“Bubbly warm and juicy, this was one fantastic dessert. I had mine with a scoop of ice cream of course!” ~Trish
With peak summer fruit you want to do is enjoy it with as little effort as possible. This plum crumble is the most efficient route from point A to point B.
Any time I’m lucky enough to find myself in possession of some great summer fruit, whether it’s foraged berries, farmers market peaches, or garnet colored plums like these, my first instinct is always to make a simple crumble or crisp. Always.
A simple dessert like this is not only effortless to make, but it lets the flavors and colors of the fruit shine. The combination of quick and easy, plus the intense flavor of cooked fruit, is reason enough to make this on repeat right through Labor Day.
more crisps and crumbles to try
This is a juicy dessert, make no mistake, but the juices are thickened, and if you were to let it cool completely before scooping into it (who are we kidding?) those juices wouldn’t flood out like they do when you cut into a fruit crumble that’s warm. Anyway it’s part of the charm of a crumble, and the way that juice mingles with the crumb crust and the melty ice cream is pretty magical.
The best way to thicken a fruit crisp or crumble
Thickening the filling is usually a good idea in a fruit dessert, but it’s essential when you’re cooking plums, one of the most juicy fruits.
- The best way to thicken the base or filling for a crisp, crumble, pie, buckle, cobbler, etc., is with a food starch type thickener rather than flour.
- The best I’ve found is Instant Clearjel, which is a modified food starch thickener that works like a charm. I order mine online, and I always order in doubles because I don’t want to run out. A tablespoon or two thickens almost anything, without making it stodgy. The filling stays clear and glossy, which is essential for me. Note: ‘modified’ does not indicate genetically modified.
- Be aware that even when you thicken fruit juices they will still be somewhat runny while the dessert is hot. The real firming up happens as it cools.
- Instant Clearjel will thicken instantly, so you can actually make a raw pie filling if you like.
What is modified food starch?
- Modified food starch is food starch, such as corn, wheat, potato, and tapioca, that has been altered to enhance its performance and stability. Basically, it’s food starch on steroids.
- Modified does not mean genetically modified in this case, but you can read more about it here if you’re interested.
- Modified food starch is often gluten free, but best to check the label.
- If you prefer to use all natural food products, you can use cornstarch, (or flour, arrowroot, or tapioca) to thicken your fruit desserts and they’ll work just fine.
- The main reason to use Instant Clearjel is if you’re making a pie and you want it to slice cleanly, or if, for whatever reason, you really don’t want runny juices in your recipe. It can make sense when using very juicy fruits like berries and plums.
- Clearjel works like cornstarch or flour, so it’s ideal for fruit desserts like this, but it’s not ideal for canning.
how to make a plum crumble, step by step
step 1. prep your fruit
Wash and slice your plums into thin wedges. You can also chop the fruit if you like. Don’t peel the plums, the peel has color*, nutrition, and flavor!
*Color in food is one of my main inspirations here at tvfgi ~ the pursuit of a specific color can drive me to develop a recipe and plums are one of my favorite fruits to work with. There are loads of plum varieties, and what makes them so exciting is that they are all so different. They come in every size and color of the rainbow, and you can make this crumble with any one you can get your hands on. I especially love the little purple Italian prune plums you can get at the end of summer.
step 2. toss fruit with sugar and thickener and load into pan
Crisps and crumbles are very versatile and forgiving recipes. Choose any shallow pan you like and fit the fruit into it. Gratin or pie dishes are perfect.
step 3. top with crumble mixture & bake!
Be generous with your topping and bake until the fruit is bubbling throughout and the topping is golden.
Change up the fruit for this plum crumble
Use virtually any fruit you like, or mix and match, and frozen fruit will work fine, no need to thaw. Here are some combinations to consider:
- blueberry and peach
- peach and raspberry
- mixed berry
- cranberry and pear
- strawberry rhubarb
- blueberry rhubarb
- blackberry nectarine
- currant and plum
Change up the topping for this plum crumble
The crumble itself is just as important as the fruit in this dessert. Check out my post on how to make a big batch crumble topping for the freezer!
- Make it gluten free using almond flour.
- Go lower carb with your favorite alternative sweetener.
- Use rolled oats or crushed cookies (oatmeal, gingersnaps…) in place of part of the flours.
- Go nuts with chopped or crushed nuts like almonds, walnuts, pistachios or pecans.
- Use maple sugar or dark brown sugar.
- Add shredded coconut.
- Spice it up with cinnamon, cardamom, clove, nutmeg, or ginger for starters.
Tips for making the best plum crumble
- Above all, don’t stress about it ~ crisps and crumbles are some of the most free-form desserts around and they’re very forgiving recipes. More fruit, less topping, or vice versa, it’s all good.
- The right amount of fruit for a crumble is the amount of fruit you’ve got! Find a pan that fits your fruit and go from there.
- Don’t peel your fruit, the skin adds tons of flavor and color to your crumble.
- Fill your baking dish generously with sliced plums. The fruit will shrink down as it cooks, so you want to mound it up a bit to start with.
- Be equally generous with your crumble topping!
- Put your baking dish on a baking sheet to catch any juicy overflow.
- Cook your crumble long enough. This is a common problem; you want to cook it for about an hour, sometimes a little more, until the top is golden but, more importantly, the fruit juices are bubbling all over. If they’ve overflowed a bit, you’ve done your job right 🙂
- Top the crumble loosely with foil if it’s browning too quickly.
Let it cool before serving to allow the juices to thicken up.Don’t let it cool down too much before serving, a crumble is best enjoyed warm 🙂
- Don’t forget the vanilla ice cream! My topping of choice is vanilla bean ice cream. The chill of the ice cream plays so well with the crumble when it’s warm.
Can I make this crumble ahead?
- Crisps and crumbles are perfect for making ahead. I like to assemble the filling and the topping, refrigerate separately for up to 2 says, and then combine and bake when I’m ready.
- You can of course freeze any type of fruit to make a quicker crumble. Just slice or dice the fruit, then lay it out on a parchment lined baking sheet. Freeze until solid, about an hour, then pack in a heavy duty freezer bag, sucking out any excess air before zipping closed. You can also
- You can even freeze the topping! Freeze enough for a summer’s worth of quick crumbles using the same method as above. Lay out the prepared crumble topping on a baking sheet and freeze for an hour, then pack in a freezer bag. Portion out as needed.
- The whole crumble can be frozen, baked or unbaked, I prefer it unbaked. Wrap it securely in double layers of foil and then in plastic.
Vanilla Almond Plum Crumble
- small gratin dish or 9 inch pie plate or baking pan
- 6 large plums, mine weighed 2.2 pounds
- 1/4 cup sugar*
- seeds of one vanilla bean or 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 1/2 Tbsp Instant Clearjel, or 2 Tbsp cornstarch
- Preheat oven to 350F
- Thinly slice or chop the plums, discarding the pits. Toss with the sugar, seeds of the vanilla bean, and the Clearjel or thickener of your choice. Set aside.
- Whisk the flours and sugar together and then add the butter, breaking it up into smaller pieces, along with the extract. Use your clean hands to combine the mixture thoroughly into a crumbly texture.
- Put the fruit into a baking dish (any dish that will fit your fruit snugly is fine, mine is a 71/2 x 91/2 oval) and top with the crumble.
- Put the dish onto a baking sheet to catch any drips, and bake for 55-60 minutes, or until the top is golden and the juices are really bubbling. I sometimes top the crumble loosely with a sheet of foil toward the end of baking to prevent it browning too much.
- Serve warm, or at room temperature with vanilla ice cream. Store any leftovers on the counter covered with foil.