Mady and I brought home our first tomatoes of the season from the market on Saturday. One basket of tiny little sungold tomatoes. They are super sweet and it's all I can do to stop myself from standing at my kitchen counter and popping them one by one into my mouth. The heirloom tomatoes are still a bit pricey, but oh my lordy I am already dreaming of the heaps and heaps and HEAPS of tomatoes I'll be bringing back soon enough. And soon enough it will be fruit fly heaven in my kitchen.
The sad truth is, however, that I am not Hercules, and these heaps of tomatoes aren't the lightest load in the world. Not only that, but they are fragile and can be easily smushed and poked by their neighbors in my market bags.
Thus, after much discussion, Mady and I have decided that the stone fruit - the peaches and nectarines and plums and pluots - just might have to be left behind. Sad, yes, but there are actually a few grocery stores nearby my apartment that sell produce from a lot of the same farmers we buy from at the market.
But before tomatoes take center stage, I knew I wanted to make some kind of stone fruit crisp, cobbler, crumble, or whatever you call it.
The usual suspects in a crumble for me are rolled oats, flour, brown sugar, and butter. I love the taste of oats in everything from crumbles to cookies and sometimes I'll throw a few nuts in there too. But this time around I went in a different direction, leaving out the oats entirely and experimenting with a bit of ground hazelnuts.
The recipe here is a bit of a twist on Nigel Slater's plum crumble tart from his book Ripe . Slater's book is more poetry than it is cookbook - the language he uses to describe each of the 23 fruits in the book is intoxicating. If you've ever dreamed of having your own little garden to walk through or at least having a single fruit tree or bush to tend to, this book is right up your alley:
"When I find the perfect plum, jelly-fleshed and incandescently ripe, its golden skin flashed with crimson freckles, I make a great fuss of it. I have even been known to get out a small plate and a napkin. I eat slowly, imagining time stopped. More usually, I come across such a fruit without warning, having little alternative but to eat it from the hand, spitting the pit into the long grass below."
Yes, Nigel, I too sometimes make a fuss over a perfect plum, eating it straight over the kitchen sink as the juice drips down my arm, spitting the pit into my compost bin down below. But seriously, you can see how this book is just a dream to page through on a Sunday morning.
I've tweaked the recipe a bit by using half white flour and half whole wheat pastry flour (the original calls for regular AP white flour), and by using ground hazelnuts instead of almonds. I also loaded up on plums to make sure there was enough juicy fruit to stand up to the nutty crust.
PLUM HAZELNUT TART (adapted from the plum crumble tart in Nigel Slater's Ripe )
- 1 cup white all-purpose flour
- 1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
- 1/2 cup brown sugar, packed (I used dark muscovado sugar)
- 1 cup hazelnuts (or 1 cup ground hazelnuts)
- 1 cup cold butter
- 1 1/2 to 2 pounds plums
- 1/3 cup pine nuts
Preheat the oven to 350° F. Line the bottom of a 9- to 9 1/2-inch square baking pan with a single piece of parchment paper, bring it up two opposite sides of the pan so you can use it to lift the tart out easily.
Toast the hazelnuts on a baking sheet in the 350 degree oven for 10-15 minutes, until your kitchen smells divine and their skins start to look a bit blistered. Remove the hazelnuts from the oven, wrap them in a kitchen towel, and leave them to steam for a couple minutes. Then rub off the skins of the hazelnuts with the kitchen towel. Some of the brown skin will be stubborn but it's fine to have a bit of it left behind. Grind the hazelnuts to a powder using a mortar and pestle or a food processor.
Put the flour, sugar, and hazelnuts into a mixing bowl, cut the butter into small chunks, and rub it into the flour mixture with your fingertips. Stop when what you have resembles coarse fresh breadcrumbs. Tip two-thirds of the crumb mixture into the baking pan and gently flatten it to form a thin base, pushing it well into the corners. Firm it gently, but don't compact it.
Cut the plums in half or quarters, remove the pits, and lay the pieces of fruit on the crumb base. Mix the pine nuts into the remaining crumbs and scatter them loosely over the plums. Let some of the fruit show through.
Bake for 45 to 50 minutes, until the fruit is bubbly and the crust is golden. Leave to settle before lifting out of the basking pan and onto a cooling rack.