Ina Garten's Trick For Making Flavors Pop In Plum Desserts

The next time you want to make a fruit dessert, it might be tempting to go with something you've made a million times, like a simple apple pie or a juicy peach cobbler. But there's one fruit that just doesn't get enough love: plums. If you've been overlooking this juicy stone fruit, it's time to give it a try. Whether you're making Marian Burros' famous plum torte, a traditional plum pudding, or a jammy plum upside-down cake, Ina Garten has a secret ingredient that will make it taste, well, plummier.

Garten told Epicurious, "If plums are in season, there are a few things you can add to make them taste plummier — cassis really brings out that plum flavor." Garten said that cassis brings out the flavor of plums in the same way coffee and vanilla can highlight the depth of flavor in chocolate. This hack works with plums that aren't in season, too, though Garten might gasp at the thought. But hey, sometimes you just really want a plum torte, even if it is January. 

What is cassis?

When Ina Garten says cassis can enhance plum flavors, she's talking about crème de cassis. Crème de cassis is a sweetened fruit liqueur that's made with blackcurrants, which are small berries that have tart, earthy, sweet, and tannic notes with a flavor similar to grapes, cherries, and blackberries. The liqueur has been around since the 16th century when it was created by monks in France to be used for medicinal purposes. But these days, it's more commonly known as the key ingredient for making a Kir Royale, a cocktail created during WWII that's made with sparkling wine and crème de cassis.

What should you look for when buying crème de cassis? Bottles from the Dijon region of France are usually high quality, as are those from Burgundy (you might see Bourgogne on the label, the French name for the region). Avoid any crème de cassis that's labeled "double," as this indicates it's twice as sweet as the standard. Using the standard, less sweet version will give you more control over the overall sweetness of your plum dish.

How to pair cassis with plums and beyond

Once you have your crème de cassis in hand, you're ready to bake. You can try adding a tablespoon or two to recipes that contain plums, the way you might add a shot of bourbon to pecan pie. You can also try macerating fresh sliced or chopped plums in crème de cassis, sugar, and vanilla, and use that mixture to fill pies and pastries, add to cobblers or your favorite fresh plum crumble recipe, or as the base for a compote or jam. You can even just add the macerated plums over vanilla ice cream or full-fat Greek yogurt for a simple but satisfying treat. A spritz of lemon juice will help balance out the sweetness.

But you don't have to save your crème de cassis for plum desserts. If you're a fan of the flavors in black forest cake, try adding some cassis to your favorite chocolate cake recipe. It can add a fruity flavor and crimson color to vanilla cakes, too, and it can be added to all sorts of jams, compotes, and of course, cocktails. When guests ask what your secret ingredient was, you can tell them you just added a shot of cassis, and using one of Ina Garten's signature phrases you can ask in return, "How easy is that?"

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