I have to admit: Until recent years, I was scared to death of these little things.
Are you kidding me: “Prune” in the same sentence with “dessert?” No, thank you. Prune plums are tiny and mean looking. If you don’t know any better, they look like they taste terribly sour.
And, they have a pit.
Call it leftover 8-year-old-fear-of-weird-food rearing its head in my (questionably) grown-up self, but they never seemed to belong in anything that I would even think of ingesting. Much less in dessert. I mean, to sum how I used to feel: Yuck.
I didn’t get over it until well into my late twenties. And I’m still kicking myself that it took me that long.
In recent years, prune plums have become one of my fondest fall darlings. When baked, they’re sweet, sticky, and jammy—and make a perfect filling for a bunch of different desserts.
In this crumble, they’re nestled under a blanket of buttery, crunchy oatmeal topping that’s dotted with sliced almonds.
About prune plums
Prune plums have a brief season, and are around for only a few weeks in the early fall. (Look for them when you start to see pumpkins.)
They’re about the size of an egg and have dark purple or blue skin. Even when ripe, the inside flesh is yellow. When baked, the color from the skins seeps out and turns the cooked fruit a lovely ruby tone.
When buying them, choose plums that are fairly firm—not super soft. Look for smooth skin, and avoid any that have a wrinkle-y or loose skin. They’ll likely be mealy. Ripen prune plums on the counter, then store in the fridge.
I was so excited when they finally showed up at Haymarket, Boston’s biggest public farm market, a few days ago.
If you can’t find prune plums, this crumble is delicious with regular plums, peaches, and even apples. It’s one of those messy, rustic desserts that is great eaten on its own, or with big scoop of ice cream (ginger is my favorite with this).
Italian Prune Plum Crumble
1 lb. Italian prune plums, pitted and quartered
1/2 cup dark brown sugar, lightly packed
1 1/2 Tbls. flour
2 Tbls. Chambord (or other raspberry/black raspberry liqueur)
1/2 cup flour
1/4 cup white sugar
1/4 cup dark brown sugar
pinch of salt
1/3 cup oatmeal
1/4 cup sliced almonds
6 Tbls. butter, cut into small cubes
Makes 1 9-inch round dessert
Grease a 9-inch glass pie pan lightly with oil or butter and set it aside. Pre-heat your oven to 375 degrees.
How to deal with the prune plums
Grab your prune plums.
Cut each plum in half.
Remove the pits and stems (and the little hard, knobby thing that the stem is attached to).
Prune plums are easy to pit because they’re a “freestone” fruit—as opposed to their larger, more difficult “clingstone” cousins.
Cut the plums into quarters. Leave the skins on. They melt into the filling as the crumble bakes.
Repeat with the rest of your plums until they’re all pitted and quartered. Put the plum quarters into a medium-sized mixing bowl.
Make the plum tart filling
Toss in the brown sugar and flour.
Add the Chambord (or other raspberry liqueur).
Mix gently until all the ingredients are combined. It won’t seem like it at first, but that little bit of liqueur—plus the juice from the plums—is enough to turn all the dry ingredients into a thick, sugar-y paste.
Transfer the filling to your greased pie pan. Be sure to scrape out any sugar that’s sticking to the bowl.
Your filling should almost fill the pan to the top.
Make the crumb topping for the tart
Put the flour, white sugar, brown sugar, sliced almonds, oatmeal, and salt in the bowl of your stand mixer (or a large mixing bowl, if you’re mixing by hand).
Toss in the butter. (By small cubes, I mean cut the butter about the size of a regular die—or one of those little square Laughing Cow cheese bites.)
Mix on medium-high to break up the butter and incorporate it with the rest of the ingredients. (If you’re not using a stand mixer, squeeze the butter and dry ingredients together with your hands repeatedly to soften the butter a little and smoosh them together.)
You’re aiming for a coarse meal texture.
Like this (odd-sized bits of butter are just fine):
Assemble the crumble!
Sprinkle the crumb topping over the plum mixture.
Try to spread it evenly, but don’t make yourself nuts. This is a rustic dessert. It’s OK if bits of plum are poking through. In fact, the juice they release when baking will help form a pretty pattern on the top of the finished dessert.
Bake, serve, and enjoy!
Pop the pan into your pre-heated 375-degree oven. Bake for about 45 minutes.
You want the topping to be brown and the filling to bubble up on the edges.
Yank it out of the oven when it looks about like this:
Cool it on the counter and serve warm or at room temperature. (It’s good cold, too, but you really don’t get the full flavor of the fruit that way.)