Baked Sunday Mornings: Fixing an oven-free ‘slump’

Sometimes, when you are in a slump (writing/cooking/baking/working/living), the best thing to do is make one. Never heard of a slump? I had, but had not made one until the Baked Sunday Mornings group put a recipe (see here: http://bakedsundaymornings.com/2018/07/20/in-the-oven-sour-cherry-slump/) for Sour Cherry Slump from “Baked: New Frontiers in Baking” by Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito (2008) on the baking schedule.

A slump is a dessert made of stewed fruit topped with a biscuit-y “crust” that is cooked atop the fruit, atop the stove. Sort of a cross between a cobbler and dumplings (“slumplings”?), it’s a perfect cooking project for this time of year, as it celebrates the fruits of the season and keeps the kitchen a little cooler with the oven off.

The slump takes its name from its structure, or lack thereof, according to “The Oxford Companion to Food,” (Alan Davidson, Oxford University Press, 1999: “…the preparation has no form and ‘slumps’ on the plate.” Louisa May Alcott, author of “Little Women,” named her Massachusetts home “Apple Slump,” and had a recipe for it.

I think any fruit can be used for a slump — it’s just that easy and forgiving. But for the recipe I would be using, cherries were the star. Unfortunately, I searched high and low for fresh or frozen sour cherries (or “pie cherries”) and came up empty . I no longer had access to the beautiful Montmorency cherries that had the most beautiful sweet-tart flavor from the trees at the home where I grew up. So, I opted to try frozen dark sweet cherries (already pitted…I told you I was in a slump, didn’t I?).

I figured that I would need a little less sugar with these cherries, and hoped the lemon zest and juice called for in the recipe, along with my own addition of a little almond extract, would enhance and complement the sweetness of the fruit.

The slump dough has the biscuit elements of flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt, but uses melted butter rather than cold, I presume, to get the fat distributed through the dough more evenly and quickly and provide a softer, denser consistency.

Sour cream (mmmm!) is used rather than buttermilk and is worked into the dough until it becomes wet.

After bringing the cherries, sugar, etc., to a boil in a cast iron skillet, I used a scoop to distribute little knobs of dough over the surface of the hot fruit. I was reminded of a stewed peach cobbler my mom used to make where the “cobbles” were plopped onto hot fruit before it was baked. I then sprinkled the dough with a little turbinado sugar, covered the pan with foil and allowed all to cook.

After about15 minutes, I took a peek under the foil. The slump is done when, much like dumplings, the topping feels somewhat dry or set to the touch (it will not be as brown as if baked). The little cobbler bits had actually bloomed up a little bit as dumplings do, but were also “sauced” nicely with the bubbling dark of the cherries.

I cannot — yet — attest to a Sour Cherry Slump (but I will when I find sour cherries), but I can say that I was well-pleased with the deep-dark sweetness and juiciness of my “sweet cherry slump.” The cherries held their shape and texture beautifully. The slump crust, fluffy and soft on top, took on the dark reddish-purple of the juices underneath to form a delicate, tender accent to the fruity stew.

I imagined future slumps of stone fruits and fall apples (like Alcott’s)…and any impending other “slumps,” of the negative kind, could perhaps be warded off with such a quick and simple, yet satisfying dessert.

Blogger’s Note: For the recipe, go to Baked Sunday Mornings at http://bakedsundaymornings.com/2018/07/20/in-the-oven-sour-cherry-slump/. For my version of this recipe, I used frozen dark sweet cherries that I thawed slightly. I used about half the amount of each kind of sugar in the cherry mixture, as well as adding a pinch of salt and about 1/4 teaspoon almond extract.

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