September 20, 2013

Swiss Miss

Alice is our little Swiss Miss. Of course she was always going to be our little Swiss Miss, but she really cemented her fate when she decided to grace us with her presence on August 1st, the Swiss equivalent of July 4th. The midwives at the hospital drew a little Swiss flag on her name card called her schätzli (little treasure). They also couldn't help but reference Alice in Wonderland. It seems that here in Switzerland the association between Alice and the rabbit hole remains strong and that's okay because our little Alice is full of wonder and is all sorts of wonderful. 

We didn't wait long before whisking our little bundle of wonder to the Alps. Zach booked our trip to Zermatt, earlier this summer, long before I knew if I'd be up and willing to pack and five week old and all her goodies into a car and drive away from the comforts of home.  I'm glad I was too preoccupied with nesting at that point to really consider what he was asking me to do. Don't get me wrong, when the time came to leave I had serious doubts - what about the car (!) and altitude (!) feeding while hiking (!) feeding without my giant breastfeeding pillow (!) and sleeping away from home (!). Thankfully it turns out Alice is a super duper traveler, but a small note-to-self - vacations with a newborn are not all that relaxing and you will end up more exhausted than when you left. Oh well, after a summer away from the mountains it was invigorating to be surrounded by peaks and fresh air and the exhaustion was worth it. 
Our favorite restaurant in Zermatt is Chez Vrony. We go every time we are there, its non-negotiable, even when getting there involves a train ride up the mountain, a rocky walk down to the restaurant, and a subsequent steeply switchbacked walk down to town after lunch. It's our happy place. I think it might always be our happy place. I told Zach that if we were ever to renew our vows we'd have to do it at Chez Vrony. This picture doesn't really do it justice, so take a look at this one, from when we were there last summer with our friends Perrin and Bobby.

The food at Chez Vrony is always good, but there tends to be a least one takeaway meal, something that I'm eager to make at home. The first time we went I was intent on making gnocchi like the ones that accompanied the lamb knuckle that I ordered. Then there was the hamburger with coleslaw and russian dressing, which resulted in many a burger with the aforementioned conditments. This time it was the plum tart. The tart was beautiful with rings of prune plums circling towards the center. The crust was thick and shortbread like with the edge pieces being especially tasty, crispy with caramelized plums and sugar. We shared one piece, and then ordered a second.

I came home and immediately googled plum tart and plum crostata, but didn't land on anything that fit the mold of the Chez Vrony tart so I stopped looking. I picked up my search again after going on a plum shopping spree at the farmers market. Once again I didn't find a tart like the one I was looking for, but what I did find was Luisa's take on Marian Burros plum crumble. I am a huge fan of the plum cake that Marian Burros published in the NYTimes and which I have made numerous times, but I'd never made her plum crumble so I figured now was a good a time as any.
The key to this crumble is the candied ginger, and well of course, the plums, but the ginger makes the plums sing. Truth is that I almost left the ginger out. I'm not a fan of ginger in general and I just wasn't sure how'd I'd feel about it messing with the sweet plums and the crispy crust. In general my mantra is to follow a recipe the first time before tweaking it so against my better judgement I grabbed a bag of candied ginger before checking out. I liked the ginger so much in the crumble that now I'm even eating plain.

So I know I said I follow recipes the first time around, I lied; I mostly follow recipes the first time around. It's just that Luisa posted on the crumble that she made, which she had tweaked by adding extra fruit, and who doesn't want extra fruit? She suggested that with the extra fruit it could double as a breakfast treat alongside yogurt, or perhaps a mid afternoon snack. Plum crumble for breakfast sounded too good to pass up, so I added extra fruit too. Luisa says to use 34 prune plums (the original calls for 12), but I just winged it and cut up all the plums that I bought from the market (all the ones pictured) and piled them in the bottom of a pie dish. It seemed like the right amount and it worked out well, so all I can say for fruit is to use as many as fill a pie dish.

Plum Crumble
from Marian Burros and Luisa The Wednesday Chef

2 Tbsp brown sugar
1 1/2 Tbsp plus 1 cup flour
1/4 plus 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground ginger
2 heaping Tbsp finely chopped candied ginger
34 prune plums cut in half and pitted (or however many plums fit in your dish. I also used a variety of different plums, which worked out just fine)
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 well beaten egg
1/2 cup unsalted buter, melted

Heat the oven to 375ºF

Mix the brown sugar, 1 1/2 Tbsp flour, 1/4 tsp cinnamon, ground ginger and candied ginger. Toss with the plums and mix well. Arrange the plums skin side up in a deep pie plate.

Combine remaining sugar, baking powder, flour, cinnamon and salt. Stir in egg. Then using your hands mix to produce little particles. Sprinkle the mixture over the plums

Drizzle the butter evenly over the crumb mixture. Bake for 30-35 minutes or until the crumble is browned and plums are bubbling.

Here are some pictures of Alice and me just hanging out in the hotel room. It turns out she likes crisp clean sheets and big plush pillows just as much as I do.

love her!


  1. That plum crumble looks delicious! And baby Alice is so adorable!

  2. woohoo I get so happy whenever I see a new post from you. I have to say, last week I spent way way way too much time going through your archives. Your style with photography and cooking is really inspiring me lately - both the new and old stuff.

    I'm both incredibly impressed and very glad that you did a little trip to Zermatt with Alice. It only makes sense that you take the happiest addition to your life to what was already your and zach's happy place. (She is so so SO cute by the way. I love the "swiss miss" and schätzli names)

    and thanks for posting about the tart. definitely bookmarking this one, although I think I will have to wait a little less than a year to make it. we can still find plums here in the markets in paris but I think both my family and I have "moved on" haha. By the way I thought of you - since moving here I love (x10) all apricots and plums - both are things I really tried to love back in the states but it didn't really work out. Maybe it's the european markets that finally got me!

  3. So glad you liked it! And I am BEYOND impressed that you hiked a mountain while still breast-feeding. I mean!

  4. Hello, Alice! It looks like you had a lovely getaway and I love the plum crumble. I made one 2 years ago that was SO good and I can't believe I haven't made it again. Thanks for sharing photos of your Swiss Miss!

  5. Lucky Alice. Only a few weeks old and already on a Swiss-Alp adventure! The three of your are such champs!

    I made this crumble with peaches and grated ginger this week - couldn't resist buying some of the last of them. I loved the crumbly-chewy topping and the heap of slumped peaches underneath. But now I'm curious about the way that the plums and candied ginger play together. Hopefully, hopefully, there are still plums at the market this weekend!

    P.S. If you are still looking to make that plum tart, I have a feeling that the short crust for this frangipane tart might be something like what you're looking for.

  6. she absolutely SO adorable. so so happy for you and your beautiful family. love hearing your stories and seeing your pictures.

  7. oh your little lady is such a beauty, congratulations! this was such a heartwarming post to read :)