Plum Crumble, or A Moment of Being, Five Ways

I am trying, rather unsuccessfully, to take hold of this moment of being.  Give me at least five tries:

1) (Descriptive.) It’s 10 pm; the house is filled with a yellow glow; it smells jammy and warm, full of a ripe plum scent that fades in and out of recognition, intensifying as I move about.  The week is done, the work is good, there is life yet to come.  I sit on the couch, curled around Philip Pullman’s The Subtle Knife, and dream of other worlds as the rain falls insistently in this one.

2) (Directive.) Here’s what you have to do. Don’t worry; it’s rather simple, a one bowl process, really.  Take those lovely plums you got from the market a week ago, the small and fragrant ones in the brown bag.  Whisk together a bit of flour and brown sugar, spice it with ginger and cinnamon, and toss the plums–which you have now washed, halved, and pitted–until they’re nice and coated.  Put them in the bottom of a pie pan or small casserole dish (ooh yes, that blue one is perfect) skin side down–perfect.  Yes.  A rather satisfying act of order, don’t you think?

Now make your topping, mixing together flour, sugar, salt, baking powder, and a dash more of that cinnamon right in that same bowl you used the plums for.  Yes.  Add a beaten egg, and then mix it all together with your hands, tossing and squeezing together until pebbly and sandy, sort of like those beaches with the damp brown sand you used to go to as a kid.  Scatter it evenly over your cobblestoned plums–perfect–and then spoon melted butter over the top, letting it sink in like velvet.  Ah.  Yes.  That’s just right.

Slide it into your oven and take a seat; the rest of the work will be done for you.  Await the overpowering soft scent of plums.

3) (Photographic.)

4)  (Informative.) Plum Crumble (barely adapted from Orangette, who barely adapted it from Marion Burros and Luisa Weiss)

(new!) Note: The only thing I might substantially change about this recipe is the ratio of plums to actual crumble: it ends up being about 1:1.5.  For those of you who like more fruit in each bite, I might suggest (almost) doubling the plums or halving the topping.

For The Plums:
2 Tbsp. Lightly Packed Brown Sugar
1 ½ Tbsp. All-Purpose Flour
¼ tsp Ground Cinnamon
¼ tsp Ground Ginger
2 Tbsp. Finely Chopped Crystallized Ginger (I omitted this)
12 – 14 Italian Prune Plums, halved and pitted (I put in 16; as many as will fit in the bottom of your pan)

For The Topping:
Scant ¾ Cup Granulated Sugar (About 4 To 4 ½ Ounces)
1 cup All-Purpose Flour
½ tsp Ground Cinnamon
1 tsp Baking Powder
¼ tsp Kosher Salt
1 Egg, beaten well
7 Tbsp. Unsalted Butter, melted (I used 6)

In a medium bowl, whisk together the seasoning for the plums: the brown sugar, flour, cinnamon, ginger, and crystallized ginger. Add the plums, and gently stir to coat. Arrange the plums skin side up in an ungreased deep 9-inch pie plate (or small casserole dish).

In another medium bowl (eh, just use the same bowl) combine the dry ingredients for the topping: the granulated sugar, flour, cinnamon, baking powder, and salt. Whisk to blend well. Add the egg. Using your hands, mix thoroughly, squeezing and tossing and pinching handfuls of the mixture, to produce moist little particles. Sprinkle evenly over the plums.

Spoon the butter evenly over the topping, and bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until the top is browned and the plums yield easily when pricked with toothpick. Cool.

Serve crumble warm or at room temperature, with crème fraîche, thick yogurt, or unsweetened whipped cream.

5) (Poetic.) This is just to say (adapted from William Carlos Williams‘ poem of the same name, but in a future, non-confessional, invitational mode)

I am waiting
for the plums
that are in
the oven

and which
I will definitely
eat
for breakfast 

Come join me
they'll be delicious
so sweet
and so warm
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6 thoughts on “Plum Crumble, or A Moment of Being, Five Ways

  1. I loff that you paraphrased WCW, and am now inspired to make a boatload of plum stuff tomorrow. The grandparent-in-laws have a garden full of fruit that I keep not eating. I did a huge amount of jam last year, still have a lot left. Crumble it is tomorrow so.

    • Hey there Dee — The grandparent-in-laws’ garden sounds totally wonderful. And plum jam! Incredible! That’s one part of the culinary, do-it-yourself world that I would love to explore at some point. Although the crumble doesn’t stay around as long as jewel-like pots of jam, it is still very rewarding and delicious. Let me know what you think 🙂

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