If ever a dessert existed that--all in one dish--encapsulated the summers of my childhood, it's the spectacular Plum-Peach Crumble.
But previously I've always had to hit the grocery store produce aisle or borrow from someone else's fruit trees to complete the process of making it.
Not this year! I'm proud to report that every smattering of peaches and plums needed to hatch up this wonderful creation hailed from my own back yard.
Our plum tree, for the first time, yielded a bevy of baby plums--prolific, sweet, and juicy. Into the pie mix they went, along with a small sackful of peaches I'd been hoarding until the plums were ripe and ready.
For dessert last night we had the Moore Orchard-produced Peach-Plum Crumble. O, was it a spectacular treat!
The reason Plum-Peach Crumble encapsulates my childhood is very simple. In the yard my parents purchased to build their home on Garland's South 11th Street were two kinds of fruit trees--peaches and plums. Summers were spent with me alternating between these delicious fruit: after lunch one day I'd snare a fresh peach for dessert; another day I'd grab a plum.
My parents were fortunate to get a ready-made fruit orchard in their back yard and that they didn't have to spend years cultivating one. That had been done by their neighbor, Brother Hunt, a retired Baptist minister who tended his gardens situated in the vacant lot that was next to his home on South 11th (now part of Historic Downtown Garland).
My parents had spotted the empty lot as a potential location for the house they wanted to build near downtown. They wanted to locate in an area in which their only child could walk to all 12 grades of school. Brother Hunt's vacant lot was only one block from the junior high and high school and two blocks from the neighborhood elementary.
My mother approached Brother Hunt's daughter, who taught typing at the high school in which my mother had been school secretary. But Louise Hunt told my parents that her dad enjoyed his fruit orchard too much to part with the lot on which it was located.
My parents had been headed out to close the sale on another lot, some five blocks away—their distant second choice. But Louise Hunt's phone call caught them in time. Her dad was getting up in years, she said, and couldn't tend the garden as he once had, so he had reconsidered. He would sell them the 11th-Street lot which housed his prized peach and plum trees, as well as an expansive vegetable garden. My parents were ecstatic to get their first choice of lots and told Brother Hunt he could pick fruit off his former trees any time he liked.
When Brother Hunt sauntered through the hedge to visit his former garden, he enjoyed talking with the loquacious little girl who now lived on the lot. The older retired preacher and the pipsqueak young neighbor became best buddies. But I'm surprised he ever found any fruit left on his trees. I usually had beat him to the peaches and plums that he had given their start.
Some years back I happened onto this recipe for Plum-Peach Crumble (now contained in my new book, Way Back in the Country Garden) and couldn't believe my good fortune. I've baked it for several summers in a row. But this year--our prized fruit orchard sourced the entire concoction. Brother Hunt, long in Glory but whose memory still remains with that now-grownup pipsqueak young neighbor--his buddy--would be so pleased.
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar (we use sugar substitute)
1/2 teaspoon salt (we use salt substitute)
1/2 stick butter
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1 egg (we use egg substitute)
1/4 cup granulated sugar (or sugar substitute)
1/2 cup heavy cream (we substitute skim milk)
1 teaspoon almond extract
3/4 pound plums, peeled and chopped (about 1 1/4 cup chopped)
3/4 pound peaches, peeled and chopped (about 1 1/4 cup chopped)
fat-free whipped topping or fat-free vanilla yogurt
Mix together brown sugar, 1/2 cup granulated sugar, and salt. Cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse meal. Stir in flour. Divide mixture in half. Set one-half aside. To other half add cinnamon, baking powder, and 1 egg. Blend well. Press into bottom of 9-inch square pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 5 minutes. When the crust bakes, whisk together remaining 1/4 cup sugar, 1 egg, cream (milk), and almond extract. Remove crust from oven and spread chopped plum and peaches on top. Pour cream mixture over fruit. Sprinkle with reserved half of butter-blour mixture. Sprinkle with additional brown sugar if desired. Bake at 350 degrees until crumb topping is browned (about 20-25 minutes). Serve warm with whipped topping or fat-free vanilla yogurt and slivered almonds.