We had a bit of a heat wave in the Bay Area this past weekend. Saturday, in particular. There’s nothing like coming off of a long flight from China and having your typically foggy city greet you with blazes. I mean really, there was no easing into summer. But it’s no problem. I’ve gotten my cotton skirts out of storage and plan on wearing them all summer long. That and flip-flops and high ponytails. There will be iced coffee in the mornings and lots of leg-dangling in my mom’s pool.
What is a problem, however, is even thinking about turning on the oven to bake during the summer. But I’ve found a solution. Its name is slump. Do you know slumps? If not, you should. I’ll introduce you.
A slump (also referred to as a grunt) is an old-fashioned dessert made with whatever fruit you have on hand. On the spectrum of old-school fruit desserts, a slump is somewhere between a cobbler and a steamed pudding. This is not necessarily the most beautiful, visually stunning dessert you’ve ever seen. I probably wouldn’t make it for royalty or even for, say, a bachelorette lunch. Stick with petite fours for that one. Or maybe a pavlova. But I love slumps for their simplicity: you slice up a bowl of fruit, heat the fruit in a pan on the stove top, cover it with a simple dumpling dough, put the lid on, and steam away for about 20 minutes. Done. Now you’re acquainted.
The best part about slumps and summer? Because you cook them on the stove top, you never need to actually preheat the oven. It’s not a baking-while-sweating endeavor. Now that you’ve met slump and perhaps started to really let him grow on you, I have to tell you about slump’s bad side: he doesn’t keep well. In fact, you really have to take down the whole pan the same day (although I think having it for breakfast the next morning would be perfectly acceptable) because it will get quite soggy. For me and the company I keep, that doesn’t ever seem to be an issue. But you may want to plan accordingly.
O.k, my work here is done for now.
You + Slump = fast new friends.
Me= Going for a pool-side leg dangle.
To peel peaches quickly, dunk them in boiling water for thirty seconds or so and the skin should peel off quite easily. For this recipe, it is important that you use a pan with a tight-fitting lid so the slump steams adequately. And while I don’t always love using cornstarch in fruit recipes, stone fruit does have a high water content, so it’s necessary here. Don’t leave it out.
Adapted from: Rustic Fruit Desserts
Slice fruit into thin wedges over a bowl, collecting all of the juice. Drop slices in bowl. Separately, stir the sugar, cornstarch and salt together in a small bowl, then add to the fruit and quickly toss to coat. Gently stir in the lemon juice, then slide the fruit and juices into a 10-12 inch non-reactive, deep skillet or a wide 5-quart saucepan or Dutch Oven. Let stand for 15 minutes as the fruit releases its juices and the sugar dissolves. Bring the fruit mixture to a low simmer over medium-low heat and stir occasionally to prevent juice from sticking to the bottom. Simmer for 2 minutes or until slightly thickened. Remove from heat.
To make the dumpling dough, whisk the flours, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and cardamom together in a bowl. Add the butter and toss until evenly coated. Using your hands or a pastry blender, cut in the butter until it’s the size of peas. Add the cold buttermilk and stir until just combined. Don’t worry: the dough will be pretty wet.
Scoop 8 dollops of dough atop the fruit, distributing each dumpling evenly over the surface. Return to the stove top and bring to a gently simmer over low heat. Cover with a tight-fitting lid and continue simmering for 18-22 minutes, or until dumplings are puffy and cooked through. Remove the cover and let cool 15 minutes before serving.
On Monday our little family of three is headed to the airport at 6 am to board our first with-baby cross-country trip. We'll be visiting Sam's family in New Jersey for a few days, then renting a car and driving over to meet up with my family at my mom's lake house in the Adirondacks. Sam's younger sister and her kids have yet to meet Oliver; my grandpa has yet to meet him, and Oliver has yet to take a dunk in a lake, see a firefly, or spend quality time with energetic dogs -- of which there will be three. A lot of firsts. This week my family has been madly texting, volunteering to make certain meals or sweets on assigned days while we're at the cabin and it got me thinking about really simple, effortless summer desserts -- in particular, ones that you can make while staying in a house with an unfamiliar kitchen and unfamiliar equipment and still do a pretty bang-up job. I think fruit crisp is just that thing.
Somehow, in what seems to have been a blink of an eye, we have a six month old baby. In some ways I can't remember a time we didn't have an Oliver, and in other ways it's all a blur broken up by a few holidays (a Thanksgiving thanks to grocery store takeout, and our very first Christmas in Seattle), a few family visits, a one-day road trip to Portland, a birthday dinner out, a birthday cake, weekend drives to nowhere in particular, swimming at the pool with Oliver, weekly get-togethers with our parent's group, doctor's visits, hundreds of walks around the neighborhood, hundreds of cups of coffee, dozens (or more?) of scoops of ice cream. Most of the worrying about keeping a baby alive has made way for other concerns, and Oliver's need for constant stimulation or soothing walks and car rides has been traded for stretches of time playing with a new toy or checking out his surroundings. In truth, it's thanks to that tiny bit of baby independence that this humble, summery cake came to be in the first place. So we've all got an Oliver to thank for that. Or, really, we have a Yossi Arefi to thank, as it's from her beautiful new cookbook that I've bookmarked heavily and am eager to continue exploring.
We walked to the library last week and I had a strange realization standing in line watching Sam check out his usual massive stack of books: Will I ever have the time to read stacks of books again? I used to be much more of a reader than I am today -- a fact I'm not at all proud of. But when evening rolls around and the more formal workday ends, I find emails and other odds and ends creep in. Walking home from the library, I began obsessing over free time for reading, asking Sam if we'd ever be those two old people who study bird manuals and can recognize birds on walks. I want to have the time to read bird manuals someday. For now though, we're young and we're working a lot. We did sneak away on that one-night camping trip I told you about, and cooked some interesting, haphazard meals which I hope to share with you soon. For now though, for summer: a strawberry dessert recipe.
Much like friends, types of Sunday mornings, or books -- there are many different kinds of desserts. Sometimes you may be in the mood for a light French cake piled high with summer fruit. Other days, a thick slice of fragrant pound cake will do. And then there are those days when you crave a rich chocolate mousse that you share after a night of good conversation and a little too much wine. But let's be honest. When it comes right down to it, the most basic and unassuming dessert of all is sometimes the only one that will do. A good and simple affair. Vanilla ice cream. So I want to talk about that today--about a dessert that withstands the test of time, that will always be there for you. A dessert that is far from trendy, that doesn't play favorites or trick you into thinking it's something that it's not. It's a good foundation. A solid beginning.
[ Pie. if you've been around here much in the last few months, you know that I make pie. A lot of pie. And I'm particularly excited to share this pie with you today because it helped me break out of a rut. A pie rut. A baking rut. A Marge inspiration rut.