Stone Fruit Crumble with Shortbread Topping & The Perfect Chair

Jul 2, 2011

For my father’s birthday, he asked for a fruit dessert.  This is partly because he has always loved tarte tatin and other sugared fruits but also because he knows I like to cook with what’s available.  Right now, we have cherries, small green sour plums that shine bright as limes when rubbed on your shirt hem, apricots, peaches too tender to touch, and a few lonely nectarines.  I collect them daily and put them in my late stepmother’s stone dishes where they sit until I’m ready to bake them.  Will, the youngest, helps pit the fruit, sitting on his knees on this, the perfect chair.  Chipped, faded turquoise-green paint, some unknown person’s graffiti forever etched into the wooden back, years of meals, sighs, butts, children kneeling, the base worn from so many shoe scuffs.  Old and new, elegant and aged.  I’ll be selling items like this in the autumn…but for now, we eat shortbread made with ’00’ flour so it is light and very crisp, and test it while sitting on the perfect chair.

Stone fruit, washed, halved, stone removed to fill in one layer a buttered 9x13 baking dish. Sprinkle with sugar and the juice of one lemon. If using cherries, line whole bottom with them and place other fruit on top. Dust with '00' flour, cinnamon, and freshly grated nutmeg. Mix equal parts 00 flour (about a cup) and sugar, then cube 1 stick of butter and run through your fingers until coarse meal. Shake over fruit. Bake for one hour or a bit more at 350.