Winter-spiced plum plait
less than 30 mins
1 to 2 hours
Suitable for vegetarians
The cooking liquid used to poach the fruit makes a delicious mulled wine, which you can indulge in while baking or freeze for later.
500g/1lb 2oz plums, stoned and chopped into small pieces
½ apple, cored and finely chopped
400ml/14fl oz red wine (such as Merlot)
1 tsp ground nutmeg
1 cinnamon stick
2 strips orange zest
5 tbsp muscovado sugar
375g/13oz ready-rolled puff pastry
1 free-range egg, beaten
2 tsp demerara sugar
1 tbsp raw shelled pistachio nuts, roughly chopped
ice cream or whipped cream, to serve
For the crème pâtissière
150ml/¼ pint milk
100ml/3½fl oz double cream
1 vanilla pod, slit lengthways and seeds scraped out
50g/1¾oz caster sugar
1½ tsp cornflour, sifted
1 tsp plain flour, sifted
1 tbsp icing sugar, plus extra to serve
Put the plums, apple, wine, nutmeg, cinnamon stick, orange zest and muscovado sugar into a pan and bring to the boil. Immediately reduce the heat and simmer for 15 minutes. Strain the cooking liquid into a bowl and keep for making mulled wine. Discard the cinnamon stick and orange zest. Leave the plums to cool.
For the crème pâtissière, put the milk and cream into a heavy-based pan and place over a high heat. Add the vanilla pod and seeds. Bring to the boil and immediately reduce the heat and simmer for 3 minutes. Turn off the heat and discard the vanilla pod.
Using an electric whisk or a freestanding mixer, whisk the caster sugar and egg yolks together until pale and creamy; this may take 5 minutes or more. Whisk in the flours until fully incorporated.
With the whisk running, pour half the warm milk and cream into the egg and sugar mixture and whisk until combined. Now pour this back into the pan of warm milk and cream. Place over a medium heat and begin whisking continuously. After 1–2 minutes it will thicken and rise; when this happens, reduce the heat to low and keep whisking quickly for another 2 minutes until you have a very thick crème pâtissière.
Transfer the crème pâtissière to a clean baking tray, smooth out the mixture and dust with icing sugar to prevent a skin forming. Set aside to cool, then place in the freezer for 10 minutes until ice cold.
Put a baking sheet into the oven and preheat to 200C/180C Fan/Gas 6.
Lay a large sheet of baking paper on your work surface. Place the rectangular sheet of puff pastry on top and gently score the pastry lengthways into three equal sections, ensuring you do not cut all the way through. Cut the outer sections of pastry crossways into strips 2cm/¾in wide, leaving the central section of pastry whole.
Spread the chilled crème pâtissière over the central section of pastry, then arrange the plums on top. Fold the strips of pastry from each side over the plums, interweaving them as you go to resemble a plait.
Brush the pastry with the beaten egg and sprinkle over the demerara sugar.
Remove the baking sheet from the oven and carefully slide the baking paper and pastry onto the hot sheet. Bake for 25 minutes. Scatter over the pistachios and bake for a further 12–15 minutes until the pastry is crisp and deep golden brown.
Leave to cool slightly, then dust with icing sugar and serve with ice cream or whipped cream.