Last Saturday my friends Katherine and Kate joined me on a morning hike in the foothills west of Denver. We wanted a relatively short hike that would get us away from downtown and back before the sunlight reached peak flesh-burning stage. We decided on Meyer Ranch Park, a 25-minute drive west from the city.
Part of Jefferson County’s Open Space program, Meyer Ranch offers a series of short and easy-to-moderate trails that can be combined for a longer hike. I brought my best gal pal Charlotte the Dog with us on the outing, and she was trying her best to remove my arm from its socket as soon as we jumped from the car, so I knew I would need to give her some mileage to tucker her out.
We cobbled together a trail plan and headed for the hills, making it up Owl’s Perch Trail and over to Lodgepole Loop Trail before Katherine’s persnickety knee forced her to head back for a shaded picnic area we’d passed along our way. Kate, Charlotte, and I continued on for another mile or two along the Sunny Aspen Trail and part of Ole Ski Run Trail, which turned out to be the most peaceful areas of the park.
Before you head to Meyer Ranch, know that most of the trails in the park hang along the hills facing highway 285, so if you’re looking for a spot to escape urban noise, I’d recommend heading out to the park during the early morning before traffic along the highway shifts into gear. Charlotte was too busy dragging me along the trail to be bothered vehicular rumbles, and Katherine, Kate, and I still had a good time catching up with each other.
Had there been more time that morning, I would have baked up another pan of today’s featured recipe, a plum and marzipan tarte tatin, to munch on, post-hike. Ladies, I promise to make some version of this tarte tatin the next time we have dinner!
This dessert recipe came into my life during my recent travels to northwest Wales. Cameron and I were zonked after a long hike to the top of Mt. Snowdon and wound up sprawled on our B&B bed watching BBC cooking shows. (Tough life, I know.) Widely revered home cook, Mary Berry, demonstrated how to make this fancy-sounding dessert in record time. When we made it back to Colorado and instituted Sunday dinner night at our house, this was the first dessert recipe I tried.
Unlike Ms. Berry, I made the puff pastry from scratch to save money and avoid preservatives often lurking in frozen pastry dough in the States. That said, making homemade puff pastry is a labor of love, particularly in the summer in a non-air-conditioned kitchen.
If you’re going to make your own for the first time, do it during the winter so that the slab of cold butter stays firm as you work, and if possible, make the largest batch you can so you can freeze the leftovers and shorten puff pastry dessert baking time for a few future recipes.
The end result for this summer puff-pastry-making marathon? Success! Cameron and I chowed down on the tarte tatin for a few days, topping our slices with plain-jane vanilla bean ice cream. The plums and almond-rich marzipan were such a nice combination that the nondescript ice cream accented, rather than overpowered the treat.
Plum and Marzipan Tarte Tatin
(a BBC Mary Cooks recipe)
– 1/3 cup light muscovado sugar
– 9 large, ripe plums, halved and stones removed
– 3½ oz marzipan
– 1 11½ oz sheet of all-butter puff pastry (Here’s my recipe for the homemade version if you’re feeling intrepid.)
– Ice cream, cream or crème fraîche, to serve (optional)
1. Preheat the oven to 220C/425F/Gas 7 (200C fan).
2. Sprinkle the sugar over the base of the cake tin in an even layer. Arrange the plums on top of the sugar, cut-side down.
3. Roll out the marzipan thinly to a round slightly smaller than the tin and place on top of the plums.
4. Roll out the pastry just a little bit bigger so that it is the width of the cake tin. Cut around the tin to make a circle, lay the pastry over the plums, and tuck the edges of the pastry down around the fruit. Make a small cross in the top of the pastry to let the steam out.
5. Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until the pastry is crisp and golden-brown and the plums are tender. (My oven baked up this tart in 20 minutes, so I’d watch your tart, checking every few minutes after you reach the 15-minute mark.)
6. Loosen the edges of the tart, and then turn out onto a plate and serve with ice cream, cream or crème fraîche.