Monday, August 25, 2008

Things That Go Slump In the Night

I was so excited about the little plums I found at the farmers' market on Saturday. They looked just like the juicy, sweet little morsels I found last year -- the ones that made such a glorious cake.

But unfortunately, they turned out to be a good bit shy of dead ripe, still having a good deal of firmness, a hint of green, and even a sour taste in selected specimens. (Let this be a lesson: feel the fruit before buying!)

So, after that initial mouth-puckering bite, I decided I'd probably be better off just baking with these plums and not eating them out of hand.

I sifted through my recipe books and found in the King Arthur Flour Whole Grain Baking cookbook a recipe for a pear-cherry slump that sounded like it could be easily adapted.

What's a slump, you ask? Good question!

It turns out that the traditional cobbler has many close kin where baked fruit desserts are concerned. Cobblers have pieces of cut-out biscuit dough laid on top of the fruit, crisps and crumbles have (you guessed it) crumbly toppings that crisp up in the oven, and slumps and grunts (what wonderful names!) use a moist batter to top the fruit, which releases the steam to cook the batter. Slumps and grunts, according to my book, can also be cooked on top of the stove (and were especially well done on a woodstove, quietly humming to themselves all day), and as the dough steams and bubbles, it "grunts."

Being a bit of a lazy sort this evening -- having spent my energy in canning three more pints of tomato sauce -- I decided to make the slump, thinking that the batter would be quicker to make than the biscuit dough.


I washed, halved, and pitted the plums and arranged them in a greased square baking pan before drizzling them with some leftover ground cherry syrup (again, too lazy to mix a fresh syrup from scratch!). The batter came together easily, and though I had a bit too much, I slopped it on top of the plums (well, that's the gist of the recipe's instructions) and drizzled that with a little more ground cherry syrup to create the steamed effect.

Really, I didn't follow half the directions, but wouldn't you know it, forty minutes later I had a pretty good looking dessert!


The dough was tender and tasty, and the plums had absorbed enough sweetness to modify the tartness of the fruit. Just right!

I suppose I should try the recipe the right way next time -- or even make a proper cobbler, biscuits and all -- but I'm not going to lose sleep over this dish.


Plum Slump

I modified this recipe heavily from the one in the King Arthur Flour Whole Grain Baking book, partly out of what ingredients I had on hand, but mostly out of laziness. If you have a simple syrup (flavored or not) on hand -- that's 1:1 sugar or honey to water, brought to a boil and cooked until sugar is dissolved -- you can use that as I did the ground cherry syrup. If not, splash the fruit with 1/4 c orange juice (or other fruit juice?) and 1/4 c sugar. Boil a similar syrup to drizzle over top.

Batter
1 c spelt flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp salt
3 T unsalted butter
2 T maple sugar
1 large egg
1/2 c milk or half and half

Filling
4 c (or so) washed, halved, pitted plums
drizzle of simple syrup (roughly 1/4 c)

more simple syrup on top

Sift together flour, baking powder, ginger, and salt. Cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Mix in maple sugar. In small bowl, beat egg and milk together, then add to dry ingredients to make a lumpy batter.

Preheat oven to 400 F. Grease a 9" square baking pan.

Arrange plums in bottom of pan and drizzle with syrup. Drop spoonfuls of batter on top of plums, leaving space in between dollops of batter. Drizzle a little more syrup over the batter.

Bake for 40 minutes, until batter is golden brown and fruit is bubbling. Allow to cool at least 10 minutes before serving.

Serves 12

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