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It has been a whirlwind of activity around here, as multiple birthdays coincided with an extended visit from dear friends. Absorbing a family of six into your household can make for a wee bit of chaos, but it also makes for a whole lot of fun. A few minutes after they left, I found myself at a loss: standing in a suddenly empty kitchen, unsettled by the vacuum of quiet and stillness where so many people were talking and moving just minutes before.

The kitchen was the right place to be at that moment, really. It is where I feel most centered and fluent, the place where I seem to instinctively know what to do. In the wake of all that activity, I was in the mood to bake something tasty and simple. A bowl full of ripe red plums beckoned, and rolled oats and almond paste from the pantry supplied substance and richness.

I love the textures of this dessert: warm, syrupy plums and melted heaps of smooth, nutty almond paste, topped by the toasted crunch of oat crumble. A scoop of vanilla ice cream is virtually required for a fruit crumble fresh from the oven, although you could substitute lightly sweetened whipped cream or a drizzle of creme fraiche. Apricots or peaches would also work in place of the plums, or even a mix of stone fruit and berries. Just think sweet and tangy, ripe and seasonal. No matter the filling, this dish is warm and comforting, just right for a still April afternoon.

Plum Crumble
serves eight

For filling:
10 ripe red plums, pits removed and fruit cut into 1/8’s
2 tsp. cinnamon sugar
1/4 tsp. freshly ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp. salt
juice of half a lemon
7 oz. almond paste or marzipan

For crumble:
1/2 c. all-purpose flour
1/2 c. rolled oats (not instant)
1/4 c. demerara or turbinado sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 c. unsalted butter (1 stick), melted

Oven 400F. Place plums in a medium-size, buttered glass/ceramic baking dish. Sprinkle with cinnamon sugar, nutmeg, and salt, then drizzle with lemon juice. Pinch almond paste into hazelnut-size knobs and scatter across the top of the plums.

In a small mixing bowl, toss flour, oats, sugar, salt, cinnamon, and butter until well-combined and crumbly. Spoon evenly over the top of the fruit and bake for 30 minutes, until topping is golden brown and fruit filling is bubbly and tender. Serve hot, with something cold and creamy.