Monday, August 10, 2009

The Open Road - Plum Puffs

Just as the Bay Area weather is starting to heat up again, so is the work load at my desk. The early summer months often provide a reprieve from events and the amount of phone calls and emails to return, but as soon as August rolls around, it's back to business as usual. Which, of course, triggers my road tripping day dreams.

Lately, I've been thinking about the train. Taking a long train trip somewhere, getting off at each little town off the beaten path. I fantasize about finding the locals and asking where the best food and drink in town is, and then plopping myself at a small table with a piece of pie and watching the small town world. In theory, trains seem like such a romantic, old-fashioned way to travel. I like the idea of being able to settle in comfortably at the window as the countryside speeds by. It's commonplace in Europe, but it seems like something that should be done at least once while living in the U.S. Just getting an idea of what it all is. What it looks like from the rails. Stopping to breathe in a place. The taste and smell, the people.

Then again, there's always the car. On a trip up North on I5 last year, my stereo cut out. I drove in silence for several hours, noticing how much easier it is to tune in to your thoughts more intently with nothing but the drone of the road and the crush of wind against the car under them. Peaceful. As much as I love driving with the windows down, the radio loud and a friend singing along beside me, it's also just as nice to sit alone together. In silence or in conversation. Road trips are the perfect conversation inducer. I heard a great piece on NPR the other day by Robert Reich about a road trip he's about to take with his son. It's well worth reading, it's up as a blog here. In it he says, "You can't see anything of this country from five miles up. But on the road, especially when you're off the interstates, you can see it in all its beauty and craziness, it's crassness and its charm. And you can't help but understand it just a little bit better."

Maybe at the end of the month. Maybe in September. There's a road trip in my future soon.

Plum Puffs
adapted from Food & Wine, July 2009
makes six
1 sheet of puff pastry
4 medium or large plums
3 tbsp sugar
1 1/2 tsp cornstarch
1/4 tsp ground cardamom
1 egg, beaten

Pre-heat the oven to 375. Slice the plums about 1/2 inch thick and toss in a bowl with sugar, cornstarch and cardamom. Set aside. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the puff pastry till it's about 1/8 inch thick. Cut into 6 6 inch squares. Put the squares on a baking tray and stick in the freezer for 5 minutes so the pastry firms up. It will be easier to work with that way.

After the 5 minutes is up, remove and place on a baking sheet lined with parchment or on your silpat. Spoon the plum mixture into the middle of each square, and fold up each corner, pinching them together at the center of the puff. It should look almost like a pinwheel. Pinch the bottom edges together as well so the juices don't escape and run out during baking, but leave the center seems open that that steam can escape. Brush each puff with egg and sprinkle sugar on top. Bake for about 30 minutes until the pastry is golden. Let cool and serve.


  1. This looks delish! I am also eying (eyeing?) a trip on the Amtrack Starlight...I've always thought it would be a fun trip.

  2. They are absolutely delicious! And they look pretty good to boot! I've always wanted to take the Starlight. It goes through one of my favorite small towns, Dunsmuir. If you do go I can let you know about a great bakery to stop at up there!