Saturday, October 23, 2010

A Plum Amaretti-Crisp Quandary

What do you do with three pounds of free plums you scored for being the last dawdler at the farmers’ market? After perusing the possibilties, I had a plum idea. I would take a favorite food blogger’s recipe for Peach Amaretti Crisp from his delicious new book and turn it into Plum Amaretti Crisp. But first I would get his advice. (

I’ve distilled our correspondence down to the following bites, leaving out the niceties—but he's very nice. In fact, I’d call him a mensch).

Lentil: If I substituted plums for peaches in your Peach Amaretti Crisp, would that work or would you make any adjustments?

Mensch: Plums would work well although you might want to add more sugar because they get nice and tart when baked.

Author-approved, my plums and I hit the Amaretti trail. I decided not to add more sugar to the filling because the plums were overripe (hence, the free part), and the sweetness turned out perfectly. But to my chagrin, the topping was too sweet, which confounded me. Not only did I use the same brand of Amaretti cookies that I put in my ricotta cheesecake crust, I was thrown by an inconsistency between his cup and gram measurements for the brown sugar. Should I tell him that something didn't seem kosher or just keep my big mouth shut? (Hence, the big mouth part.)

Lentil: Questioning one of your recipes is a little like asking Michelangelo if he really meant to use so much red paint in that chapel ceiling! But I found the topping too sweet. Your book says 1/2 C packed brown sugar (120 g). I weighed 1/2 C of brown sugar and it comes to anywhere between 74-87 grams, depending on how hard you pack it. I only used half a cup, rather than the gram measurement, but it was still really sweet.

Mensch: A number of people in Europe including Delia Smith in the UK, use similar conversions at 225g/1 cup brown sugar. For places where it's critical, I have a tester in the US test all my recipes on the book using American products. Perhaps there is a variation in Amaretti.

After he wrote me back the second time, I realized that I had forgotten to ask him why there was no salt in the topping. But I knew that if I wrote him again, I might as well have stamped Fatal Attraction on my forehead and left a dead rabbit on his stove (braised in a nice mustard sauce, of course). Good thing there's an ocean between us.

In the meantime, in addition to swapping peaches to plums, I have ever-so-slightly tweaked the recipe (notes in red). Sure, it feels like heresy, but I’ve been called a lot worse than a heretic. So if anyone wants to test this recipe, you can be the decider. Please let me know the results. Oh, and if you want to stamp a big "H" on my forehead, I'll completely understand.



8 medium to large plums (about 3 pounds)

2 TBSP granulated sugar

1 TBSP all-purpose flour

1 tsp vanilla extract or ½ tsp almond extract (I used almond)


¾ cup all-purpose flour

¼ cup granulated sugar

½ cup packed light brown sugar (I would use ¼ cup or a little more)

¾ cup (90 g) crushed amaretti cookies (about 16 cookies / I used gram weight)

1 tsp ground cinnamon

½ cup (65 g) whole almonds, toasted

½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into ½-inch pieces and chilled

Pinch of salt

Preheat the oven to 375º F.

To make the filling, pit and cut the plums into ½-inch slices. In a large bowl, toss the plums with the 2 tablespoons granulated sugar, 1 tablespoon flour, and almond extract. Transfer the plums to a shallow 2-quart baking dish. Set aside.

To make the topping, in a food processor, pulse together the ¾ cup flour, ¼ cup granulated sugar, brown sugar, amaretti crumbs, cinnamon, and almonds until the almonds are in small bits but with chunks still visible. Add the chilled butter pieces and pulse until the topping no longer looks sandy and is just beginning to hold together.

Distribute the topping evenly over the plums. Bake until the filling is bubbling around the edges and a sharp paring knife inserted into the center meets no resistance, 40 to 50 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature with vanilla ice cream.


  1. That looks good. I think your tweaks are appropriate and I would have hesitated before even adding the half cup of brown sugar. The cookies are already sweet and even might be able to stand on their own for a crust without the added sugar. If I were using oatmeal or something like in traditional crisps I might consider the sugar though only 1/4 cup or so. Too much sugar in the crust hides the sweetness in the fruit.
    Now if I could score me some cheap or free plums!

  2. Interesting use of cookies in the crisp. I just passed on a slew of plums at my community garden - plummed out for the season. I would be interested to try on an apple crisp - have you? It has be top notch, since I'm married to my apple crisp with oats and cardamom and am wondering if it's worth steppin' out.

  3. Sheesh..of course it couldn't be the great mensch's fault the the topping is too sweet. It's the cookie company, the taster and you. I think you should leave that dead rabbit on his stove anyway. Love your photos btw.

  4. How lovely, one of my neighbors just dropped off a big bag of plums!

  5. Fallen: I agree with you. The sweetness can come from the ice cream.

    Andrea: haven't tried on apples, but have thought an amaretti topping would be good on baked apples, so why not?

    Lynne: now, now...

    Rocky: If you make it, let me know how it goes. And measure out the brown sugar on a scale in grams and report back. Thanks!

  6. Yes! Stand up to the man! You are the best and I got such a good laugh out of this! GREG