A Flicker in October
The wick begins to pool
one leaf falls
the wax begins to drip
a crunch under foot
my cheeks begin to glow
this precious time
before the wick runs out
Prunes! Glorious jammy things. Juicier than an apricot, whose color is alluring, but it’s the prune I find most satisfying of the dried fruits. A thin protective skin, just barely sealing a smoothing prune cream. Confoundedly a flavor both of vanilla and milk chocolate. And even a fragrance faintly reminiscent of orange blossom. Glorious prunes!
The leaves are beginning to turn in New York. Yellow and crisp. A few scattered underfoot, one crunching, another saved inside a book. The sun is still warm to the bone, and it’s…quite. Where might be the flock of finches whom lived in the tree outside my window be? The window unit is unplugged and the floor fan switched off. This precious, and perhaps introspective time!
I was a thinking about what I might like to eat for breakfast during the next few days, while I had the time, and prunes showed up first in mind. The first place I looked for inspiration was a big cookbook, humorous and light, but each recipe a rather serious matter. Fairly charming that such a talented and experienced chef wrote a book for us at home, reading in a way that feels, well quite doable. Needing only the right ingredients and a good dose of confidence. One day I’ll get to that warm pig’s head… ! Seemingly, Fergus Henderson loves prunes too. And seemed to crave the same sort of pruney breakfast loaf as I did. A prune loaf with brown sugar and molasses, extra vanilla for a lift of fragrance, and then quite a buttered tin – yielding a crust buttery and textured. The
heavenly heavily buttered tin is a small trick I learned in school, beurre en pommade, a consistency mayonnaise like, which when heavily lining a tin makes the most lovely cake and loaf crusts.
So here is a slightly adapted recipe of Fergus Henderson’s le grand prune loaf. Fit for even those who may think they might not like a shriveled prune.
4 ½ oz softened (soft by leaving out, mine usually overnight) unsalted butter, and extra for greasing the pan
4 ¾ oz light brown sugar
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
8 oz flour, plus a five fingered pinch for dusting the pan
1 tsp baking soda
pinch of salt
1 tsp vanilla paste, or 2 tsp vanilla extract
4 tbsp black molasses
3 tbsp prune juice, mine coming just from my soaking liquid of tea and prunes.
3 tbsp full-fat milk, obtained at the coffee shop, thank you baristas, a generous slice coming your way!
20 oz prunes, and strips of lemon peel, soaked in two bags of black tea, mine being a rose like blend, soaked overnight or least an hour before.
Rummage about for a loaf tin, mine being a tube pan. With your softened butter, brush heavily into pan. Dust with a bit of flour and tap the excess out. Set aside and get on with the mix.
In a bowl with a wooden spoon, paddle the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Incorporate the beaten eggs slowly, which will help prevent a curdle. Sift in the flour, baking soda, salt and mix in. Next add the vanilla, molasses, prune juice and milk.
Fill your prepared tin with half of the mix, then lightly pressing in the prunes. You’ll notice it’s quite a lot of prunes, it is, a prune loaf! Spoon in remaining mix and lightly spread about evenly. Place in the fridge for 2 hours. The chill stops the prunes from sinking to the bottom during the bake.
Bake in an oven preheated to 350ºF for 45 minutes, or until a skewer comes out clean. Remove from oven, invert onto a rack, remove tin, and allow to cool for ten minutes before serving.
**Fergus Henderson mentions a mist in his recipe which is 2 ½ oz of prune juice, heated in a saucepan until it starts to boil. Off heat, ¾ oz of Vieille Prune (prune brandy) is stirred in. Two spoonfuls of mist is soaked into a slice before serving along with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.