A little bit proud

When I saw plums at the farmers’ market last week it was hard to take them seriously.  Summer’s on its last leg when plums come rolling in, I understand, but it was nearing 90 degrees that day, so what did they know?  Turns out, those plums were smarter than they looked, because here I sit in my favorite fall sweater, the one I bought on sale at the end of last season and stashed away.  I pushed the window by my desk closed before I sat down to write this morning.  I even looped a scarf around my neck.  And when I walk back to that same market later this afternoon, I’ll pull on socks and proper shoes for the first time in weeks.  Hello, September. 

September brings good stuff.  It always has, for me.  A lot of this has to do with my being a perpetual student (until now!).  Fresh notepads, fresh books, fresh pens, the feeling that anything is possible.  If I were to tell you that I entered graduate school for these things alone, I’d be exaggerating only slightly.  September kicks off with a long weekend, which is nice, and it’s the month when Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, almost always falls.  That means guaranteed time with family and friends, no excuses, and plenty of hours in the kitchen, and if that’s not enough to make me cheer, September’s when Mia showed up, too. 

Mia's birthday is this Sunday, and we’re in the midst of visits from grandparents galore.  Eli’s parents were here last weekend, my mom arrives later this week, and my dad and Amy are here right now.  As I type this, I can hear my dad singing Love Potion Number 9 in the other room, Mia clapping along, and occasionally slapping at the guitar strings, and earlier today, after writing the opening two sentences of this post, I took a break to find out what on earth was going on here. [Trust me, you want to click that link.  Turn your volume UP.]  Those two are in the zone.  Their own weird little, wonderful little zone.  Here’s a photo of them from yesterday, or maybe the day before.

At dinner last night, I said something about “when Mia was a baby” and we all laughed because, obviously, she is still very much a baby.  (Just look at those CHEEKS!)  But if you compare these two photos, the one from when Mia was more blob than human, and the one from now, you'll know what I meant. 

Anyway, September.  Yes, it brings good stuff.  Which this year includes – as you might have guessed from my leading photo and the hint I dropped last week – plum crumb bars.  They’re actually plum ginger crumb bars, following as they do in the footsteps of the recipe I posted on Friday, but “plum crumb” has such a lovely ring to it; I didn’t want to mess that up.  So I’ll just tell you (I’ve already told you):  there’s ginger in them, too.  The difference is that this time, instead of mixing it in with the fruit, I stuck it in the shortbread.  I’m going to say that again, because it’s an important feature of the recipe, and also because I’m a little bit proud of this move:  the shortbread is ginger shortbread, now.  In the right context, ginger – the smell of it, the taste of it, the very word – feels so totally fall to me. That’s what I wanted here, so I tossed the lemon zest out of the dough, and tossed some vanilla, brown sugar, and cinnamon in.  It does the trick; it’s those notepads and pens and more packed into a shortbread cookie.  On top there’s a sheet of thinly sliced plums, a sprinkling of raw sugar, and a scattering of crumbs, spiced, brown, and crisp.  It’s some of my best work, I think.  As I tend to do come September. 

Happy birthday, Mia Lou.  I love you to pieces. 

Plum Crumb Bars
Inspired by the Rhubarb-Ginger Crumb Bars I wrote about last week.  

My one note here is to make sure that your ground ginger is fresh.  I’ve found that it dramatically loses its potency as it ages. 

3 cup all-purpose flour
½ cup granulated sugar
½ cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon ground ginger
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks or 8 ounces) cold unsalted butter, cubed
1 large egg

4-5 medium plums
2 Tablespoons raw sugar

Heat the oven to 375 degrees and butter a 9x13 inch pan.

Halve and then thinly slice the plums.  Set aside.  

Blend the flour, granulated sugar, brown sugar, ground ginger, cinnamon, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl.  Add the egg and the cubed butter and work into the dry ingredients with your hands to form a crumbly dough.  (Don’t worry if there are little lumps of butter here and there.)  Reserve one cup of the dough, and dump what remains into the prepared pan.  Pat it into place with your hands. 

Arrange the plum slices in slightly overlapping rows on top of the dough.  Crumble the reserved dough over top, then sprinkle with the raw sugar.

Bake for 45-50 minutes, until the crumb top is golden brown.  Cool before cutting into squares.

Makes 24 bars. 


Hannah said...

Oh first birthdays ... and fall ... and ginger ... and Mia's bluebird shirt! Yes to all. (And by the way, I love plums with ginger!)

talley said...

I'm with you, on all of this. For some the new year brings the start of things, but for me it has always always been September. I love the crisp air, the crunchy apples the new pens, new notebooks and new teachers. You just can't beat it, epecially when there are birthdays to celebrate (I also have a birthday coming this month, 30, not nearly as fun as 1). I just went back to look at your first Mia post, and wow, what a tiny little beauty she was then. Amazing to see the photos of her at 1, and that expression, it's priceless. Enjoy the celebrations, the family and the fun and food. I'm going to try this plum crumble, like I said, with those green Reine Claude beauties, and I'll let you know how it goes.

shari said...

plum crumb has such a nice ring to it. happy bday to little mia! xo

Molly said...

happy september! happy birthday, mia! happy plumb crumb! what a year it's been. xoxo

A Plum By Any Other Name said...

How cute is she?! (At the risk of sounding like a stalker, I can't believe she's one already. I remember the ice cream post you did about her.)

If I've said it once, I'll say it one million times: you know I love a good plum bar. Well done, lady, well done all around. ;)

Jess said...

Good morning, friends!

Hannah - That shirt is attached to the little pink dress on top. Isn't it great? Was a gift from her Pop (also pictured, also great).

Talley - Just read your most recent post and yes, we are certainly on the same page. Happy birthday to you! Don't knock the big 3-0. It's every bit as fun! I'm two years in to this decade and, so far, it's my favorite yet.

Shari - Thanks, friend.

Molly - What a year...

Plum - Ha, you don't sound like a stalker at all! It is hard to believe. Crazy, really. Do try these plum bars, Ms. Plum. I think you'll find that they're quite worthy of your attention. (If I do say so myself.)

Beglaubigte Übersetzung said...

What a lovely little girl, such fun : )) and to the plums - plum cakes and duck, these are the reasons I love fall!

Shannalee Mallon said...

That photo of your dad and Mia? KILLER, Jess. Love it.

anya said...

Wow, this little miss Mia, the way she commands the camera, the way she laughs...:)

Happy September, Jess!

Jess said...

Beglaubigte Übersetzung - I didn't know that duck is a fall thing. Huh.

Shanna - Thank you!

Anya - It's actually pretty funny the way she's learning to look deep into the lens. I've created a monster!

Sina said...

oooo, i just bought plums! great recipe, i love the combination of spices.

mazal tov on your daughter's birthday, post-first birthday is when things slowly start changing and she'll become quite rambunctious. Since she's a girl, your chances of retaining sanity are higher. Enjoy every stage! and shana tova.

la domestique said...

That photo of Mia looking straight at the camera is so great! I love this time of year too, and have been busy making plum jam, plum compote for oatmeal, and grilled plums on salads. Can't wait to try these plum bars! Happy Birthday little Mia!

thelittleloaf said...

I LOVE that photo of your little girl and father - completely adorable. As for these plum crumble bars? I'm making them this weekend when we have friends over for dinner, they look and sound absolutely fabulous.

Nishta said...

happy birthday, sweet Mia!

Michele | Cooking At Home said...

I, too, love September and can't wait to make this plum cake. Mia's laugh made my day. Enjoy

Jess said...

Sina - Yep, she's really coming into her own these days. Eli and I were just saying how over the last couple of weeks, it's like she's becoming herself at an increasingly rapid pace. Amazing.

la domestique - Ooo, plum compote in oatmeal! YES. I'm a stewed prunes in my oatmeal girl, and I bet I'd love that, too. Thanks for the birthday wishes!

thelittleloaf - Thank you! I love that photo, too. Enjoy the bars. And: If you can swing it, make them the day of the dinner, and then leave them uncovered. They're still great the next day, once they've been covered, but the crumb topping loses some of its crunch.

Nishta - Thanks, friend. xo.

Michele - Ha! So glad. I can't get enough of that video. (That's me, by the way, trying and failing to contain my own laughter as I shakily film.)

Amanda @ Easy Peasy Organic said...

Happy birthday to your sweet baby girl! Mine turns 5 next week. How did that HAPPEN????? Man oh man time slips by ...

Jacqui MacKenzie said...

I watched that video three times last night. I'll have to bookmark it for days when I need a good smile. Happy birthday, Mia, and here's to a lifetime of laughing. xo

Lecia said...

Happy birthday Mia! xoxo

megan said...

Happy Birthday, dear Mia - may you always laugh with that abandon at the things that delight you. And I wish you a million delightful things.

Missing you and fall, Jess - I will try to squeeze in a little baking before school starts. Thanks for the reminder about fresh starts -

meg said...

How beautiful--both the baby and the bars. I have a thing for crumb bars, and these sound lovely.

Astrid said...

Mia's laughter is the best!

Whitney said...

Oh my! I made these yesterday for Tea time with family.. I subbed 1 cup of the all purpose flour out for wholemeal spelt flour & ran out of plums so did 1/2 plums and 1/2 thinly sliced crisp apples. Wow, so so good. They were gone, the entire batch of them, within an hour :)