Spending time with my family in France this summer translated into baking a lot of fruit tarts. I can see this is a food habit deeply anchored in my upbringing. And at this time of year, we had gorgeous local quetsches and mirabelles to enjoy.
So we did.
Tarte aux mirabelles
I fell in love with quetsches and mirabelles and Reine-Claude–all varieties of plums–many years ago in my grandfather’s and uncle’s orchards in northeastern France, when I was still a young girl. These local plums are a big part of what a French summer spent in Lorraine in late August means to me, when the fields have just been harvested, and hay balls and bundles of straw cover them.
Oh! the silly games my cousins and I used to have there in the fields and barns filled with hay. And how fun it was this time for me, to relive these moments with Lulu. When my high school friend R. and her twins came to visit us, we could not help but find a field.
And then play. Covered in hay.
My grand-father and many of my uncles on my father’s side were farmers. On their land, there were always quetschiers or mirabelliers (the fruit trees) that gave fruit in abundance every summer. At the peak of the season, the kitchen bubbled with activity behind the stove. My mother, grandmother, and aunts skillfully worked with the fruit to make jams, liqueurs, and fruits au sirop. It was a time when a freezer was rare, and they’d naturally prefer to preserve.
And then they also baked a lot of tarts with the fruit.
The chance that a fruit tart was going to be ready on the kitchen counter was high. I almost took it for granted that it was the way it should be. Waiting for unexpected guests to stop by and enjoy.
I felt lucky when I was one of them.
I’ve never found mirabelles in the US, but I’ve seen plums similar to quetsches. Here, they are sometimes called Italian plums, although I’ve seen many different names–which always confuses me in a way. Why two names for the same thing? I cannot help but wonder. They are in season right now, and I was delighted to find some at a local market near us.
So naturally, I followed our tradition.
And I baked a tarte aux quetsches.
To prolong the feeling of our time spent playing in the hay and enjoying picking the fruit right off the tree.
At home, we prefer most of our fruit tarts lightly sprinkled with sugar, and hardly nothing else. My sister-in-law masters them beautifully. You can make this tart with mirabelles in the same way.
For the pastry:
- 70 g quinoa flour
- 30 g millet flour
- 100 g brown rice flour
- Pinch of sea salt
- 1.5 teaspoons xantham gum* (optional)
- 100 g butter, cold and diced
- 1 large egg yolk
- 5 (or more) tablespoons cold water
*helps with the binding from lack of gluten
For the fruit:
- 1 kg quetsches (called small Italian plums in the US)
- 50 g blond cane sugar + more to sprinkle on top
- 1 vanilla bean, split open and seeds scraped out
- Zest of 1 organic lime, finely grated
- 30 g almond meal
- In the bowl of your stand mixer, combine the flours, salt, and xantham gum (if using).
- Add the butter and work on medium speed until crumbles form.
- Continue by adding the egg yolk.
- Gradually add the water and work the pastry until it detaches from the bowl.
- Make a ball, dust it with flour, and cover with a towel in the fridge, for a few hours (or overnight.)
- Roll the pastry and garnish a 12-inch tart mold. Make small holes with a fork and place in the fridge, covered, for an hour minimum (or more).
- Preheat the oven to 430 F.
- Half the quetsches (or mirabelles) and remove the pit. Make a small slit at the top of the fruit without cutting each half completely.
- In a bowl, combine the sugar, vanilla seeds, lime zest and almond meal.
- Sprinkle 3/4 of it on top of the pastry.
- Arrange the fruit on top, and add the rest of the sugar mixture.
- Bake the tart for 30 minutes, or until the crust is light brown in color, and the fruit is juicy.
- Remove from the oven. Sprinkle with 2 tablepoons sugar. Let completely cool.