This is Lisa's* plum tree, down the block from me. I took the photo on October 23rd, which shows what a gentle autumn we had. The bushes in the background have changed color, but not the tree.
It's astonishing how well plum trees hide their fruit. Only when you get much closer can you can actually see the plums:
The entire tree looked like this—in late October, after several people had been picking to their heart's content for two months. The closer you get, the lovelier they are:
Usually Lisa gets only a few plums, barely enough for herself, but this year—well, this year the plums came in strong. Stronger than the tree itself, unfortuantely: one large branch and several smaller ones, overburdened by the weight of their bounty, split away from the mother tree.
I think it was my husband who suggested making plum bars. It turns out that there are such things, though in the end I used a pair of date bar recipies instead, as none of the plum bar ones I saw had oatmeal.
I combined two similar recipies, one from Epicurious and one from All Recipies. Both had the same good stuff and the same bad idea; cutting butter into all the dry ingredients, including the oats. Cutting in shortening is never my favorite part of baking, but this was downright difficult. Next time I'll ply my pastry cutter on all the dry ingredients EXCEPT the oats, which I'll add afterwards. I might need to crumble them in with my fingers, but I'd rather have greasy hands than an aching arm.
Some bars call for a shortbread base and then a crumbly top, often featuring oats, but this one has only a single pastry, compressed for the bottom and sprinkled on top. I was skeptical about whether it would hold together, but it did. True, it produces too many crumbs to qualify as finger food, but it's fine on a plate or napkin.
I was also surprised at how much this recipe made. Both originals call for only one 9 x 9 pan, but I made the bars fairly thin and got three slightly smaller dishes out of the single recipe. My suspicion is that the bars hold together better when thin. Besides, there's more of that lovely golden crust this way.
Thanksgiving Plum Bars
Preheat oven to 350º.
1) Have on hand
1½ -2 cups tart plum jam.
If your jam is very sweet, warm it up ahead of time in a heavy saucepan with enough lemon or lime juice to add a hint of tartness.
2) Combine in large bowl:
1 c. all purpose flour
½ c. pastry brown flour
¼ c. wheat germ
¼ c. oat bran
1 c. packed brown sugar
½ t. baking powder
½ t. baking soda
½ t. salt
(1-1½ t. cinnamon)
3) Cut in with pastry blender
1 c. butter
(Or cut the butter into small pieces and blend it in with your hands.)
4) When the mixture appears fairly fine, add
3 c. rolled oats (preferably not quick-cooking)
Using the pastry cutter, two forks, or your fingers, mix the oats in thoroughly.
5) Dump slightly more than half of this mixture into a 9”x13” baking pan, or into several smaller ones. Press it firmly into the pan.
Pour the jam over this layer and spread it out evenly. Sprinkle the remaining oat mixture over the top and press it down lightly.
6) Bake for about 40 minutes, until golden brown.
Cool, cut, and serve with whipped cream and dry toasted walnuts or almonds.
*Lisa isn't her name, but since I haven't gotten permission to use the real thing, I decided not to. In fact, this is the name I kept calling her by mistake off an on for months, though why isn't clear, as it neither rhymes with nor resembles hers in any way, save in being a common English girl's name. So how I came up with Lisa, I can't say.
So how many plum bars did you make if the tree was as over-burdened as this?
Well, Esther, had I picked and boiled them all, then used them all in bars, we’d be talking in the thousands. However, I never did get the last off the top of the tree, and most of those I did pick reside in tidy little jars of jam and jelly. So I just made the one recipe–at least two dozen pieces, I think.
I love plums and I have 2 trees in the garden hang each year so full that I hardly can harvest them. I have to support it each year.