Post Haste

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What are you doing reading this? Seriously, go to your kitchen, find two pounds of fruit, and scroll down to the recipe. I’ve made it twice in as many days. I’m prepared to wager that this crumble is the nearest thing to fruit-dessert-perfection that I’ve ever made.

It’s pretty clear from my recipe log on here that I have kind of a thing for plums. This doesn’t even include the Marion Burros’s now-famous prune plum torte (one of my all time favorite desserts), or the plum cobbler I made no fewer than three times last fall, or the sweet-and-four pickled plums I’ve been experimenting with, one jar at a time, for several years. I also, it so happens, had two pounds of pitted and quartered plums still in my freezer from last fall, so when I saw the words “brown butter crumble” on Baking Bandits’ Instagram last week, I figured it was my duty to make room in my freezer for cherry season.

Like all crumbles, this recipe comes together quite easily. It also uses one of my favorite methods for a crumble with fruit that is neither soggy nor overcooked. Macerating the fruit with sugar and lemon for a half an hour yields copious amounts of liquid; by thickening those juices with cornstarch before mixing in the fruit and baking the crumble, the fruit keeps its shape and the whole mixture is thick enough to hold up under the crumb topping without getting it all soggy.

But the most delightful part of this crumble is, easily, the brown butter in the topping. After all, is there anything that isn’t improved by the nutty, caramelized flavor of brown butter? Combined with some brown sugar, this topping takes the typical crisp-crumble topping and elevates it to the starring role. I’ve been thinking about other uses for this. Pressed into a pan with some ground almonds as a base for a tart? Baked on a sheet of parchment and stirred into homemade ice cream? The opportunities might be endless.

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For now, though, I’ll just content myself with caramel-y, crumbly fruit tarts. If, unlike me, you don’t have any plums stowed away in your freezer, feel free to replace it with two pounds of any fruit of your choice, adjusting sugar if needed. My second crumble was strawberry-rhubarb (recipe adjustments at the bottom of this post), but this would great with any summer fruit—I’m particularly looking forward to trying it with peaches, blueberries, and perhaps a combination of the two.

Brown Butter Plum Crumble
Adapted from a Food & Wine recipe.

For the filling:

2 pounds (900g) Italian prune plums, pitted and quartered
2 ounces (56g/¼ cup) granulated sugar
1 tablespoon lemon juice (from about ¼ large lemon)
1 tablespoon cornstarch
pinch salt

For the topping:

4 ounces (112g/1 stick) unsalted butter, plus a bit for rubbing the pan.
4.75 ounces (133g/1 cup) flour
1.5 ounce (42g/&189; cup) rolled oats
2 ounces (56g/&188; cup firmly packed) dark brown sugar
4 ounces (112g/&189; cup) granulated sugar
1 teaspoon salt
&189; teaspoon cinnamon
pinch nutmeg

Combine the fruit, sugar, and lemon juice in a large bowl; set aside and let macerate for 30 minutes to an hour.

Preheat oven to 350ºF. Butter a 8-by-12 inch or 9-by-13 inch pan (note: you can use an 8-inch square pan, but I prefer my crumble to be thinner, for maximum bubble and crunch) and set aside.

Brown the butter for the topping: heat the butter over medium heat in a small pan, swirling occasionally and stirring from time to time, until the foam subsides, the solids turn deep golden-brown, and the whole thing smells nutty. Pour immediately into a small bowl, scraping as many of the solids in as you can.

Combine the remaining ingredients for the topic in a medium bowl, tossing to combine with a fork. Add the slightly-cooled butter and stir to combine; set aside.

Mix the cornstarch with a bit of water in a small saucepan until combined. Strain the liquids through a colander into the small saucepan and whisk well to combine. Heat over medium heat, whisking almost constantly, until just simmering and thickened, about 5 minutes. Scrape the thickened juice back into the bowl with the fruit and stir in the salt.

Scrape the fruit mixture into the prepared pan. Press the topping together with your fingers and scatter evenly all over the fruit. Bake until the fruit is bubbling and the topping is golden brown, 60–70 minutes. Let cool 5–10 minutes.

Serve warm with whipped cream or ice cream.

The crumble keeps well several days at room temperature (if you have that much self-control); cover well, and before serving, reheat for 10–15 minutes at 300ºF.

For Strawberry-Rhubarb Crumble: replace the plums with 2 pounds of hulled, sliced strawberries and chopped rhubarb, eliminate the lemon juice, increase the sugar to 4 ounces (½ cup), and eliminate the nutmeg from the topping.

Serves 8–10

 

 


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