I know it's boring to talk about the weather, but here I am, bringing it up again. Living in a place with four distinct seasons forces me to stop and reflect upon what each season brings. Maybe this tendency (along with the grey hair that has started sprouting out of my head) is just another sign that I'm getting older, who's to say for sure? All I know is that this summer, NYC is bringing the heat. It has been a hot, humid summer tempered only by an occasional epic thunderstorm and lots of cold watermelon.
Despite my general dislike of east coast summer temps, I've found a way to ease myself right into the season this year. I find myself in the kitchen most days, weighing flours, cutting butter into even hunks, dropping cubes of ice into a measuring cup of water. I make pie dough and puff pastry and crumbles like this one to house all of the gorgeous summer fruit that I can't stop buying. I make endless, floury messes and clean them up countless times. I turn on the oven when it is far too hot for any sane person to bake. Then, I load my camera with film and try to capture some of this season's essence to remember later in the year when I am complaining about how my toes just won't get warm no matter how many pairs of socks I put on. And if I'm lucky I get to escape the city every once in a while for wide open spaces, hopefully to gather more of summer's bounty.
These perfectly tart crumb bars were baked for just such an occasion, when a group of city kids migrated upstate for the day to drink icy cold beers and make pizzas in a wood fired oven that I had a hand in building. Next time I get up there I am going to do some wood fired baking. Wish me luck!
Whole Wheat Plum Crumb Bars
yield 1 9x13 pan
For the Bottom Crust
6 ounces/170g butter, melted and cooled
3.5 ounces/100g sugar
4.5 ounces/127g all purpose flour
4.5 ounces/127g whole wheat flour
2t vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 350º and line a 9x13 baking pan with foil or parchment paper. Lightly grease the inside of the pan.
1. In a large bowl, combine the flours, sugar, and salt. Make a well in the center of the mixture and add in the melted butter and vanilla extract. Stir gently until a dough forms.
2. Pat the dough evenly into the prepared pan. Slide the pan into the oven and bake until light golden brown, about 20 minutes. Set aside to cool while you prepare the filling and crumble.
For the Filling
The plums I used for this recipe were quite tart. The amount of sugar listed below sweetened them gently while leaving some of that lovely tartness behind, which was perfect. If you are working with sweet juicy plums, you might want to cut back on the sugar a bit.
1lb plums (I used a combination of red and black plums)
1.75 ounces/50g sugar
1/2t ground cinnamon
1t ground cardamom
2t vanilla extract
.5 ounce/14g flour
1. Pit and roughly chop the plums. Put them in a bowl and add the sugar, spices, vanilla and flour. Toss gently to combine. Pour over the cooled crust.
For the Crumb Topping
6 ounces/170g soft butter
3.5 ounces/100g rolled oats
2.25 ounces/64g all purpose flour
2.25 ounces/64g whole wheat flour
5 ounces/120g sugar
1/4t baking soda
Preheat oven to 375º
1. In a large bowl, combine the oats, flours, sugar, baking soda and salt. Add in the butter and use your hands to work it into the mixture until it holds together in medium clumps. Sprinkle it evenly over the plum filling.
2. Slide the bars into the oven and bake until the topping is golden brown and the plums begin to release their juices, 30-40min. Cool completely before slicing