WE have already devoured the first crumble of autumn, made, I might add, with plums from the tree in the garden. I confess I am like the cockerel taking credit for the dawn with this tree: we didn’t plant it. Then again, we have pruned and encouraged it and the boughs this year have been generous in their yield. As for that crumble, it was a bubbling, perfumed finale to a Monday night tea, the perfect warming treat after collecting the children from school on a damp, darkening evening. Each spoonful seemed like a cheering little hug.

Is autumn fruit crumble the perfect dessert? It is uncomplicated to prepare, straightforward to construct and cooks without interference while you enjoy the rest of your meal. Want to prepare it beforehand to pop in the fridge? That is fine with our flexible friend, the crumble. As for the filling, you can be as versatile as your fruit bowl allows. Combining flavours can be the best way forward. Our roasted plums were laced with chopped stem ginger, but pear and bramble, apple and cinnamon, damson and greengage or indeed pretty much any mix of these October offerings, would be as alluring.

A traditional topping of flour and butter rubbed together could be enhanced with oats, nuts or a dusting of five spice. The juice seeping through that sugared surface, like lava, as it bakes is one of cookery's finest temptations. Alternatively, this modern open crumble offers a lighter twist on the familiar favourite

Open plum crumble

80g plain flour

50g caster sugar

20g brown sugar

55g unsalted butter

16 large red plums

1-2 dstp brown sugar


1. Place flower, sugars and butter in a food processor and pulse until they form a mix resembling breadcrumbs. Tip the mix out into a bowl and squeeze together in your hands to form walnut-sized balls. Place on a tray, cover with cling film and freeze for an hour.

2. Return the crumble pieces to the food processor and pulse into small chunky crumbs. Spread evenly on a baking sheet, to a thickness of about 3-4mm then bake at 190C until golden, about 7-9 minutes. Remove from oven and with a pastry cutter, cut four rings about 8cm in diameter. Return to the oven for a few more minutes to set then remove from oven. Leave on tray to cool then store in an airtight container. This can be done up to 24 hours in advance.

3. Cut each plum in half then remove and discard the stone at the centre. Place the plums cut face down on a roasting tray or ovenproof dish, with sides of at least 2cm high, as some juices will come out during cooking. Sprinkle brown sugar over the plums, the exact amount will depend on how sweet or tart the plums are but you can always add a little more after cooking if required. Bake in a preheated oven at 180C for 8-10 minutes: the plums are ready when they have softened and slightly wilted in shape, but have not collapsed. The skin may also crinkle up and peel away slightly. Remove from the oven and allow to cool then once cool enough to handle, peel away the skin if possible (optional). Spoon some of the juices over the plums to baste then set aside

4. To finish and serve, reheat the plums so they are warm, they do not need to be piping hot. Take the 8cm cutter you used to cut out the crumble lids and place the ring on the first of four serving plates. Spoon some of the plums into the ring so they form a flat, round base and then continue until all the pates are done. Place a crumble lid on each then spoon some of the juices around the plate. Place a dollop of thick crème fraiche or ice cream on top of each disc and serve at once

A traditional baked plum and stem ginger crumble


100g cold diced unsalted butter

40g caster sugar

75g light brown soft sugar

2-3 dstsp ground almonds

125g self-raising flour


1kg plums

3 balls of stem ginger from a small jar; reserve the syrup

3 dstsp sugar, depending on the sharpness of the plums

1. Place all the crumble ingredients into a mixing bowl and run together with your finger tips to form a mix resembling breadcrumbs. Set aside for now

2. Cut the plums in half and discard the stone. Place in a medium sized mixing bowl for now. Dice the ginger, add to the bowl and toss with the sugar and a few spoonfuls of the ginger syrup. Transfer to a 1 litre baking dish and spread out evenly. Preheat the oven to 190C then sprinkle the crumble mixture in a layer at least 1cm thick across the surface of the fruit. Transfer immediately to the middle of the oven then bake for around 40 to 50 minutes until the top is golden and the centre is hot.

3. Remove the crumble from the oven and allow to stand for five minutes, then serve with thick cream.