I have recently been feeling a lot of nostalgia for my southern roots. Particularly, when it comes to food. I was not really "into" food when I lived in the South. I mean, I really enjoyed it, and I was always happy to eat it, but I did not start to nerd out to food until college. Since then, I have not spent an extended amount of time back home. Recently however, the south has captivated me in its food culture and traditions, and I have been longing to go back and do a food tour, especially around Georgia. I mean how cool would it be to go and drive around the state looking for the best flavors it has to offer? Not saying this will happen anytime soon, but it is something I have become mildly obsessed with over the past few months. One of the places I would definitely include on such a tour is the Back in the Day Bakery in Savannah, Georgia.
A Back in the Day Bakery cookbook was published about a year and a half ago and from the moment I saw it on the shelf, my eyes widened with a desire to bake everything in it. A few months later, I saw it on my step-mom's counter when I was home, and again I was filled with the same longing. Finally, I have acquired my very own copy. I instantly looked through the recipes and went into the kitchen the moment I had to time to enter my happy place!
When I asked my step-mom, Bam, what she had felt about the book, she said it held flavors of comfort for her. It is old-time food with classic, dependable, delicious southern charm. Bam was the most kitchen oriented family member I had growing up, and really most of my deep food memories of childhood come from her kitchen and cooking. I still dream of her monkey bread on Christmas morning :) She love to try new foods for us and there were many fun dishes that came from her hard work in the kitchen. So when I was looking through the book and deciding what to make first, I went with this recipe because custard is one of her particular favorites. With the overwhelming nostalgia I have been feeling the South, my own home, and childhood food memories created by Bam, I thought there was no better place to start working through the book, than to pay a small homage to one of the people that inspired me in the kitchen long before I knew it.
This is an awesome recipe because it is essentially a foolproof custard. You do not have to scald the cream mixture first and there is no tempering of eggs. It is as simple of baked custard as you are going to get to make, yet the flavor and texture is in no way compromised. It is rich and creamy, with a smooth mouth feel. The juicy plums made it bright with a fruity sweetness, and the cool temperature made it refreshing to eat. It is perfect for a light pick me up on a hot afternoon yet rich enough for after dinner treat. It is particularly wonderful with the addition of the whipped cream, which achieves a balance of varying delicate textures studded with the bursts of plums throughout each bit. Its one of those desserts you can easily go back for seconds...and you will. So please, please take advantage of the plums in season right now, and put them in this creamy dessert, sure to please your palate and put a smile on your face.
Oven Temperature: 350 F
Equipment: 9-inch pie plate
Hand or stand mixer
4-5 small to medium plums, peeled, pitted and cubed
4 large eggs, separated (keep whites cold until ready to use)
1 C sugar
1/2 TSP fine salt
2 TBPS unsalted butter, melted
1 TBPS all-purpose flour
1/2 TSP vanilla extract
1/2 TSP almond extract
1 C whole milk, at room temperature
Powdered Sugar for Dusting
Whipped Cream for serving
1. Preheat oven to 350F and position rack in lower third of oven.
2. To prepare the plums: Bring a pot of water to a boil. Cut small crosses on the tops and bottoms of the plums. When the water is boiling, drop the plums into the pot for about 60 seconds (you will see the skins begin to peel back. The time may vary depending on ripeness so watch them and pull when you see this effect.) Transfer plums into a bowl of ice-cold water. Remove plums and you should now be able to easily peel the skins off just with your hands. Cut around the pit, remove flesh and cube the plums into small pieces.
3. Line the bottom of the pie dish with the plums in a generous layer (about 1/2 way up the side of the pie plate).
5. One at a time, add the salt, melted butter, flour, extracts, and milk, whisking thoroughly between each addition until the ingredients are combined.
6. Using a stand or hand mixer, whip the egg whites on a high speed until soft peaks have formed. Watch carefully, as whites can go through the stages of whipping very quickly.
--A soft peak will have a white and slightly glossy appearance. When you lift your whisk with some of the mixture, it will have a peak, but it will fall over to the side.
7. At a lower speed, whisk in the egg yolk mixture until it take on the look of a light custard (about 2 minutes, but again watch during the process and look for that custardy appearance.)
8. Pour the custard over the plums and bake for 30-40 minutes, until the edges are set, there is slight browning on top and the middle still jiggles just a little.
Making whipped cream: This is always worth the minimal effort it takes to make fresh whipped cream at home. It is so significantly better every time and so easy.
Simply combine 1 C of heavy whipping cream, 1-2 TBSP of powdered sugar, and a splash of vanilla extract. Beat with a hand mixer until you have achieved stiff peaks and dollop the finished product on top of your dessert.