Thursday, September 24, 2009

Plum Crunch

For a very short season, usually just August and September, you can find at farmer's markets and some grocery stores an odd-looking plum. It goes by various names--Italian Plum, Prune Plum, or Blue Plum. But it's all the same fruit, and it's available for a fleetingly short time. Grab some if you find them, because they make the most heavenly dessert, Plum Crunch. This recipe comes from a community cookbook, and as you can see, it's been tweaked and massaged until it's perfect. (See the entire recipe at the bottom of this entry.)

People who don't even like plums love this dessert. Plum lovers go ape over it. And it's easily rendered non-dairy, which makes it perfect for the lactose intolerant.

So, these are Italian Plums:

They have tiny freckles all over and a soft, bluish-gray haze that dusts their surface:

To make the dessert, cut the plums in quarters and plop them in a glass baking dish. No need to arrange them, just plop away:

This recipe uses nutmeg, which I always buy whole and grate as needed. Fresh nutmeg smells divine, and I think it clearly outperforms the pre-grated stuff. Here's some whole nutmegs, and two that have been partly used:

I put a little grater right into a ramekin or small bowl to catch all the grated bits.

There! That's enough:

To sweeten the plums, stir up the nutmeg, along with brown and white sugar, in a small bowl:

Scatter the mixture across the top of the cut-up plums, and set them aside for a moment:

Now, beat up an egg very well and set it aside for a moment, too:

Next, melt some butter in a small pan (oops! no photo of that--just imagine it's there, okay?).

Plum Crunch has a fabulous crumb topping, made of flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt:

Add the well-beaten egg into the flour mixture:

And work it together with a fork or pastry blender--or your fingers--until it forms a crumbly mass:

Pour the crumbles over the sugared plums, covering evenly:

Now pour that butter that's been melting over the top of it all:

Ummmm. Buttery deliciousness, about to happen:

Bake it until it's golden brown and bubbly:

I love the caramelized, plummy, sugary sides of the pan:

Let the dish cool a little bit, then while it's still warm, scoop up some and deliver it to your waiting plate:

Something this good deserves to be eaten with a sterling fork!:

Oh, my. Oh, my my my. And I am SO licking that plate clean! 'Scuse me....

Plum Crunch

3 cups pitted blue plums, cut in quarters (also called Italian or Prune Plums)
3 Tbsp. brown sugar
5 Tbsp. granulated sugar
1/4 tsp. nutmeg

1 egg, well beaten
1 cup all-purpose flour
7/8 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1/3 cup butter or margarine, melted (or less, for a crunchier crust)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Place plums on bottom of an 8"x8" baking dish. Mix sugars and nutmeg; sprinkle over fruit.

Stir dry ingredients together. Add egg to thoroughly mixed ingredients. Mix with pastry blender, fork, or fingers until crumbly. Sprinkle over plum mixture. Pour butter or margarine over all. Bake immediately for 45 minutes or until crust is golden brown. Serve warm or at room temperature. Fabulous with ice cream or sorbet.

Serves 10 to 12.

Suggestion: If you want to make this during the year when plums are not available, pit and quarter the 3 cups of plums, place in an airtight zip-able bag, and freeze for later use.

Variation: Recipe also works well with whole blueberries.

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