I wasn’t sure what to call this. Technically it’s more cake than pie, but calling it cake doesn’t do justice to a pieplateload of juicy fruit topped with a sweet, crunchy topping; it’s not a pie either – it has no pastry but is baked in a pie plate and cut into wedges. The fruit-topping ratio is reminiscent of a crumble or a cobbler, but this is easier than any of the above. I could go as far as to call it foolproof.
Generally I don’t make dessert on a regular Monday night, but I had bought red and yellow plums on the weekend with something specific in mind – cobbler? Pie? Upside down cake? It was something, but today I had no idea what it was, and flipping through the rained-on-and-dried-out magazines on my front step gave no clues. Also, I happened to have whipping cream in the fridge, which almost never happens. So I couldn’t really not make something out of the plums.
I picked up one of my favourite cookbooks, Classic Home Desserts by Richard Sax (a cookbook Mike bought me literally decades ago just because he knew I liked cooking), and flipped through to a recipe I was instantly drawn to years ago, probably because the intro begins with: “Stick a bookmark right here, and leave it in.” It’s called Ligita’s Quick Apple Cake (pg. 383), but it doesn’t need apples. Richard describes it as a “custardy batter quickly poured over apples and baked to a crusty gold.” I wouldn’t describe it as custardy, but would zero in on the browned butter – a simple step that intensifies the nutty buttery flavour a thousandfold. (I cut the butter by a third to 1/2 cup, and will likely try to reduce it a bit more next time, although it undoubtedly contributes to its crunchy, buttery bliss. I would have licked out the butter-melting pot if I wasn’t afraid of burning off my tastebuds.)
That’s it: I’ll call it Browned Butter Bliss. Today, Plum Browned Butter Bliss. This is one of those great go-to recipes that you could use with apples, pears, plums, peaches, berries, apricots, cherries… really anything that needs to be turned into something any time of year. I love the combination of sweet crunch on top and juicy sourness underneath, and the look of both yellow and red plums together.
Oh right, dinner. It seems uneventful after the Bliss – a big salad yukaflux with roasted beets, blueberries, peas from the garden and grilled chicken which I painted with some of the raspberry vinaigrette leftover from last weekend before I grilled it. It sounds much fancier than it actually was.
But seriously – Browned Butter Bliss. Once you make it, it will turn into one of those things that you stir together on autopilot whenever you need something fruity and delicious.
Browned Butter Bliss
(by way of Ligita’s Quick Apple Cake in Classic Home Desserts)
8 or so plums, thickly sliced, or apricots, or 3 peaches, or the original calls for 3 tart apples, peeled and thinly sliced
a squeeze of lemon juice, if you’re using apples
3/4 cup + 3 Tbsp. sugar (or to taste, according to the sweetness of the fruit)
1/2 tsp. cinnamon (or to taste)
1/2 cup butter
2 large eggs
1 cup all-purpose flour
Preheat the oven to 350°F and butter a pie plate.
Toss your fruit in a bowl (or the pie plate) with about 2 Tbsp. sugar and the cinnamon; spread into the plate. Melt the butter in a small saucepan and keep cooking it, swirling the pan occasionally, for about 5 minutes or until it turns golden. Pour into a bowl.
Stir the 3/4 cup of sugar into the butter, then the eggs, then the flour. Pour over the fruit and sprinkle with the last tablespoon of sugar.
Bake for 40-45 minutes, until golden and crusty, and the juices ooze from around the edges. Serve warm with vanilla ice cream, whipped cream or thick vanilla yogurt.