups, or trying out my first crumble of the season, but am fully committed. The windows in my kitchen will be steamed up from now until March by stews and casseroles; everything will be cooked long, and slow. My hob will be heavy with curries, and my oven full with cobblers and baked puds.
The puddings we love in autumn tend to be rougher and readier than their spring or summer counterparts. Where our summer fruits perch unadulterated and perky atop meringues or tarts, autumnal fruits should be cooked down until they are rich and jammy, collapsing in on themselves and releasing their natural sweetness. Rock hard quince poached until rose pink and tender; unappetising sour Bramley apples cooked down until sweet and irresistible; pears simmered in honey and black pepper until yielding. These fruits are at their absolute best when soft and messy.
The galette is the messiest vehicle of all. It isn’t possible to make a neat galette and, frankly, it seems mean-spirited to try. I want the juice from the fruit to bubble up and spill out a little, to mark the sides; I want the sugar sprinkled on the golden crust haphazardly; I want it to be a pudding that one shouldn’t stand on ceremony for, but rather dive into, while it’s still volcanically hot.
We’re reaching the end of the plum season, and seeing the last of the stone fruits, so I’ve made this with those stubborn final plums that refuse to ripen, perfect for baking in sugar and spice. Serve with thick, cold custard or pouring cream. It goes like this…
Makes: 1 10-inch galette (serves six)
Takes: 10 minutes
Bakes: 45 minutes
500g shortcrust pastry
6-8 not yet ripe plums
3 tablespoons light brown sugar
2 tablespoons ground almonds
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 egg, beaten (for glazing)
2 tablespoons Demerara sugar
1. Preheat your oven to 180°C and line a baking sheet with baking parchment.
2. Roll out the pastry on a lightly floured work surface into a rough circle, about 12 inches in diameter.
3. Stone and slice the plums into segments. Place the plums in a bowl with all but a tablespoon of the light brown sugar and all of the spices, and toss until coated.
4. Transfer the pastry round onto your baking tray, and sprinkle the ground almonds across the pastry leaving a 1.5 inch border. Spoon the coated plums onto the ground almonds and sprinkle the remaining tablespoon of light brown sugar over the plums.
5. Take the edges of the pastry and fold them in towards the plums, just covering the edge of the plums, as if you were tucking them in. Pleat the dough as you go, so that it forms a circular lip around the plums.
6. Brush this pastry lip with egg wash and sprinkle with demerara. Cover the tray loosely with a large piece of tin foil and bake for 40 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for a further 5-10 minutes until the plums are burnished and bubbling.