Italian prune plum is one of the last plums to dot the farmers market before we immerse ourselves among apples, pumpkins, and brussel sprouts. It always makes me a little wistful for the summer gone by yet excited for the arrival of my favourite season. Similar to last year, 2013 racing season has been a total wash out for me. I am restless and a little panicky that I have to rebuild my fitness from the grounds up yet again. I am *thisclose* to being completely clear of my knee infection. I can’t wait to resume my workouts (ouch) but certainly do not look forward to weeks of soreness thanks to being couch potato for a month. Oh boy.
Back to the plums. Yes, Italian prune plum is a thing of beauty with addition of sugar and heat. The flavour deepens and the colour turns to a majestic shade of ruby. Every week I return from the market with a small basket even when I am too busy to bake. I just cannot help myself. Thankfully, plums are less fussy than many other stone fruits. They can sit patiently on the counter for a few days without getting overripe. Last Saturday I spent a lazy rainy afternoon turning them into luscious treats.
As I discover, one of the many joys of staycation is the relax pace of life. I am not trying to check off as many to-do items on my list as humanly possible. I can take the time to savour the minutes, focusing on one thing at a time. I am so used to living in a constant state of stress that I don’t even recognize those physical stress symptoms anymore. I thought it is the norm. No wonder my body takes such a long time to heal from any injuries, major or minor. Last Saturday, I slept in, went to the spa, decided not to brave the downpour for an outdoor food truck event, baked a plum kuchen, baked plum poppy seed muffins, and watched X-Men on television. Definitely not one of my more productive days.
The plum kuchen was adapted from one of my favourite recipes in Grand Central Baking Book. I made it many times before including a raspberry version and a marmalade Nutella version. Aside from a bit of planning for the dough to rise, this cake is quite possibly one of the easiest recipes in my regular rotation. Simply stir all the ingredients in a mixing bowl and pour into the pan! I love easy recipes like this when I am in a lazy mood.
The plum kuchen was enjoyed as part of a German dinner with knackers, warm mustardy potato salad with dill pickles, sauerkraut, all washed down with Spirit Tree pub cider. The supper was hearty and very much appropriate for the damp weather outside. Mind you, it was not particularly healthy but the comfort it offered was hard to resist.
Since I already pit and cut all the plums, I decided to set aside some for a second plum recipe. I was going to make a batch of breakfast crisp. As I opened The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook, her recipe for Plum Poppy Seed Muffin caught my eye (read the back story here about how she developed the recipe. It’s a fun read!). It was exactly what I should be making with all ingredients available at home, down to a fresh bag of poppy seeds!
I made the recipe as written with the exception of some additional wheat germ. The muffins were impossibly tender even though I was almost certain I over mixed the batter (I didn’t). Must be the copious amount of chopped plums baked into little pockets of fruity sweetness. What I love most about this recipe is the great consideration Perelman put into it. She clearly wanted muffins appropriate for breakfast and not just cupcakes in disguise. Judicious use of sugar, addition of whole wheat flour, and the slight crunch from poppy seed fulfilled her promise and more. The muffins were delicious, especially the day after.
Unlike summer 2013, my staycation is far from over yet. With a long-overdue haircut out of the way, I am on schedule to chip away at my long to-do list.