“Now she went blossoming over her blood, and her blood went rushing deep beneath her.” - Rainer Maria Rilke, from The Book of Images, “The Saint” (translated by Edward Snow).
These bars came about after I had an overflow of near-spoiled plums last week. I originally wasn’t going to post them. Sometimes there are things that I want to save all for myself. Not out of selfishness or indulgence, but rather, when you bake professionally, often, and for others, it’s good to keep something solely for you and your own sacred desire once in a while. I don’t do it enough. I wonder what it tastes like.
These Black Plum and Rye Crumb Bars were too good not to share. They’re nutty, golden and crisp, with the most delicious sugared-jammy plum filled interior. There's wholesome rye in the bars as well, which acts as an ideal flavour foil for all the rich fruit, spirited filling, and buttery tones going-on within. They're the perfect thing for using up a glut of just-turned stone fruits too. I’ve made them before with white peaches and nectarines, once with apricots, and I can imagine mid to late summer berries would also make for a wonderful, bursting rendition.
These bars are easily customisable according to what’s in season. Stone fruits such as apricots, nectarines and peaches always are wonderful, so too are berries, such as blackberries, blueberries, raspberries, or strawberries. You could even use a combination of fruit, depending what you have on hand. But just remember to keep the weight the same and adjust the sugar to the fruit accordingly.
The sugar amount required for the filling should be altered according to the natural sweetness of the fruit you’re planning to use. I’ve left it here in a mid-range of 75 grams. If you’re fruit is tarter, you may need to increase the amount of sugar required by a few tablespoons. The same goes for fruit that is more sweet or ripe, simply decrease the amount of sugar required as needed.
I use rye flakes in the crumb. I prefer them to rolled oats simply because I adore the robustness, but you could use either. It goes hand-in-hand with the rye flour in the crust too. If you don’t have rye flour, you could use regular all-purpose or wholemeal in its place. I’ve even used spelt flour before with great results. I do recommend using the rye and sourcing the flakes though, it has a flavour like nothing else.
I use pecans in the crumb but feel free to use another nut of choice or omit them entirely. I love to use flaked almonds or hazelnuts.
BLACK PLUM AND RYE CRUMB BARS
For the crust:
200 grams unsalted butter, cubed
210 grams all-purpose flour
50 grams rye flour
80 grams granulated sugar
½ teaspoon salt
Pre-heat the oven to 180 Celsius (350 Fahrenheit). Grease and line a 20-cm (8-inch) square baking pan with non-stick parchment paper. Let the paper slightly overhang the sides.
Place the butter into a medium-size saucepan set over medium-low heat. Heat, stirring often, until it is golden and melted. Turn off the heat and leave to cool slightly.
Meanwhile, whisk together the flour, rye flour, sugar, and salt. Pour in the melted butter and use a large wooden spoon to work the mixture together until a soft dough ball has formed. Use your fingers to press this dough into the base of the prepared pan, making sure to press it into an even layer and all the way to the edges.
Bake for 18 to 20 minutes, or until just firm and beginning to turn golden brown. Set aside to cool.
For the filling:
650 grams dark plums, from about 5 plums, roughly chopped
75 grams granulated sugar
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
¼ teaspoon salt
Zest from ½ small orange
50 milliliters brandy or freshly squeezed orange juice
A few drops of angostura bitters
Seeds from 1 vanilla bean pod or 1 teaspoon vanilla bean extract
Place the plums into a large-size mixing bowl. Scatter over the sugar, flour, nutmeg, and salt, then sprinkle over the orange zest. Use your fingers to toss the ingredients together until incorporated. Add in the brandy or orange juice, angostura bitters, and vanilla. Use a large wooden spoon to stir the mixture together until evenly incorporated and moistened. Set the bowl aside whilst you prepare the crumb.
For the crumb:
70 grams all-purpose flour
30 grams rye flour
40 grams rye flakes
30 grams granulated sugar
¼ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
½ teaspoon salt
75 grams cold butter, cubed
50 grams pecans, chopped
Combine the flour, rye flour, rye flakes, sugar, baking powder, nutmeg, and salt in a medium-size mixing bowl. Add in the cold butter and use your fingers to rub it into the dry ingredients until a roughly-sized crumb has begun to form. Add in the pecans and toss until combined. Set the bowl aside until needed.
A few tablespoons of powdered sugar
Evenly spread the plum mixture over the cooled crust then scatter the crumb roughly over the top. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until golden brown. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool completely.
Once cool, carefully lift the bars out from the baking pan. Use a sharp knife to cut them into nine or twelve evenly sized pieces then sift over the powdered sugar before serving.