Named after Damascus, the dark damson or damask plum gradually penetrated every region in Europe by the way of Italy, and became famous because of its association with liqueurs such as slivovitz in the Balkans.
Damsons are also used to make prunes, and for a time were the binding material in fruit mixtures for fruit breads, but that tradition has almost died out in Europe.
Even fresh damsons are hardly used anymore in fruit breads.
These delicious small plums have survived in tarts, one in particular that is now a national dish of Luxembourg, and remains popular in Austria, Germany and Switzerland.
This is the quetschentaart (quetscheflued in Austria, zwetschgenkuchen or zwetschgenfladen in Germany and Switzerland), made from the dark quetsche plum native to central and western Europe and believed to be related to the damson plum.
This is a recipe from the turn of the 20th century.
600 g flour 160 ml milk, lukewarm 60 damsons, halved, pitted 80 g butter 50 g sugar 25 g yeast 5 g salt
This quantity will make two large pies in 26-30 cm diameter pie moulds.
Activate the yeast in half the milk with a tablespoon of flour. Leave to froth, about 20 minutes.
Combine the remaining flour with salt, the remaining milk and butter. Knead into a soft dough.
Preheat oven to 180°C.
On a floured surface, roll dough thinly, cut out two rounds with a sufficient diameter to leave an overlap at the edges of your moulds. Cut two rounds to fit over the top.
Lightly place the dough into the base. Leave both sets of dough to rise for 30 minutes.
Pack the plums tightly against each other, skin side down to keep the juice in. Sprinkle with sugar.
Cover with the remaining rounds, seal the edges.
Bake for 30 minutes.
Quetschentaart in Luxembourg is still made with variations of this yeast pastry.
Damson plums or prunes were also one of the fruits included in the pear bread still popular in parts of Switzerland.
They have lost their place to apples, so here is a recipe from the early decades of the 20th century.
800 g pears, cored, mashed 700 g bread dough 225 g walnuts 200g damsons, halved, pitted/prunes 165 g apricots, halved, pitted 150 g sultanas 125 g candied orange peel 125 g sugar Egg, for brushing Water, for brushing
Thoroughly mix all the fruit with the sugar, allow to stand for an hour.
Preheat oven to 200°C.
On a floured surface roll out the bread dough, 2 cm thick, cut into 40 cm x 20 cm rectangles.
Brush the surface of each dough rectangle with water, place a deep layer of the fruit mixture down the centre, fold the dough over and seal all edges, wash with egg.
Repeat with remaining rectangles.
Place on greased baking trays. Pierce with a fork the tops of each birnbrot.
Bake for 40 minutes.
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