An Irresistible Fall Treat: Polish Plum Slab Tart (Kruche Ciasto ze Śliwkami)

Yes, it’s another plum recipe.  So far, I’ve posted two recipes for plum cake (German Plum Cake and Polish Plum Cake), one recipe for yeasted Polish plum pastry, and one recipe for a type of shortcrust Polish pastry (“półkruche ciasto”).  This time, the recipe is for a different type of shortcrust Polish pastry (“kruche ciasto“).   The previous shortcrust pastry dough I made–półkruche ciasto–calls for sour cream in the dough along with the usual suspects of butter, flour, egg yolks, and some sugar.  For this recipe, it’s butter, flour, egg yolks, and some sugar.  Well, and some baking powder and vanilla extract too.  Missing is the sour cream.  The crust is delicately tender and crumbly.  It melts in your mouth!  Kruche ciasto and półkruche ciasto are a “must learn” in terms of Polish baking for the home kitchen.   Are guests coming over for tea tomorrow?   Ah, then some type of kruche ciasto or półkruche ciasto is what will meet guests’ expectations, especially during the summer and fall months.  The apple version, szarlotka, is the most popular.   But since my local supermarket FINALLY had some Italian plums (for a short time though!), I decided to make a slab tart using plums instead of apples.

You might ask why Polish tarts (made at home) are usually rectangular in shape rather than circular like American pies or French tarts.  Unfortunately, I have no idea!  One thing I do know is that it’s easier to cut into portions, easier to serve, easier to eat, and it seems like there is more of it so it ends up serving more people.  The other point I should make is that Polish fruit tarts are significantly less sweet than American pies or French tarts.  The Polish plum tart recipe I present in this post has no added jam, custard, lemon curd, frangipane, or other frills.  The filling is not gooey.  Not even a little bit.  It has a bottom crust and a top crust, and it’s filled with fresh fruit sprinkled with some sugar (and spices if you like).  Unapologetically rustic–gotta love it!

Below is the recipe.  After the recipe, I provide step-by-step instructions.  See you after the recipe!

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Polish Plum Slab Tart (Kruche Ciasto ze Śliwkami)
Pan size: 9 x 13 x 2 inches (23 x 33 x 5 cm)
Course Pastry
Cuisine Polish
Cook Time 50 minutes
Servings
squares
Ingredients
Short Crust Pastry Dough
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 8 ounces cold unsalted butter, cut into small 1/2 tablespoon pieces [equivalent to 2 American sticks or 200 grams + 1 tablespoon butter; using only 200 grams will not affect results]
  • 4 large egg yolks, reserving whites from one egg [may substitute one raw egg yolk with one hard boiled egg yolk]
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Plum Filling
  • 1 2/3 pounds* Italian plums (or red or black plums, or plumcots) [about 758 grams]
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar [if fruit is very sweet, reduce sugar if desired]
  • 2 tablespoons bread crumbs [may be substituted with some of reserved egg whites, lightly beaten with fork]
Topping
  • 1 reserved egg white, lightly beaten with a fork
  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar [coarse sugar is recommend if available]
Course Pastry
Cuisine Polish
Cook Time 50 minutes
Servings
squares
Ingredients
Short Crust Pastry Dough
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 8 ounces cold unsalted butter, cut into small 1/2 tablespoon pieces [equivalent to 2 American sticks or 200 grams + 1 tablespoon butter; using only 200 grams will not affect results]
  • 4 large egg yolks, reserving whites from one egg [may substitute one raw egg yolk with one hard boiled egg yolk]
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Plum Filling
  • 1 2/3 pounds* Italian plums (or red or black plums, or plumcots) [about 758 grams]
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar [if fruit is very sweet, reduce sugar if desired]
  • 2 tablespoons bread crumbs [may be substituted with some of reserved egg whites, lightly beaten with fork]
Topping
  • 1 reserved egg white, lightly beaten with a fork
  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar [coarse sugar is recommend if available]
Instructions
Make Short Crust Pastry Dough
  1. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, and baking powder. Randomly place pieces of cold butter on top of flour mixture. Using two butter knives or a pastry cutter, cut butter into flour until pea-size crumbs form, about 4 minutes. Add egg yolks and vanilla extract to flour mixture in the same manner. Gather mixture with hands to form a mound in center of bowl. Transfer to unfloured counter.
  2. With both hands, press together mixture and knead until forms smooth dough, about 2 minutes or less. Mixture will be dry in the beginning, but after kneading a few turns, a dough ball will form. Do not over-knead. Dough will slightly stick to counter.
  3. Form dough into oblong disc. Cut off approximately 1/3 of dough, wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate until ready for baking. [**See Recipe notes below for grated topping alternative using frozen dough.]
  4. On a well-floured surface, roll out remaining 2/3 of dough using a floured rolling pin (preferably wooden) until dough is the size of the bottom of the 9 x 13 x 2-inch (23 x 33 x 5 cm) rectangular baking pan that will be used to bake tart. Dust rolling pin with flour again. Loosely wrap dough onto rolling pin and carefully lift and transfer dough to ungreased pan. Line bottom of baking pan with dough. Dough may tear during transfer or may be thinner in center. Repair tears and even out dough by pressing dough into pan with your hand. [If possible, place pan in refrigerator while preparing plums.]
Plum Filling
  1. Place rack in middle of oven and preheat oven to 350°F/180°C. [Note: If oven has 6 rungs, place rack on 3rd rung from the bottom.] Wash and dry plums. Cut in half and remove pits. For Italian plums, cut each half again in half. For larger plums, slice each half into 1/4-inch slices (e.g. medium plums: 8 slices; large plums: 12 slices).
  2. Randomly poke bottom crust with tines of a fork. Sprinkle crust evenly with bread crumbs. [If bread crumbs are not available, brush with some of the reserved egg whites, lightly beaten with a fork. Save remaining egg whites for egg wash topping described below.] Arrange plums in one even layer to cover crust. Slices should partially overlap. Sprinkle cinnamon and sugar over top of plums.
Top Crust and Topping
  1. [**Refer to Recipe notes and Step 3 below if using grated dough alternative.] Roll out reserved dough onto a well-floured surface with a floured rolling pin into a rectangle that approximately fits size of baking pan (may be slightly smaller). Dough will be thin. Cut away uneven sides and set aside scraps for later. Cut 4 long strips vertically, about 1-inch wide (2.54 cm), to fit length of pan. With remaining dough (incorporate scraps of dough), cut 7 shorter, 1-inch/2.54 cm wide strips to fit width of pan.
  2. Set pan on counter with shorter side (9 inches/23 cm width) closest to you. Carefully place 1 long strip over plums vertically on far-left side, about a 1/2-inch/1.67 cm from wall of pan, and 1 long strip on far-right side, also a 1/2-inch/1.67 cm from wall of pan. Place remaining 2 long strips over plums to fill in middle, making sure that strips are evenly spaced. Working from top to bottom, place short strips horizontally over long strips, keeping strips evenly spaced and perpendicular to long strips. The first and last strips should be placed up against the top and bottom walls of pan. Repair any tears in dough by pressing together dough. Brush strips with lightly beaten egg whites and sprinkle with 1 tablespoon granulated sugar.
  3. Bake in preheated oven for 50-55 minutes or until top is golden brown. Cool completely to room temperature. Cut into squares and serve. For best flavor and texture, store at room temperature, covered loosely with aluminum foil or wax paper.
Recipe Notes

* Amount of plums can range from 1.5 to 1.75 pounds [680 to 794 grams].

**  Alternatively, freeze reserved dough for one hour.  After arranging plums on bottom crust, instead of rolling out dough, top tart by quickly grating frozen dough (using large holes of grater) over top plums.  Omit brushing egg whites and sprinkling with sugar before baking; instead, bake plain.  After removing from oven, dust with confectioners sugar.  Before serving, dust again with confectioners sugar if necessary.

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STEP-BY-STEP INSTRUCTIONS

I like to make this crust without the aid of kitchen machinery or gadgets.  First, take a super large bowl and add the flour, sugar, and baking powder and whisk together.

Scatter butter pieces over the flour mixture and, with two knives, cut in the butter until pea-size crumbs form.

Add 1 teaspoon vanilla extract and 4 egg yolks.  For this batch, I used 3 raw egg yolks and one hard boiled egg yolk.  Old recipes oftentimes call for hard-boiled egg yolks rather than raw.  I didn’t want to go that far, but I wanted to try it out in some form, so I settled on one hard-boiled egg yolk.   [It worked OK but I found it hard to mix in.]

Using the same two butter knives, cut in and mix the vanilla extra and egg yolks until evenly incorporated into the flour mixture.  The final mixture will look pretty dry, but don’t despair!

Cup your hands and gather up the flour mixture in the center of the bowl to form a nice mound.

With both hands, press the dough together, then fold it over, and then press again.  Repeat this action a few times.  You will see that the more you do this, the more the crumbs will stick together.

When the dough is still too dry to form a dough ball but getting stickier, turn it out onto the counter.

Repeat the steps from before – gather, fold over, and repeat until you get to the point where you can normally knead the dough.  Then, knead just a few times more until the dough is smooth.  Form an oblong dough ball.

Cut off about 1/3 of the dough and form it into a disc.  Reserve the smaller piece for the top crust.

Wrap the smaller dough ball with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator until ready to use.  If you want to make a top crust out of grated frozen dough, then place in a gallon Ziploc bag and then in the freezer for about 1 hour.  [See the step-by-step instructions to make Polish Peach Tart which demonstrate making a top crust with grated dough.]

At this point, you need to take out your 9 x 13-inch (ungreased) baking pan and line it with a bottom crust.  To do that, you need to roll out the larger dough ball to fit the bottom of the pan.

Generously dust the counter top with flour.  Dust the top of the dough ball with flour and dust the rolling pin with flour.  You will find that even with these precautions, the dough will likely stick a little bit to the counter after being rolled out.  You need to work quickly to minimize this problem.

In the photo below, I rolled out the dough to the approximate size of the bottom of the baking pan.  The edges were rough, the dough tore slightly, and the egg yolk from the hard-boiled egg was visible.  I was worried a little bit, but I have been told by Polish home bakers that this pastry dough should be the easiest thing on Earth to make, and that it’s impossible to mess up.  Could the saying, “Easy as pie,” have come from Poland?  (Only kidding.)  This dough or any pastry dough doesn’t seem like an easy thing to make, but I moved on, though admittedly with some doubt that this would be a success.

I placed the pan on top of the dough to see how I was doing.  It turns out that I rolled out the dough a little too much–I had to fix it in the pan.  I don’t recommend re-rolling as it likely will affect the texture of the crust after baking.

I dusted the rolling pin with flour again and folded the dough over the rolling pin to help me transfer the dough to the pan.

I unrolled the dough into the pan.  Despite my best efforts, it tore in several places.  And it was too long and too short here and there.

The next thing to do is repair the problems.  I fixed the tears by pressing on the dough with my hands.  Where the dough was too long, I tore pieces off and put them elsewhere on the crust where there were holes or where I thought the dough was too thin (which is usually in the middle).  I pressed these “patches” into the dough with my fingers.

Next, press the dough here and there to make sure the thickness is about the same throughout.  There is no need to leave a lip of dough around the sides of the pan.

The pan is now set aside either at room temperature or in the fridge.  Preheat the oven to 350°F/180°C, setting the rack in the middle of the oven.  You need to make sure that the bottom crust gets baked long enough or it will be raw while the top will be done.

Start preparing the plums.  After washing the plums and drying them, cut in half to remove the pits.

Cut in half again so they are in quarters.

Turn back to the pan.  Poke the dough all over with a fork.

Sprinkle the dough with 2 tablespoons of bread crumbs.  This will help prevent the crust from becoming soggy when the juices from the plums pour out.  [An alternative I will show you down below is to brush the crust with fork-beaten egg whites.]

Arrange the plums on top.

To fit all the plums, tightly place them in one layer on top of the crust, overlapping slightly.

Sprinkle 1 teaspoon of cinnamon over the plums.

Sprinkle 2 tablespoons of sugar over top of the plums.

Before proceeding with the rest of that batch, I wanted to show you a different batch I made using plumcots, which are large yellow looking plums, but they are really a cross between a plum and an apricot.  They are delicious!

This time around, I didn’t have bread crumbs on hand, so I brushed some lightly beaten egg white on top of the crust to protect the crust from getting soggy from the fruit.

I sliced the plums rather thinly and then arranged them over top of the crust, overlapping the slices more so than with the Italian plums.

I sprinkled the top with cinnamon and sugar just as I did for the previous tart I made using Italian plums.  Below is a photo of what the pan looked like before the top crust was added.  It’s a little different if you use large plums/plumots instead of the smaller Italian plums, but the basics are the same.

Turning back to the previous tart I made (the one with Italian plums).  I removed the dough for the top crust from the refrigerator, generously dusted the counter and the rolling pin, and started to roll out the dough rather thinly.  [If you placed the dough in the freezer, grate the frozen dough over top of the plums.  Use a large-hole grater.  Skip the step described below involving brushing egg whites over the top crust.  Go straight to baking the tart in the oven.  After removing the tart from the oven, dust generously with confectioners sugar and you’re done.  Again, see Polish Peach Tart for illustrated instructions on grating frozen dough.]

My goal with this piece of dough was to roll it out and then cut out 1-inch wide strips to arrange on top of the plums in a pseudo lattice pattern.  This was the trickiest part of the tart.

I needed 4 long strips and about 7 short strips.

The strips tore like crazy!  But I could easily repair the tears after transferring the strips to the pan.  And sometimes I decided not to repairs the tears.  It’s a rustic tart after all!

Place the long strips about 1/2-inch or so away from the sides of the pan.   For the short strips, do not leave a gap but instead place the strips right up against the sides of the pan.  Take a look at the top of the photo below to see what I mean.  [The photo cuts doesn’t show the seventh strip at the bottom, unfortunately, so you can’t see what the lower end of the pan looks like.]

Then fork whisk the whites from one egg to brush on top of the dough strips.

Sprinkle about a tablespoon of coarse sugar or regular granulated sugar over top of the strips.  The sugar should stick to the dough due to the egg whites.

Pop it in the oven and bake for about 50 minutes.

The top crust needs to be golden brown all across.

Cut into squares after the tart has cooled.  Serve when at room temperature.  It tastes pretty good when still a little warm though!   Putting this tart in the refrigerator overnight is not recommended because it gets a little wet and the bottom crust becomes less crumbly.

You’ll notice that with kruche ciasto pastry, the height of the pastry, even with the top crust, is shorter than półkruche ciasto.  [Compare with Double-Crust Polish Plum Pie.]  This pastry is also more crumbly, tender, and less cakey.  My daughter proclaimed this pastry crust to be her favorite!

Enjoy!

 

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