Saturday, August 14, 2010

Plum Cherry Crisp

As the summer wears on, I continue to be delighted by the abundance of local fruit. It's not that there was any particular shortage in my former states, but something about the California sunshine and the way trees everywhere are bending with their burden of fruits at the point of bursting makes this summer feel special. Just now, for example, I am finding myself with an excess of plums. And I am not, in general, a plum fan. I almost never buy them at the store because I dislike the bitter tartness of the peel and the way the flesh clings so unpleasantly in the seed. I've discovered, though, that I actually like plums quite a bit. The plums I'm currently overwhelmed with (in more than one sense) are smallish, very dark purple, and oblong. From my time at the coop, I believe that these are sometimes called Italian prune plums. The skin is not overly tart, and the flesh separates easily from the seed, making them a breeze to slice and dice.

When I first realized that I had acquired more plums than I had a good plan for, I recalled seeing a recipe in the Veganomicon for a crisp made with plums and strawberries. Isa uses a 9x13 pan in her recipe, but I opted to bake mine in a large cast-iron skillet. When I first took a run at this, I pretty much followed her recipe with just a few changes. I liked the resulting crisp just fine, but it also piqued my desire to see if I could do something else with it. Baking it in the larger pan seemed to open up some other possibilities. For one thing, I wasn't totally satisfied with the combination of strawberries and plums, and it occurred to me that cherries might be a fantastic substitution as well as being a complementary stone fruit. Indeed, after baking, it seemed like the plums and the cherries sort of merged into an altogether different fruit. It's definitely the kind of thing I can get behind. I also tweaked enough of the other flavors and proportions sufficiently to claim this bad boy as my own. I imagine you could mix and match different kinds of stone fruit--nectarine and cherry crisp, anyone?--with excellent results. Isa's recipe called for a bit of anise in the crispy topping, which I enjoyed so much that I included much more of it in my version. I also added molasses to the topping and balanced it all with orange zest.

Plum Cherry Crisp

4 cups cubed plums (about 25 small plums)
2 cups pitted sweet cherries
1/2-2/3 c sugar (depending on your taste)
zest from one small orange
pinch of salt
1 t cinnamon
3 T cornstarch

Oaty Topping

1 1/4 c quick or rolled oats (I used quick)
1/2 c whole spelt flour
1/3 c sugar
1 T molasses
1 t salt
1 T (heaping) anise seeds
1/3 c canola oil

Preheat your oven to 375. In a large bowl, toss the prepared fruit with cornstarch, zest, sugar, salt, and cinnamon. When the fruit is well-coated, spoon it into a cast-iron pan. Smooth it out as much as possible. In the same bowl (who cares if it's a little mucked up with fruity goo?), combine the dry topping ingredients. Add oil and stir with a fork until the mixture starts looking crumbly. Sprinkle evenly over the fruit and bake 45 minutes.


Mihl said...

Your plums are the kind we have in Germany, too. Right now they pop up everywhere and I love them raw. But I wouldn't say no to your crisp, the combination with cherries sounds amazing!

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