Pleasing the plum palate

Is it possible I’ve been hypnotized by a fruit? If so, it is the plum that has seduced me, once again. Fortunately — or not, really — the season is woefully short, but during it, I find myself drawn, again and again, to the stunning array of plums, pluots and plum/cherry hybrids, gleaming like jewels at the farmers’ market. I cannot turn away.

Whenever I go, I come back with a few different kinds of sweet-tart pluots, their red skin color seeping deep into their flesh. They’re crisp and juicy (not water balloon gishy like many equate plums’ texture to be), and I eat them sliced on a small plate, dark ruby slivers that remind me of the ones served to me in the same way by the wife of a famous Depression-era photographer I had interviewed years ago in Southern California.

They’re so beautiful, they’re like eating art. They taste, to me, better than any fruit, the most floral and intense and luscious of all (and whose bloom scent still haunts me from childhood). The beautiful variety of colors and tastes of these plums also reminds me of the scars from childhood due to canned plums, which I remember as being darkly colorless, bland and shiny-mushy, like something that just fell out of its shell.

While fresh plums and their kin are good enough to just eat on their own, I am also sometimes gobsmacked by a recipe that makes me willing to relinquish my nightly sensory plate-lette of plums to make something with them. I saw a video from Bon Appetit magazine of a baker named Briana Holt of Tandem Coffee and Bakery in Portland, Maine, making a plum-rosemary crisp that was so enticing I was even inspired to buy spelt flour to make it.

Spelt flour comes from an ancient strain of wheat, said to be lighter and sweeter than other wheats. It is not gluten-free (if that is your concern) and can come in carrying degrees of graininess for baking. I chose a white spelt flour, but I do think this recipe could handle more whole-grain flours, if desired, or using regular all-purpose flour would work, too.


The topping for this recipe is a delightful blend of the spelt flour and rolled oats, brown sugar, salt, cinnamon and cardamom and melted butter. Once a bowl of the crumbly topping is assembled, it is recommended that one gives it a drying-out period to yield a crisper finished result.Good tip! I gladly obliged.

The filling combines cut-up fresh plums (I chose two different kinds of pluots, plum-apricot hybrids), brown sugar, lemon juice and zest, chopped fresh rosemary and little apple cider vinegar (a nice zing). The plums and sugar and first introduced and allowed a time to draw juices from the fruit. Then all the rest combined together with some flour to thicken.

The plum filling goes into a buttered baking dish with the crumb topping sprinkled evenly over top. Then into the oven.


My heavenly plums, roasting beneath that golden crispy top crust, emitted their ruby juices and a new roasted rendition of their floral aroma. They still held up their firm snap of freshness, even cooked in this dessert, the deep rosemary and tang of vinegar and lemon only provided more cause for plum celebration. And the crunchy oat-spelt topping…well, future apples and pears can speak “crisp-ly,” too.

Plum-Rosemary Crisp with Oat-Spelt Topping
From Tandem Coffee and Bakery for Bon Appetite (www.bonappetit.com)
Makes 8 servings

Filling
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted
3 pounds ripe plums, cut into wedges
2 teaspoons finely chopped rosemary
1 tablespoon plus ⅓ cup raw sugar or (packed) dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest
Pinch of kosher salt
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

Topping and Assembly
1 cup old-fashioned oats
3/4 cup spelt flour
1/4 cup raw sugar or (packed) dark brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Pinch of ground cardamom
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, slightly cooled

Filling

Brush inside of a shallow 2-qt. baking dish with butter. Toss plums, rosemary, and 1 Tbsp. raw sugar in a large bowl. Let sit, tossing once or twice, until plums release their juices, 15–20 minutes.

Add vinegar, zest, salt, and remaining ⅓ cup raw sugar to plums and toss to combine. Sprinkle flour evenly over top and toss until flour is no longer visible.

Transfer filling to prepared baking dish and spread out to make an even layer; set aside.


Topping and Assembly

Preheat oven to 350°. Whisk oats, spelt flour, raw sugar, salt,
cinnamon, and cardamom in a medium bowl. Drizzle butter over
mixture, tossing with a fork to incorporate. As soon as all the butter
has been added, work with your hands until no dry spots remain and
mixture holds together in clumps. Scatter over a rimmed baking sheet
and let sit uncovered at room temperature until slightly dried out (this
will help it crisp in the oven when baking), 10–15 minutes.

Scatter topping evenly over reserved filling. Bake crisp on a foil-lined
rimmed baking sheet until topping is golden and crisp and fruit juices
are bubbling around the edges, 35–45 minutes. Let cool at least 15
minutes before serving.


Do Ahead: Topping can be made 2 days ahead; after drying out,
cover and chill. Crisp can be baked 8 hours ahead; let cool, then tent
with foil. Reheat, uncovered, in 350° oven 10–15 minutes.

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