Emerald Beaut Plum Crumble

So, besides the salad already mentioned, here is where many of those green-skinned Emerald Beaut plums ended up. Surprise! They’re yellow inside! Don’t they look nearly like peaches, as yellow as they are? It’s only the lack of any red coloring around the pit cavity that gives them away as plums.

Chimp and I made a double batch – two 8×8 pans – of plum crumble at the start of the week; I took one of the pans down to the office on the day of a meeting and we kept the other one to enjoy ourselves.

This recipe became a major favorite of mine last summer, when we made at least four double recipes of it with large quantities of fruit left over from photo shoots. It’s adapted from the July/August 2006 Cook’s Illustrated, where it was originally a recipe for peach crumble (having tested multiple varieties of all three fruits in this recipe, sometimes in combination, I can vouch that plums work equally well, as do nectarines).

What I love about this recipe is that it makes a massive amount of topping – none of this little-bit-of-crispy-stuff-on-top-of-a-whole-lot-of-fruit problem. There is at least as much volume of crunchy, crumbly topping as fruit, and it’s like a miracle – you just pulse it up in the food processor, spread it out on a sheet to bake, and when it comes out, it’s made itself into all these little cookielike nuggets with bits of almonds in them. I have seriously considered just making the topping, rolling it out into shortbread cookies and forgoing the fruit altogether.

So there is a two-step baking process here – bake the topping, then place it on the fruit and bake the fruit – but it is entirely worth it. I use white whole wheat flour and I think the extra nuttiness makes for an even better end result than when I first made it with unbleached. After all, crumbles often have whole oats in them, so why not a whole-wheat flour?

We went ahead and peeled the plums on this occasion, but if you’re not fussy and the fruit isn’t fuzzy, I don’t think that’s even absolutely necessary.

Oh, and a tip – if you are baking and you find yourself with stone fruit that is clingstone, as we did on this occasion, don’t wrestle with trying to cut wedges off the pit. Instead, set the fruit on its stem end (on its head, basically) and cut down both sides of the pit to cut the cheeks off. Then cut off the other two sides that are left, then the little bit at the tip. You’ll lose a little bit that sticks to the pit, but that’s always the case with clingstone fruit, and cutting it that way is safer than trying to knife and extricate all those little wedges away from the pit while holding the slippery piece of fruit in one way or another.

Filling:

3 1/2 lbs. peaches, plums or nectarines (6 to 7 medium peaches or nectarines, 7 to 9 plums), peeled (in the case of fuzzy peaches; plums and nectarines can be left unpeeled if you want the extra fiber and don’t mind the skin) and cut into 3/4-in. wedges
1/3 c. sugar
1 1/4 t. cornstarch
3-5 t. juice from one lemon (add to taste to the fruit depending on sweetness; the sweeter the fruit, the more lemon juice it can take – the tartness will add dimension to the flavor)
pinch table salt
1/4 t. cinnamon
1/4 t. ground nutmeg
1/8 t. cardamom

Topping:
1 c. white whole wheat flour (trust me, they’ll never know)
1/4 c. granulated sugar
1/4 c. packed light or dark brown sugar
1/8 t. table salt
2 t. vanilla extract
6 T. unsalted butter, cut into 6 pieces, very soft
1/2 c. slivered almonds

Adjust oven racks to lower and middle positions; heat oven to 350 degrees.

Filling:

Place the fruit and sugar in a large bowl and stir gently to combine. Allow to macerate for a half-hour, stirring occasionally, then drain fruit in a colander, catching juice in a large bowl. In a small bowl, mix together 1/4 c. of the reserved juice, the cornstarch, lemon juice to taste, salt and spices. (Remaining juice can be discarded…or better yet, mixed with liquor! Bourbon is good.) Place fruit in an 8×8 baking dish and pour juice mixture over it; toss gently to combine.

Topping:

Place flour, sugars, and salt in food processor workbowl and sprinkle vanilla extract over dry ingredients. Pulse to combine, then add butter and nuts and process until the mixture begins to show signs of clumping together – this will take about half a minute. (If it doesn’t seem terribly clumpy, don’t worry – it’ll clump in the oven.)

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and turn the crumble out onto the paper. Spread it in an even layer across the sheet. If there are few chunks, pinch a few with your fingers to encourage it. Place on middle rack of oven and bake 18 minutes, until light brown.

To finish:

Pick up the edges of the parchment paper and slide the topping onto the fruit. Spread it into an even layer over the fruit. Place on the lower oven rack, increase oven temperature to 375 degrees and bake until well-browned and fruit is tender, 20-25 minutes.

Remove from oven and set on a wire rack to cool somewhat. Crumble can be served warm, room temperature or cool. Store in refrigerator.

Makes about 6 good-sized servings or 8 smaller ones (of a good size when combined with ice cream).

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