I couldn't let today, Pi Day (3.14.15), go by without baking a pie.
I'd recently remembered an old favorite recipe from Patricia Wells' Bistro Cooking: Tart aux Pruneaux et aux Amandes. Technically a tart, but certainly in the phylum pie. Prunes are soaked in strong black tea (I used the dregs of a pot of this), and then bathed in a ground almond and creme fraiche filling. Wells spikes hers with plum eau-de-vie, which I didn't happen to have on hand (mon dieu!), so I added a bit of vanilla extract, for a more kid-friendly version. A lovely way to celebrate this memorable, once in a century day.
Tart aux Pruneaux et aux Amandes
from Patricia Wells' Bistro Cooking
2 cups brewed strong black tea
1 lb (500 g) prunes, pitted
1/4 cup (35 g) whole unblanched almonds
1 large egg
5 Tbsp (60 g) granulated sugar
2 Tbsp plum eau-de-vie or brandy (or 1 tsp vanilla extract)
3/5 cup creme fraiche or heavy cream
1 Pate Sucre shell (recipe below) partially baked and cooled
1 Tbsp confectioners' sugar to garnish (optional)
1 1/4 cup (175 g) all purpose flour
8 Tbsp (1 stick) butter, chilled and cut into 1/2 inch pieces
2 tsp sugar
1/8 tsp salt
~4 Tbsp ice water
1. Make the dough. In a food processor, pulse together the flour, sugar, and salt. Add the butter pieces and pulse about 20 times until the butter is in pea sized pieces. Add the ice water and pulse about 8 more times until the dough starts to come together. Dump onto a silicone mat or work surface and shape into a disc. Wrap in the silicone mat or saran wrap and refrigerate for at least one hour.
2. Shape the tart shell. Lightly flour the dough and roll it out on the silicone mat or a floured work surface, rotating to ensure the dough is not sticking, into a 12 inch wide disc. Transfer to a 10 1/2 inch loose-bottomed black tart tin and gently press the dough into the corners. Trim the overhang, leaving one inch of dough. Tuck the overhand inside and fortify any thin parts with the trimmed dough. Shape the edges and prick the bottom all over with a fork. Chill the shaped dough for at least 20 minutes.
3. Partially bake the shell. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Line the shell with aluminum foil and some pie weights (some rice or dried beans that you can reuse for years). Bake for 20 minutes. Remove the foil and weights and bake another 10 minutes. Cool completely.
Prune and Almond Tart
1. At least 1 hour before preparing the tart, pour the hot tea over the prunes and set aside to marinate.
2. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
3. In a food processor, grind the almonds to a fine powder. Add the egg, sugar, liquor (or vanilla extract), and creme fraiche. Process until very smooth.
4. Thoroughly drain the prunes, discarding the soaking liquid. Carefully arrange the prunes in the cooled tart shell. Pour the almond filling over the prunes.
5. Place the tart in the center of the oven, and bake until the filling is set and the tart shell is nicely browned, about 45 minutes. Remove from the oven. If you like, sprinkle with confectioners' sugar.