Adapted from A New Way to Cook by Sally Schneider (Artisan, 2001). Copyright 2001, Sally Schneider.
Prep time: 10 min
Cook time: 20 min
Total time: 30 min
Yield: About 3 cups
These boozy prunes are a classic of southwest France, land of confit, pâté, and foie gras. They are steeped in a syrup spiked with Armagnac, the region's delicious brandy. Since the prunes are pitted, they release some of their sweet juices to make a syrup, making little sugar necessary. The prunes are so intensely flavored they can be eaten almost as a candy, to finish off a meal. The Armagnac in the syrup tends to sneak up on people, rendering them as giddy as children. The prunes are sublime served over vanilla and coffee ice cream and as an ingredient in pear, apple, or quince tarts. Prepare at least 1 week before serving to allow the prunes to mellow. Since they last indefinitely, you can keep them on hand for instant desserts. Packed in a pretty jar, they make a welcome gift.
Prune Croustade: Arrange 5 Prunes in Armagnac in each shallow dessert bowl and top with a tablespoon of crème fraîche and an Individual Phyllo Disk (recipe follows).
Individual Phyllo Disks
Makes four 4-inch disks
This is the simplest way I know to make a dramatic pastry lid for free-form fruit desserts: Butter a sheet of phyllo, crumple it, press it into a round mold, and bake. The chewy-crisp phyllo disks are best eaten the day they are made.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
Unroll the phyllo dough on the counter. Cover with a sheet of plastic wrap, then place a damp tea towel over it to keep the phyllo from drying out as you work.
Brush four 4-inch tart tins or ramekins lightly with some of the butter. Lay 1 sheet of phyllo on the work surface and brush it with butter. Gently gather it in your hands and crumple it into a loose ball. Press it into a tin until it is compacted to about 1/3-inch high. Sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon of the sugar. Repeat with the remaining phyllo.
Place the tins on a baking sheet and bake until the phyllo is golden brown and crisp, about 16 minutes. Allow to cool for a few minutes, then run a knife around the edge of the tins to release the pastry. Cool on a rack.
You can prepare the phyllo disks without baking them up to 1 day ahead. Wrap well and refrigerate.
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