Yesterday afternoon, as the crisp was cooling on the countertop and the crème anglaise was chilling in the fridge, I gathered my son into my arms, frantically stuffed my wallet into his diaper bag, swung the front door open, and stepped outside for the first time. It was past one o’clock in the afternoon, but the air was cool. I paused and breathed deeply, letting it fill my lungs. I could smell fall and feel it within my chest.
As I loaded the now-toddling toddler into his car seat, I smiled at the thought that I would soon be packing him into sweaters and jeans, footed pajamas, beanies and hats, and one particular sweatshirt with the face of a Wild Thing (à la Maurice Sendak) on the hood. My little monster man would be returning to me.
While I ran my errands, I took note of the leaves that had fled from the trees already, and I mentally concocted recipes of apples and pumpkins and figs and caramel, adorned with cinnamon sticks. I wondered if Nolan would enjoy a hayride this year, and where I might find a good one.
When I plucked a stem of lavender from the back yard, it felt like I was saying goodbye to summer. I inspected the barren blackberry bush with mixed emotions before heading indoors to put the finishing touches on the dessert I had come to view as my farewell to bountiful produce, hot days and sweaty nights, shorts and sandals.
Hours later, my husband glumly entered the house, removed his bike helmet, and said, “It’s weirdly cold out today.”
“I knooow,” I sighed, dreamily. “It’s like fall.” He moaned and implored me not to say that. He yearns for the sticky heat, the bright sun, the lazy cocktails on balmy evenings, but more than that, he dreads the snow, the bitter cold biting at his ears and fingertips as he makes his way to work through ice and slush.
But I put that out of my mind, because there is an entire magical season between now and then. I offered him a bite of the crisp as a consolation. Here, one last bite of summer. I told you I’d make a crisp before it was all over.
- 2 cups (475 mL) whole milk
- 1 tablespoon dried culinary lavender
- 4 large egg yolks, at room temperature
- ½ cup (100 grams) granulated sugar
- 1¼ cups (150 grams) all-purpose flour
- ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
- ¾ cup (170 grams) cold unsalted butter, cut into ½-inch pieces
- ¾ cup (150 grams) granulated sugar
- 1 cup (80 grams) rolled oats
- 5 cups sliced black plums (roughly 500 grams, from about 7 small plums)
- 3½ cups (500 grams) blueberries
- 2 tablespoons (42 grams) honey
- 1 teaspoon lemon juice
- 3 tablespoons cornstarch
- ½ teaspoon cardamom
- 1 tablespoon dried culinary lavender
- Prepare an ice bath in a large bowl and set aside.
- In a medium saucepan, combine milk and lavender and place over medium-low heat. Heat until bubbles form at the edges and the milk begins to steam, 5-10 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat, cover the saucepan, and let the lavender steep in the milk for 10 minutes.
- Meanwhile, whisk together the egg yolks and sugar just until they are combined. When the lavender is done steeping, slowly pour the warm milk into the egg yolk mixture, whisking constantly to combine.
- Return the custard to the saucepan and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the sauce has thickened slightly, 4-5 minutes. The custard should lightly coat the back of a wooden spoon. Don’t let the custard get above 185°F, or it will curdle.
- Strain the custard through a fine mesh sieve into a clean mixing bowl; this will remove the lavender and any cooked egg bits. Immediately rest the bowl in the ice bath to keep the custard from cooking any further, and let the it chill there for about 10 minutes. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate until fully chilled.
- Place oven rack in the center of the oven. Preheat oven to 400°F.
- In a medium mixing bowl, combine the flour and salt. Add the butter cubes and rub them into the flour until the mixture is gravelly, and the butter pieces are roughly the size of peas. Add the sugar and oats and toss with your fingers to combine. Chill the topping in the refrigerator for 20 minutes, while you prepare the fruit filling.
- In a large bowl, toss the plums and blueberries together with the honey, lemon juice, cornstarch, cardamom, and lavender until evenly coated. Pour the fruit filling into the bottom of a 13x9-inch baking pan and spread out evenly.
- Sprinkle the crisp topping over the fruit, spreading it gently to the edges. Don’t pack it down. Bake the crisp for 40-45 minutes, until the fruit is bubbling at the edges and the crisp topping is golden brown. Remove from the oven and cool on a wire rack for at least 20 minutes before serving.