This plum crumble is a delicious combination of oozing, juicy fruit and sweet buttery crumb topping. This take on the dessert has a gentle warm spice flavor and a touch of almond in the crumble topping that all pair perfectly. A wonderful treat on cooler summer days (or any excuse).
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Crumbles used to be one of my favorite desserts when I was a child. They are also one that I remember having the most. Whether that’s actually true or not I’m not quite sure. But I do remember a good number of apple, rhubarb and apple and blackberry versions each year as they were in season.
When I was younger, my mum used a pretty standard recipe with sweetened fruit base and flour, sugar and butter topping. For years, I assumed that there wasn’t any other way. Then when I was a bit older, she came across a variation.
That recipe added orange in with the fruit and used ginger cookies on top. It was an extra level of indulgence in an already pretty indulgent dessert. And it opened my mind to the idea of varying things more, too.
What’s the difference between a crumble, crisp and cobbler?
All three dishes have a certain amount of overlap, being a baked dessert made with a fruit base with a pastry-like topping on top. While sometimes the names can be used a little bit interchangeable, technically there are differences.
A crumble is a flour, butter and sugar topping while a crisp has oats in the topping. For both of these, the mixture is crumb-like when in is poured on top and stays relatively loose as it cooks.
Cobblers, meanwhile, have a kind of biscuit topping that you mix up and either dollop on or cut out and place on top. It makes a firmer topping once cooked.
Growing up in the UK, crumbles were more common there, while in the US, crisps and cobblers seem more popular. But I imagine it varies regionally, and I imagine sometimes people use the name they are more familiar with. Some cobblers I have had have felt more crumble-like, for example.
This, at least by most definitions, is a crumble, though it does vary from the most traditional forms with some almond flour and warm spices mixed in. Both I find work really well and could even be increased.
What kind of plums are best?
You could use a variety of different plums in this, though I would say you want ones that are relatively sweet and juicy. If they are more tart, you will probably want to add more sugar in with the plum base. I used red plums here, partly as they have such a lovely color.
I’d recommend using ripe but not overripe fruit. This way, they have a good flavor and sweetness, but hold their form a bit. Though if they do fall apart, it’s not the end of the world.
You could use frozen, defrosted fruit here as well. This would be a great way to get some of those summer flavors in colder months if you want to save some fruit while they are in season.
To freeze plums, I’d recommend you halve and stone them first, cut into slices then freeze on a lined baking sheet. Once they are frozen, transfer them to a freezer bag for longer storage.
Why do you use cornstarch?
You may be familiar with adding cornstarch/corn flour in with the fruit desserts. It’s something commonly used in fruit pies, for example (like my blueberry galette). The cornstarch in there helps thicken any juices that form to make it more of a sauce. This oozes out a little less and instead stays with the fruit.
You only need a little here so that it’s just enough to help it thicken slightly, but not so much it becomes a thick goop or you taste it.
As mentioned, I’ve added a few warm spices here that pair really well with the plums, namely ginger, cinnamon and allspice. If you don’t have or don’t like any one of these, then feel free to miss out or replace with either more of the others or something else. Other spices that would work well would be cloves or cardamom.
The fruit also has a little lemon and sugar in with them. Both of these help to bring out the fruit’s natural flavor, and the lemon adds a little freshness too.
Crumbles do take a little time to cook since they are relatively dense, but it’s all hands off in the oven. You are just aiming to get the fruit nice and soft and the top lightly browned. While the smell is no doubt tempting you to dive right in, just beware a little. The fruit tends to be really hot so give it a few minutes to cool.
You can serve this just as it is, but some cream, ice cream or creme fraiche all pair really well to balance out the richness a little. Or a little custard, if you prefer.
This plum crumble is a little indulgent, but in the best possible way. Packed with sweet and juicy soft fruit, gentle spices and buttery, slightly nutty crumb topping, it’s one delicious dessert. And it’s almost a little too easy, so find an excuse to make it when plums are in season.
Try these other stone fruit desserts:
- Grilled peaches with mascarpone
- German plum cake (Pflaumenkuchen)
- Plus get more dessert recipes in the archives.
For crumble topping
- ½ cup all purpose flour 70g plain flour
- ¼ cup almond flour 25g (also called ground almonds)
- 3 tbsp brown sugar 30g
- 3 tbsp unsalted butter 42g, cold, cut in small pieces
For fruit base
- 1 lb plums 450g
- 2 tbsp sugar 25g
- ¼ tsp cinnamon
- ¼ tsp allspice
- ⅛ tsp ground ginger
- 1 tsp cornstarch corn flour
- ½ lemon zest (ie from ½ lemon)
- 1 tbsp lemon juice
- Preheat the oven to 375F/190C.
- Place the flour, almond flour and sugar in a bowl and mix together. Add the small pieces of butter and rub them into the flour mixture to give you a coarse crumb mixture. You can also cut them in with a pastry cutter but I find by hand easier.
- Halve the plums, remove the stones then dice the plums into small bite-sized pieces. Place them in a baking dish (approx 11-12in x 7-8in (28-30cm x 18-20cm) and at least 1 in (2.5cm) deep).
- Add the sugar, cinnamon, allspice, ginger and cornstarch to the plums and mix through so they are evenly coated. Add the grated lemon zest and juice and stir to mix evenly. Even out the plums to form a relatively flat layer in the dish.
- Top the plums with the crumble mixture and spread it to the sides so that it covers all of the fruit. Bake for approximately 35 - 45 minutes until it's lightly brown on top. You may well have some fruit juices bubbling through.
- Serve warm, but take care as the fruit will be really hot just out the oven (let it cool a few minutes). Goes well with cream/creme fraiche or ice cream.
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