Plums may be the world's perfect fruit. Counting the dozens of tasty varieties, they have a long season, from the first blush of summer into early fall. Even the ripest specimen is sturdier than a tender peach, fragile strawberry or bruised-when-you-look-at-it raspberry, which allows me to load up a sack and walk home from the market without the results being fit only for preserves. And the flavor - oh, the flavor! My ideal plum has a juicy, almost floral, nectar-sweet flesh, juice flecked with red as it drips down my arm and off my elbow, and a slightly tart skin to temper the sweetness.
I knew Italian prune plums, or quetsches, would be late this season, and it was a happy surprise to walk into my grocer to find a box of them, firm but sweet, dusty blue-black with hints of red, small and oblong. It also didn't hurt that they were $1.79 a pound.
I'm trying to learn my lesson when it comes to the first of the season fruit, so I bought eight and tucked them away for safekeeping. I cooked dinner with speed and disinterest, only concerned with when I would be able to eat dessert.
When it comes to crisps and crumbles, I tend to fly by the seat of my pants, changing ratios as the mood hits, adding or removing spices as suits the season and the fruit. A few months ago I discovered Clothilde's crumble topping, and I now put my bowl on the scale before I start spooning out ingredients.
This crisp is light and refreshing, with a sweet-tart filling and a crisp-chewy crust, spiked with ginger. I've recently started adding ground almonds to my topping - I always have ground almonds left over, from a yoghurt cake or macarons or tart crust - and I love the nutty flavor and slight chewiness that they add.
Adapted from Marian Burros and The Wednesday Chef
I made this with only 8 plums, and as much as I love crisp topping, there wasn't enough fruit. Also, taste your ginger before you add it - someone needs to develop a Scoville scale for crystallized ginger.
For the filling:
12 Italian prune plums, washed, halved, and pitted
1-2 heaping T crystallized ginger, finely chopped
For the topping:
40 g ground almonds
60 g unbleached flour
80 g brown sugar
80 g rolled oats
1/4 t cinnamon
1/4 t ground ginger
80 g butter, melted (about 6 T)
Preheat oven to 375°F. Toss the plums with the crystallized ginger and a big spoonful of brown sugar - you may need between 1 and 2 T (packed) brown sugar depending on the sweetness of the fruit. Place skin up in a small 9" pie pan or 8" square pan and set aside.
Measure out the ingredients by weight into a medium bowl. Add the spices and a teeny pinch of salt and toss to mix. Pour in the butter while tossing with a fork; mix until just combined. Sprinkle the topping over the fruit.
Bake for 20-25 minutes, until the fruit is bubbling and the topping is golden brown. Cool 10-15 minutes before serving. Serve with whipped cream, crème fraiche, sweetened yoghurt, or ice cream.