I know, I know, the first thing that comes to mind when you think prunes isn’t dessert. If you’re anything like me, the first thing that comes to mind isn’t even positive (it’s Barbara Mandrell, if we’re being honest). But last weekend, while having brunch at my grandparents house, my cousin Kyle asked me if I had tried the sugar prunes from their tree. I was shocked. Prunes? From a tree? I thought prunes were only prunes after they were dried, with the fresh version being a plum.
Alas, turns out a dried prune is just a dried fresh prune, much like a dried apricot is just a dried fresh apricot — but then why is a dried grape a raisin? SO CONFUSING. But I digress. A dried prune is a dried fresh prune, which yes, implies that there is such a thing as a fresh prune, and *gasp!* they are quite delicious. Smaller and more oblong than what we might think of as a conventional plum, the prunes that my grandparents grow have an almost candy-like sweetness and a firm but yielding flesh. What’s interesting about their prunes, in particular, is that the tree on which they grow has been grafted onto the base of an almond tree. Grafting isn’t all that uncommon in the agricultural world, so this isn’t unheard of, but my grandma swears that sugar prunes usually split down the middle when they’re ripe — and these don’t. So whether it’s the almond tree base or my 80-something year old Grandpa’s secret mojo, something makes these prunes both particularly sweet and pretty to look at. Atta boy, Gramps!
So, after trying (read: inhaling) 3 or 4 of these fresh prunes in my grandma’s kitchen, the next natural step was to amble my way down their gravel drive to the tree, pluck 60 little sugar bombs from the heavy, low-hanging boughs…and stash them in my purse for the drive home. (Duh, where do you keep your prunes? It’s a big bag. Don’t judge.)
And now here we are. Eating sugar prunes for breakfast. Sugar prunes for lunch. Cutting up platters of sugar prunes and sharing them with coworkers. Daily. And finally, sugar prunes for dessert, coaxed into sweet, jammy harmony with a little extra sugar, a savory hit of rosemary and olive oil, and a fragrant, nutty crumb topping. Enjoy!
Rosemary Sugar Prune Crisp
By Emily Stoffel
Cooking time: 40 minutes | Serves: 4
Notes: Knowing that sugar prunes aren’t just anywhere, this dessert would work out just as well with any farmer’s market plum — just be sure to choose fruit that is still a bit firm to the touch. As for the topping, while I usually add rolled oats for texture, the cornmeal here works particularly well with the savory herbs.
- 20-25 small sugar prunes, halved and pitted (apologies I didn’t weigh them first!)
- 1 T olive oil
- 1 tsp fresh rosemary, finely chopped
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon
- 4 T (heaping) whole wheat flour + 1 T
- 2 T (heaping) cornmeal
- 2 T sugar + 1 T
- 1/4 cup raw almonds, roughly chopped
- 4 T cold butter, cubed
Preheat oven to 375F. In a medium bowl, toss halved prunes with olive oil, 1T flour, 1T sugar, rosemary, cinnamon and salt and pepper. Pour into generously buttered skillet or baking dish. In same bowl, mix together remaining flour, remaining sugar, cornmeal, almonds and cubed butter. Using a pastry cutter, cut butter into flour and nuts until mixture resembles wet sand (some larger pieces of butter should still remain). Loosely sprinkle topping over plums; place skillet on a rimmed baking sheet and bake for 30 minutes or until filling is bubbling, topping is golden and nuts are toasted. Serve warm with ice cream