This Mascarpone and Roasted Plum Pie features a stunning look and a decadent taste with a sweet cream cheese filling swirled with roasted, sugared plums in a crisp shortbread crust.
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This pie has been on my to-do calendar for about three years now. It's inspired by the classic holiday ballet The Nutcracker and its Dance of the Sugarplum Fairies. I was captivated by the idea of a sugar plum pie! After many years of waiting and many, many (too many!) recipe tests later, this pie has finally emerged onto the stage, and it is stunning (if I do say so myself).
I spent literally two months roasting plums while trying to figure out how to get this pie exactly how I wanted it. What materialized was a creamy mascarpone filling with a hint of warm spices, swirled with a sweet sugar plum jam, all encased in a beautiful tart shell. The silky Italian cream cheese filling plays so nicely with the slightly tart plums, and the simple tart shell gives it all the texture it needs. The plums are roasted with a vanilla bean until syrupy, giving them a well-rounded, sweet taste. A drizzle of some reserved plum syrup on top right before serving makes the pie shine, while still showing the beauty of the swirl beneath.
Up front, you must know this tart is a labor of love (not unlike some other tarts of mine like this Honeynut Squash Tart, Malted Milk Chocolate Tart or Coconut Lime Tart). The plums must be roasted, the crust must be prepared and blind-baked, and then the filling must be assembled and the whole tart baked. However, the steps can be broken out over a few days to make it more achievable. The end results are stunning and well worth the effort to be served at a celebration.
So, let's get to making it, shall we? The article below is jam-packed full of useful information. You can jump around using the menu below, or skip to the end of the article for the full recipe.
Here is an overview of the ingredients needed for this recipe. The full recipe is listed below in greater detail.
- fresh plums (any variety of red or black plum will do, and plum hybrids such as pluots will also work. Just note that the color of the plum purée can vary a lot; I experienced different color purées even among standard black plums.)
- all-purpose flour
- almond flour
- sugar: granulated and powdered sugar
- coarse kosher salt (This recipe was tested using Diamond Crystal coarse kosher salt. If you use Morton's kosher salt or fine salt, decrease by about half for volume, or use the same amount by weight.)
- fresh vanilla bean + vanilla extract (though the fresh vanilla bean can be skipped if you can't get your hands on one)
- fresh-squeezed orange juice
- mascarpone cheese (if you can't find this, cream cheese can be substituted but make sure it is at room temperature)
- crème fraîche (or sour cream)
- nutmeg (freshly grated is best!)
Making the Shortbread Pastry
The pie crust for this recipe is a Pâte Sablée. It’s sweet, crisp, and tender and holds up well in the refrigerator, which is ideal for chilled pies.
The dough is made easily in a food processor following the typical method to make a "shortbread" pie crust:
Step 1: Process the dry ingredients.
Step 2: Add the butter and pulse until the butter is broken into pea-sized bits.
Step 3: Add in the egg and process until the dough comes together into a semi-cohesive ball.
Step 4: Gather the pastry into a disk and wrap in plastic and rest it.
The dough will be semi-soft, and it's easier to roll it out after a brief 30-minute chill in the refrigerator.
Quick Tips for Shaping a Pie in a Tart Pan
Really, there is no difference in my mind between a tart and a pie, except for the tin it is baked in. A tart pan gives a more elegant shape than a traditional pie, so that's the tin that this recipe requires.
Here are some quick tips for successfully putting the pie crust in the tart pan:
- Roll out the pastry as evenly as possible.
- After placing the pastry in the tart pan, gently press the dough into the corners and use your thumb to push the pastry up the sides to prevent shrinkage.
- For the least amount of shrinkage, press down with your thumb on the pastry to cut off any excess from the rim of the tart pan. Or, for a more "neat look," use a paring knife to slice through the excess.
- The tart shell should also be chilled briefly before you blind-bake it (conveniently, about how long it takes to preheat the oven).
Blind-baking is imperative in this recipe since the mascarpone filling needs to be cooked at a low temperature, which means it would be impossible for your pie crust to bake fully along with the filling.
The recipe below has instructions for blind-baking, but if you are new to it, check out this Guide to Blind-Baking.
If you don't want to make a pastry crust, this tart would also be great with:
Preparing the Filling
The filling is a multi-step process: preparing the plum swirl, mixing together the mascarpone ingredients, assembling, and finally, baking it.
Roasting the Plums
Step 1: Prepare the plums to be roasted with the sugar, orange juice and vanilla bean.
Step 2: Roast plums for 40 minutes, stirring every 10-15, until soft and the juices have turned syrupy.
Step 3: Place the plums over a strainer and let the syrup naturally drip off. Avoid pushing down on the fruit to keep the syrup clear.
Step 4: Set aside the syrup. If for some reason it is not thickened, it can be reduced on the stovetop as needed.
Step 3: Purée the drained plums (make sure to remove the vanilla bean first).
Step 4: Strain the puréed plums through the same fine-mesh strainer used to drain them.
Whisking Together the Mascarpone Filling
Only a bowl and a whisk are needed to bring together the mascarpone filling.
The ingredients don't have to be completely at room temperature, but it's best to take them out of the fridge before you start making the crust. They will come together more smoothly when less cold. However, if you are swapping in cream cheese for the mascarpone, it should be fully softened at room temperature.
Be sure to whisk the sugar and mascarpone together until smooth before adding in the other ingredients.
Swirling it All Together
The last step before assembling the pie is to add some of the mascarpone filling to the plum purée. This gives both filling elements a similar consistency, making the swirl effect possible. I tried many times to make it work without this step, but the plum purée was too heavy and consistently sank to the bottom.
Step 1: Add ¼ cup of the mascarpone mixture to the plum.
Step 2: Mix it until it's completely combined.
Step 3: Dot some of the plum filling into the baked tart shell, pour the mascarpone filling on top, then dot with the remaining plum filling.
Step 4: Using a knife or a chopstick, swirl the filling to create a marbled effect.
Baking the Tart
The assembled tart is then baked at a low temperature. This tart falls under the "custard" category. It's always smart to bake custards low and slow to result in a creamy, smooth, well-textured filling.
It can be a bit tricky to tell when the pie is done cooking (similar to this Maple Sweet Potato Pie and Carrot Pie). If it's underdone, the filling can be too loose. If it's overdone, the filling can crack.
Look for the filling to be fully set with a matte appearance throughout the mascarpone. If you want to be sure, you can use an instant-read thermometer in the middle of the pie and look for a temperature around 180ºF.
Once the tart is done, let it cool to room temperature on a wire rack. Then chill in the fridge for at least 4 hours or until fully set up.
Make Ahead Suggestions
While this tart is simple in appearance, there are a number of steps, baking stages, and tools you need to use. You can (and should) break these tasks up, though the recipe doesn't strictly call for that.
- Make Pâte Sablée
- Roast the plums
- Strain the mixture and purée the plums.
- Blind bake pie crust
- Assemble the filling
Serving + Storing
This pie should be stored in the refrigerator. It can be served straight from the refrigerator, or you can let it sit at room temperature for a few hours before serving.
Right before serving, drizzle with some reserved plum syrup! It can be poured over the entire pie, or it can be drizzled over each piece after it is cut and served.
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