Plums admirably replace apples in this unexpectedly luscious and flavorful plum crisp. Throw this together for a quick dessert that does not skimp on taste.
Crisps became popular in the United States and Britain during World War II when food rationing made double-crust apple pies impractical. Instead of sandwiching fruit between layers of pastry, the fruit becomes the star with just a bit of streusel on the top.
A dessert that became popular in times of hardship remains popular for its ease to make and its simply ingredients. Most people will have the majority, if not all, of the ingredients in their pantry.
Of course, those of us who eat pie for the filling and are guilty of leaving the crusts behind will love crisps for the emphasis on the fruit filling. Maybe I’m the only one, but I’ve always felt like eating the crust was the chore of eating pie, much like eating vegetables before dessert. Essentially, to me, pie crust is the broccoli of the pie.
Crisps let you dump the guilt of the crust and just focus on the best part: the filling.
Choosing Your Plums
Because the plums really are the majority of this dessert, save this recipe for when you do have good fruit on hand. I recommend a very ripe black plum to get a juicy, syrupy finish on your crisp. This finished product is sweet with just minor bursts of tartness as a pleasant contrast.
A good rule of thumb would be to sample a slice of the plum raw first. If you wouldn’t be willing to eat it as is, it is not the best choice for a crisp. Under ripe plums that are still hard will soften up a little after baking, but you won’t end up with such a great contrast between the crisp streusel and soft fruit.
Unfortunately, most grocery stores only carry a couple varieties of plums. While there are dozens of unique types of plums, each with its own flavor profile, we often only see one red and one black plum in grocery stores.
If your local store is such a store, I recommend the black plum for this recipe. They are usually softer, plumper, and juicier, which lends well to the final texture of this crisp. A ripe black plum is usually sweeter than a red plum of similar ripeness, so you will be able to use less sugar if you choose a black plum.
Ultimately, though, the way the black plum breaks down into a thick syrup is the real selling point. It just gives a natural depth to the recipe that would make you think there are many more ingredients and steps involved than there actually is.
If you are lucky enough to have your own plum tree, most plums grown in the United States will work just fine. As a note of caution, do taste-test your crop if you are using wild plums or are otherwise unsure of the type of plum you have. Some like the Santa Rosa or Chickasaw may be a little too tart or will require extra sugar to bring it to taste.
Plum Crisp Ingredients and Instructions
- â…“ cup old-fashioned oats
- Â¼ cup all-purpose flour
- Â¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar, divided
- Â¼ cup packed brown sugar
- 3 tablespoons butter, softened
- Â¼ cup chopped pecans
- Â¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- Â¼ teaspoon ground cloves
- Â¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 5 cups sliced plums
- Â¼ cup tapioca starch
1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Spray a 9-inch glass baking dish or pie pan with cooking spray.
2. In a bowl, combine the oats, flour, Â¼ cup white sugar, and brown sugar. Using your hands, work the butter into the mixture until well combined. All of the dry ingredients should be combined into the butter. Refrigerate for 15 minutes.
3. Slice the plums into wedges. Toss with the remaining sugar and tapioca starch. Allow the coated plums to rest in the prepared baking dish for 10 minutes.
4. Top the plums with the oat mixture. Bake for 40 minutes, or until the oat mixture is golden and crispy on top.
Keep in mind that when baking with fresh fruit, your final product is always highly dependent on your fruit. Don’t be afraid to tweak the recipe depending on the characteristics of your ingredient.
I think one of the toughest parts of learning to cook and feeling confident as a home cook is trusting your judgment to deviate from a recipe. Deviations are a must, though, when cooking with fresh fruit.
From one shopping trip to another, the quality of fruit can vary depending on the orchard from where the fruit came, how long ago it was picked, at what point it was harvested, and the transportation process. That point at which the fruit is picked is really important to the flavor we experience days and weeks later when we purchase in stores.
Fruit continues to ripen even after being picked, so there is certainly an art to harvesting it at just the right time to ensure maximum flavor without it arriving in stores overripe and bruised.
If your fruit is not as ripe as you hoped for, you may need to add additional sugar when tossing with the tapioca starch. Or, if your fruit is on the way out and you can tell they are oozing with juice, add extra tapioca and sugar. The tapioca is a thickening agent, so you may need to add more to deal with extra juicy fruit.
If you do want to serve this for guests or to make it look a little nicer, you can assemble the crisp in ramekins for individual servings. Keep an eye on the oven because you will only need to bake the individual portions for about 30 minutes, or until the topping is crisp and golden brown.
Storage and Advance Preparation
Crisps in general keep well, and this is no exception. While this is definitely best served warm, leftovers are still tasty and pleasantly textured. To prevent the crumb topping from getting soggy, you can leave the crisp on the countertop and crack open the lid of the container you are using for storage.
This crisp also freezes well. For best results, assemble in a freezer safe, oven safe pan. Bake as instructed above. After the crisp cools, be sure that it is wrapped tightly with foil if it is not a freezer-safe container.
If you happen to have a plum tree that produces more plums than you know what to do with and you have plenty of freezer space, this crisp recipe is the perfect solution to use the plums and keep some gifts on hand.
Personally, I always keep a box of candles and soaps for when I need an unexpected gift, but these crisps will take your gift preparedness to the next level.
When your tree produces ripe fruit, make a large batch of this recipe to fill several dishes at once. These aluminum baking pans are a good size and hold up well in the freezer. New neighbors, families with a new baby, or those experiencing loss will all love a homemade treat that they can heat up whenever they need a pick-me-up.
Vanilla ice cream is the standard accompaniment for an apple crisp, but there are really many suitable options. Try a butter pecan ice cream to accent the nuts in the streusel.
In Britain, crisps are called crumbles, and they traditionally top them with a custard sauce called Creme Anglaise. If you have time, the custard would be a very excellent addition to this recipe.
This crisp is more than fine on its own though. It is one dish that does not need a sweet sauce or ice cream to jazz it up. A bowl of warm plum crumble is the ultimate comfort food that will keep you coming back to sneak another spoonful out of the pan.
- ¾ cup old-fashioned oats
- ⅓ cup all-purpose flour
- ¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar, divided
- ¼ cup packed brown sugar
- 3 tablespoons butter, softened
- ¼ cup chopped pecans
- ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
- ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 5 cups sliced plums
- ¼ cup tapioca starch
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Spray a 9-inch glass baking dish or pie pan with cooking spray.
- In a bowl, combine the oats, flour, ¼ cup white sugar, and brown sugar. Using your hands, work the butter into the mixture until well combined. All of the dry ingredients should be combined into the butter. Refrigerate for 15 minutes.
- Slice the plums into wedges. Toss with the remaining sugar and tapioca starch. Allow the coated plums to rest in the prepared baking dish for 10 minutes.
- Top the plums with the oat mixture. Bake for 40 minutes, or until the oat mixture is golden and crispy on top.