The plain truth is, certain desserts—pies, crisps, crumbles, and cobblers among them—demand an ice cream accompaniment; they aren’t complete without one. (I’m not sure that I’ve ever had a blueberry cobbler on its own, but I’m pretty sure I don’t want to.) It’s why you can usually find an emergency pint of Häagen-Dazs in our freezer.
While I rarely stray from the prescribed rustic fruit dessert + vanilla ice cream formula, I’ve recently begun rethinking that convention—and investing a little more time and energy in the à la mode.
Such was the case this weekend, when I finally decided to make Marian Burros’s Plum Crumble. Marian Burros’s Plum Crumble may be the biggest dessert phenomenon since… well, Marian Burros's plum torte. (What can I say, the woman has a way with stone fruit.) For a while, Molly Wizenberg of Orangette even had it on the dessert menu at Delancey, which is exactly what I would do if I had a restaurant. It's the Platonic ideal of plum crumble (or, as Snarf says, “Plumble”; or as I say, “Plumbledore”): jammy, sweet-tart plums, occasional sparks of crystallized ginger, and a streusel-esque topping that owes its crackly surface to a last-minute melted butter bath.
In other words, it’s a recipe so good it deserves an ice cream to match. This fennel ice cream (a pairing that occurred to me en route to the Greenmarket) is the kind of thing that sounds more “out of the box” than delicious, but it somehow manages to be both, with a smooth, anise-y flavor that expresses itself at just the right decibel. Served with the crumble, it’s a game-changer—enough to put plain vanilla bean to shame.
Adapted from Marian Burros
Out of necessity, I substituted black plums for the recommended Italian / prune plums (and threw in a couple of extra ones), increasing the amount of sugar and spices in the filling accordingly. For the original measurements, see here.
8 large black plums, quartered
3 tablespoons brown sugar
2 1/2 tablespoons plus 1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon plus 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
3-4 tablespoons finely chopped candied ginger
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 egg, well beaten
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
Ice cream, not optional
Place plums in medium bowl. Heat oven to 375 degrees, with rack in center.
In a small bowl, thoroughly mix brown sugar, 3 tablespoons flour, 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, ground ginger and the candied ginger. Add to plums and mix well. Arrange plums skin side up in an ungreased, deep 9-inch pie plate.
In a small bowl, combine granulated sugar, baking powder, remaining flour and cinnamon and the salt. Mix well. Stir in egg. Using hands, mix thoroughly to produce little particles. Sprinkle over plums.
Drizzle butter evenly over crumb mixture and bake 30 to 35 minutes. Crumble is done when top is browned and plums yield easily when pricked with cake tester. Remove from oven and cool.
Serve crumble warm or refrigerate for up to two days or freeze, well covered. If reheating, bring to room temperature, then warm at 300 degrees. Serve with ice cream.
Fennel Ice Cream
Adapted from Gourmet
1 2/3 cups heavy cream
2 teaspoons fennel seeds, crushed
1 cup whole milk
3/4 cup sugar, divided
4 large egg yolks
Pinch of salt
In a small heavy saucepan, combine the cream and fennel seeds and bring just to a simmer. Remove from the heat, cover, and let steep for about 30 minutes.
Bring milk, 1/2 cup sugar, and a pinch of salt to a simmer in a heavy medium saucepan over medium heat, stirring.
Prepare an ice bath.
Whisk together yolks and remaining 1/4 cup sugar in a large bowl, then add milk mixture in a slow stream, whisking. Return mixture to medium saucepan and cook, stirring with a wooden spoon, until mixture coats back of spoon and registers 175°F on an instant-read thermometer. (Do not let it boil.) Immediately strain the custard through a fine-mesh sieve into a metal bowl, then set the bowl in an ice bath and stir occasionally until cool, about 15 minutes.
When the custard is cool, strain the fennel cream through a fine-mesh sieve into the custard, pressing on the solids. Continue to chill in the ice bath until the custard is cold, then cover and chill in the refrigerator overnight. Freeze in an ice cream maker according to manufacturer’s instructions. Transfer to a chilled airtight container, and place in the freezer to harden, about 1 hour.