Hellooooooo, Party Week people! I’m thrilled to be joining this all-star cast of contributors to BAKED (as a longtime fan, myself), and look forward to getting to know this community even better. With that in mind, I chose to make a dessert with one of my favourite late summer/early fall ingredients: Italian-style plums (also called blue plums, or prune plums). They’re mouthwateringly tart and packed with flavour, plus they cook down into a beautiful jammy filling.
These plum and cardamom crumble bars come together in no time, since the base and the crumb topping are all one mixture, and (as an added bonus) there’s no par-baking required for the base. The hardest part is letting them cool completely in order to get a clean slice, but if you were really pressed for time, you could just scoop the mixture out into bowls while it was still warm and serve it with vanilla ice cream, like a standard crumble but with bonus crispy bits–and who doesn’t love bonus crispy bits?
It’s 3pm on a Saturday and you’ve got a couple of hours free, what are you going to bake?
If I’m a little short on time, I will always turn to the classics: brownies or chocolate chip cookies. Has anyone ever turned down a chocolate chip cookie that’s got golden edges and a chewy centre with hunks of dark chocolate scattered about and sea salt on top? No, my friend, they have not. Similarly, I have a brownie recipe in my arsenal that makes the richest, fudgiest bars imaginable. Baking doesn’t have to be complicated to be delicious.
If we were at a cocktail party, what drink would you order?
I’m not sure that I’ve ever been to a cocktail party — is that a personal failing? In any case, I would without hesitation order a negroni, which has the perfect balance of bitterness, sweetness, and aromatics. Plus, it packs a wallop of booze to help with the early-in-the-evening party jitters.
Finish this sentence. On Sunday mornings, you can usually find me…
Racing around the farmers’ markets in Toronto on my bike, or stretching and folding another batch of sourdough, or (realistically) catching up on all the laundry I’ve been putting off for a shamefully long time.
Besides baking, what else do you like to do for fun?
I have an English degree and I love to read, so I’m in something like 4 book clubs, which is great. I love rummage sales —in equal parts because I’m possessed by the thrill of the hunt, and also I’m totally nosy and really enjoy these little glimpses into someone else’s life. (In a similar vein, I spend way too much time on Craigslist looking at furniture I don’t need.) And this might go without saying, but I love to eat out at restaurants or at someone else’s home. When you’re used to being the cook, there’s nothing better than someone else making a meal for you!
What’s one of the coolest things you’ve done over the last year?
Some friends of mine and I started a cookbook club which has brought me great joy. We get together once a month and we all cook a variety of dishes from a single cookbook, then dissect our experience with the book and the recipes as we feast. It’s a real treat.
When the idea of a party theme was suggested for the re-launch of Baked-the Blog, what kind of party did you have in mind?
I suppose I was imagining the kind of party my friends and I have the most often: impromptu, casual, and usually with a potluck element to it. I love gatherings that are thrown together a bit last-minute, so that no one slaves away preparing for them, and the hosts are able to relax and enjoy themselves. If you’re buried in hosting duties and prep work, you lose sight of the fact that your guests are there to have a good time with you (yes, you)!
If you make these, let us know by tagging @baked_theblog + #bakedtheblog on Instagram! We love to feel like we’re in the kitchen with you.
- 2 cups packed diced plums*
- ¼ cup granulated sugar
- 2 Tbsp cornstarch
- ½ tsp grated lemon zest
- ¼ tsp almond extract
- 1 Tbsp lemon juice (optional)
- ½ cup unsalted butter, cubed
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- ½ cup golden yellow sugar
- ½ cup rolled oats
- ½ cup almond flour
- ¼ tsp each salt and ground cardamom
- Heat oven to 350F. Line 8" square baking pan with parchment paper.
- In large bowl, stir together plums, granulated sugar, cornstarch, lemon zest, and almond extract. If your plums are very tart, add 1-2 additional Tbsp sugar; if they're quite sweet, instead add the lemon juice. Allow to macerate for 10 minutes.
- In small saucepan over medium-low heat, gently melt your butter so that there are no crackles or pops. Remove from heat; set aside.
- In large bowl, stir together flour, golden sugar, oats, almond flour, salt, and cardamom. Stir in butter until just combined. Reserve 1 loosely packed cup of flour mixture; press remainder into prepared baking pan. Cover with plum mixture. Sprinkle with reserved flour mixture.
- Bake, rotating pan halfway through baking time, until filling is bubbling and topping is deep golden-brown, about 40 to 50 minutes. Cool completely on rack in fridge or freezer before slicing.