Plum, almond and orange blossom crostata with sugared thyme
Preheat the oven to 180C/160C fan/gas 4. Line a baking tray with baking parchment and lay the pastry on top. Chill until needed.
Using an electric mixer, beat the butter and caster sugar until pale, reserving a tablespoon of the sugar. Beat in the orange zest, orange blossom water and vanilla, then the whole eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Finally, beat in the ground almonds and cornflour to combine.
Spread the frangipane mixture over the pastry, leaving a 1cm border all the way around. Fold in the edges to partially enclose. Top with the plums, and scatter with the demerara sugar and the pared orange zest.
Lightly whisk the egg white and dip the thyme sprigs into it, then coat them in the reserved tablespoon of caster sugar. Scatter over the crostata and bake for 35 minutes or until the pastry is golden and the plums are soft.
Once cool, dust with icing sugar, if desired.
First, make the yeast dough. Crumble the yeast into the flour, sugar and a pinch of salt in a mixer bowl with a hook attachment and mix together (if you are using dried yeast, dissolve it in the milk before adding to the flour). Add the egg, milk and butter and combine to form a dough that comes together in a ball. This will take about five to six minutes on a medium speed. Cover the bowl and chill in the fridge for at least six hours or overnight.
To make the filling, melt the butter in a small saucepan over a mediumlow heat. Remove from the heat, tip the sugar in and stir to dissolve. Add the chocolate, cocoa and cinnamon and mix to combine. Set aside to cool a little at room temperature (don’t place it in the fridge, as it will set solid).
Place the chilled dough on a lightly floured surface and roll into a rectangle of about 50cm x 30cm. Spread the filling over the dough, reaching right to the corners, then sprinkle with the hazelnuts. Roll up tightly from one of the longer sides, so you end up with a 50cm log. If the dough has softened too much for you to handle it, place on a tray and chill in the fridge for 10 minutes. Butter the loaf tin and line the base and long sides with baking parchment. Making sure that there is an overhang so that you will be able to lift the baked loaf out easily. Use a pastry cutter or sharp knife to cut the log in half along its length to expose the layers. Place the halves with the cut sides facing upwards. Lift one halved log over the other so that they form a cross at their midpoints, with the filling layers still pointing upwards. Continue to twist the strands over each other until the dough looks like a lovely twisted plait. Place in the lined baking tin and leave to prove in a warm place until the dough is fluffy, soft and doubled in size. This will take about one and a half hours in a warm kitchen, or up to two hours if it is chilly. While the dough is proving, make the sugar syrup. Place all the ingredients in a small pan and stir to dissolve the sugar. Bring to the boil, skim off any foam and remove from the heat. Preheat the oven to 220C/200C fan/gas 7. If you want to use an egg wash, brush it over the surface now. Bake in the oven for 10 minutes, then turn the tin around for an even bake and leave for another 10 minutes. Reduce the heat to 190C/170C fan/ Gas 5 and bake for a further 10 minutes.
Remove from the oven and immediately pour the sugar syrup all over the hot cake. Let the cake cool in the tin or it will fall apart.