Plums come to the rescue
In an alternate reality, the one my mind flings open a window and escapes to whenever words refuse to stick to the page, I am a Master Baker.
I tie on an apron like a superhero dons a cape.
A kerchief tied over my hair is my disguise and the ability to bring eaters to their knees with one bite of baguette is my superpower.
I sleep by day because night is when I go to work, turning flour into magic, the way fairytale elves turn idle bits of leather into shoes.
In my factual life, of course, I am only an amateur baker.
Although, to be more literal than I’ve earned the right to be, there was that one Christmas when I sold a figgy pudding.
And, my olive-stuffed focaccia did briefly appeared on the menu of a certain dance shoe store/coffee shop that was later razed to make room for a downtown loft.
A Master Baker, however, I am not.
Still, at home with my ingredients, with yeast that bubbles and fat and flour that come together in infinitely delicate layers that become crucibles for fruit and custard fillings, I am smitten with the entire process.
In my imagined life as Master Baker, however, I am not merely a passable home baker, in awe of the wonders of heat and chemistry.
In my imagined life, I roll butter into flour, folding it over and over onto itself for puff pastry, which I stack into raspberry napoleons and crimp into plum galettes.
I poach bagels and pretzel buns before baking.
I stretch kuchen dough as wide as a ship’s sail and thin as a sheet of parchment paper, before layering it a dozen times, and then a dozen more and stuffing it with apple filling.
In my imagined life, I have a generations-old sourdough starter, passed down by a French master, a bowl of ferment whose name is Madeline.
Madeline is my sidekick.
Also in my imagined life, which is populated by boules and baguettes, citrus squares, pies and cakes and muffins and cookies, the act of putting my hands to work yields results every time.
It is unlike the writing life, where, as much as I’m dazzled by it, a novel and food columns will seem to write themselves one week and lay paralyzed on the page the next.
And yet, for all the wonder and satisfaction of lifting a plum galette from the oven, I’d still rather have baking as an act to retreat to when life and work refuse to play nice.
When the words don’t come, I tie on my apron, roll out a square of the best puff pastry I didn’t make myself and pile it with plums.
For the almond topping:
1/2 cup sliced blanched almonds
2 Tbs butter, softened
2 Tbs brown sugar
1 Tbs all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
For the galette:
8-10 ripe prune plums, pitted and quartered
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 sheet prepared butter Puff pastry rolled to 12x12-inch square
1 egg yolk
In a 375 F oven, toast almonds on a baking sheet until golden, about seven minutes. Let cool for a few minutes, then combine with the butter, sugar, flour and cinnamon to make a crumbly mixture. Set aside.
Gently toss plums with one-quarter cup brown sugar.
Place the prepared puff pastry on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Sprinkle half the almond mixture in the centre of the pastry. Mound the plum slices over top, leaving a two-inch border of pastry for folding.
Sprinkle the second half of the almond mixture on top of the plums. Pull the pastry edges up over the outer layer of plums to form a rough circle, pleating the pastry as you go.
Brush the pastry with egg yolk. Bake for 40 to 50 minutes, until the pastry is golden and the plums have softened.
Slide parchment paper and galette onto a wire rack and allow to cool before slicing and serving.