Plums contain a wealth of antioxidant anthocyanins, vitamins, and minerals. They are also a delicious source of fiber and may help balance glucose metabolism, enhance bone health, lower the risk of heart disease, and even prevent cancer.
This week’s recipe combines the sweetness of plums with the earthy richness of rye flour in Black Plum and Rye Crumb Bars. It was sent to CCSA as part of a series of emails from our resident chef, Dr. Linda Doody. She has been sharing her extensive collection of favorite recipes with friends, family, and the CCSA team as a means of maintaining connections during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Live in each season as it passes: breathe the air, drink the drink, taste the fruit.”
– Henry David Thoreau
Black Plum and Rye Crumb Bars
- 200 grams unsalted butter, cubed
- 210 grams all-purpose flour
- 50 grams rye flour (Rye flour is labeled either light, medium, or dark. These classifications refer to the amount of bran and germ that has been removed; dark rye flour has the most bran and germ left intact.)
- 80 grams granulated sugar
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 650 grams dark plums, ~5 plums, roughly chopped (A mixture of round dark blue-purple plums and Italian prune plums is recommended. Apricots would also be a good option, as well as peaches or berries. Keep the weight the same but adjust the sugar to the sweetness of the fruit.)
- 75 grams granulated sugar
- 1 Tbsp all-purpose flour
- ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg (For plums, try cinnamon or cloves.)
- ½ teaspoon salt
- Zest from ½ small orange
- 50 mL brandy or freshly squeezed orange juice (Grand Marnier or Cointreau can be substituted for the brandy.)
- Few drops of angostura bitters (Angostura bitters is a concentrated herbal alcoholic preparation based on gentian [bitterwort], herbs, and spices. It is typically used to flavor beverages.)
- Seeds from 1 vanilla bean or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 70 grams all-purpose flour
- 30 grams rye flour
- 40 grams rye flakes (Rye flakes come from the kernels or “berries” of the rye plant. They are made like rolled oats—by steaming, rolling, and drying the rye berries. Traditional or old-fashioned oatmeal can be substituted.)
- 30 grams granulated sugar
- ¼ teaspoon baking powder
- ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 75 grams cold unsalted butter, cubed (The original recipe did not specify salted or unsalted butter. If salted butter is used, the amount of added salt should be decreased.)
- 50 grams pecans, chopped (Other nuts can be substituted if preferred)
- A few Tbsp powdered sugar
- Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease and line an 8×8-inch square pan with parchment paper. Let the paper slightly overhang the sides to use as handles.
- Place the butter into a medium-sized saucepan set over medium-low heat. Heat, stirring often, until it is melted and golden. Remove from the heat and let cool slightly.
- Meanwhile, whisk together the flours, sugar, and salt. Pour in the melted butter and use a large wooden spoon to work the mixture until a soft dough ball has formed. Using your fingers, press the dough evenly onto the bottom of the prepared pan, making sure it reaches all the way to the edges. Bake for 15–18 minutes, or until just firm and beginning to turn golden brown. (Note: Even using the oven’s convection setting, this took about 10 minutes longer than stated.) Set aside to cool.
- Place the plums into a large-size mixing bowl. Scatter over the sugar, flour, nutmeg, and salt, then sprinkle over the orange zest and salt. Toss the ingredients together and then add the brandy or orange juice, bitters, and vanilla. Stir the mixture together until evenly incorporated and moistened. (Note: If the fruit is meaty [e.g., Italian prune plums], it can be cooked with the sugar on the stovetop until tender, about 10 minutes, adding a little cornstarch if a lot of juice is produced.) Set aside while preparing the crumb.
- Combine the flours, rye flakes, sugar, baking powder, nutmeg, and salt in a medium-size mixing bowl. Add the cold butter and use your fingers to rub it into the dry ingredients until a roughly sized crumb has begun to form. Add the pecans and toss to combine.
- Spread the fruit mixture over the cooled crust, then scatter the crumb over the top. Bake for 35–40 minutes, or until golden brown. Remove from the oven and let cool completely in the pan. When cool, lift the bars from the baking pan. Using a sharp knife, cut into 9 or 12 evenly sized bars, then sift powdered sugar over before serving. (Note: Vanilla ice cream is a great accompaniment to the sweet/tart plum filling.)
This recipe calls for weighing most of the dry ingredients. According to Alice Medrich in Gluten-Free Flours: A New Way to Bake with Non-Wheat Flours (2014), flour is one of the trickiest of all ingredients to measure. The style of measuring (dipping, spooning, or sweeping) can cause the weight of 1 cup of any flour to vary as much as 50%. Additionally, weight and volume are not the same for all flours and there is no standard for the fineness of the same flour from different mills. So, a scale is the simplest and most accurate way to measure, plus fewer utensils are required.
In this recipe, rye flour added a subtle nutty, malty complexity and seemed to accentuate the butter flavor in the crumb topping. Rye is “finally having a moment” in baking according to the Los Angeles Times (https://www.latimes.com/food/la-fo-0604-rye-baking-20160524-snap-story.html). This article states “the reason rye has lagged behind is that it’s intimidating, long considered a challenge to bakers because of its low gluten content, which can make it more difficult to work with and produce crumb that can be gummy. Rye is also high in amylase enzymes and pentosans, both of which contribute to that characteristic gummy quality. But if you experiment with using only percentages of rye in recipes—and use recipes from experienced bakers and pastry chefs—then rye can be surprisingly easy to use.” King Arthur Baking also says that rye pastries are melt-in-your-mouth tender because of the softer gluten structure compared with wheat (https://www.kingarthurbaking.com/recipes/collections/sweet-side-of-rye).
https://www.butterandbrioche.com/black-plum-and-rye-crumb-bars/ Thalia Ho (downloaded 8/13/2021)