Spiced Plum Compote with Plum Pit Cream

Updated February 23, 2016


The Sweet Life

Published by Bulfinch Press

This image courtesy of Joseph DeLeo

When I was a child, my grandmother used to come to stay with us in the summer. Inevitably, she would cook up a pot of stewed plums. I don’t think I ever dipped a spoon in them. But she was on to more than I realized at the time: gently braised plums, cooked for a short period of time with sugar and spices, make for a particularly lovely cold dessert during the hot summer months. I use the almond flavor of the plum pits to make an especially complementary cream. If you are fortunate to live near a summer farmers' market, the many small plum varieties available, which never make it into commercial groceries, are perfect for this recipe.

Storage: The compote and cream will keep, refrigerated, for 1 week.

Plum pits and other stone fruit pits:

Plum pits and most stone fruit pits (peach, nectarine, cherry, and apricot) surround a seed that is an almond look-alike, with a wonderful floral almond flavor commonly associated with marzipan. The seeds found in the shells of stone fruits should not be confused with the nuts known as bitter almonds, though this IS often the case because they both contain a glucoside-amygdalin. Amygdalin is a dry, colorless substance that, in the presence of water, breaks down into cyanide, a poison if taken in large enough quantities, and benzaldehyde, an aldehyde with the intense floral almond flavor of marzipan. Natural almond extract contains benzaldehyde taken from cassia bark, a type of cinnamon, and artificial extract contains benzaldehyde synthesized in a lab.

If you simmer a bunch of crushed plum pits in cream, the amygdalin will be broken down into glucose, benzaldehyde, and hydrogen cyanide, a volatile colorless gas that disperses or evaporates into the air around the pot. So simmer the crushed stone fruit pits on a ventilated stove with a hood or in a well-ventilated kitchen with multiple open windows. The cream is left with benzaldehyde, lending it a rich marzipan-like flavor. If you would like to make a floral almond-infused ice cream, save your plum, cherry, or apricot pits and store them in a plastic bag in the freezer. Once you have accumulated 20 pits, smash them with a hammer or meat tenderizer. Follow the Basil Ice Cream

recipe, leaving out the basil leaves and substituting the smashed almond look-alike seeds. Simmer the cream with the smashed seeds for 5 minutes over a ventilated stove. Alternatively, you can easily and safely substitute natural almond extract, using 2 teaspoons in the Basil Ice Cream recipe instead of fresh basil. Add the extract after you have cooked and strained the crème anglaise.

4 cups (32 ounces), serves 8 to 10

Cooking Methodstewing


Total Timeunder 2 hours

Make Ahead RecipeYes

Kid FriendlyYes

OccasionCasual Dinner Party, Family Get-together, Formal Dinner Party

Recipe Coursedessert

Dietary Considerationegg-free, gluten-free, halal, kosher, peanut free, soy free, tree nut free, vegetarian

Five Ingredients or LessYes


Taste and Texturecreamy, fruity, spiced, sweet, tart

Type of Dishcompote, dessert, fruit


  • 14 medium (3¼ pounds) ripe plums (black or red)
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 3 star of anise
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 14 plum pits, crushed
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • Fine-mesh stainer
  • Ice bath
  • Meat tenderizer, hammer, or solid rolling pin


  1. Make the plum compote base:

  2. Using a knife, quarter 8 plums, reserving the pits. In a small saucepan bring the plum flesh and skins, the spices, and the sugar to a simmer and cook until the fruit begins to dissolve in the cooking liquid, 10 to 15 minutes. Pass the plums through a fine-mesh strainer, using the bottom of a small ladle to push as much of the fruit through the strainer as possible. Return the compote to the saucepan.

  3. Finish the compote:

  4. Using a knife, carefully halve the remaining 6 plums and cut each half into 3 wedges, reserving the pits. (Do not worry if a little bit of fruit remains stuck to the pit.) Place the plums in the compote base over medium heat and simmer until the fruit is tender bur not falling apart, 4 to 6 minutes. Remove from the heat, transfer to a bowl, and place it in an ice bath to chill.

  5. Make the plum pit cream (see "Plum pits and other stone fruit pits" in the Notes section, below):

  6. Wash the plum pits and remove any plum flesh that is clinging to them. Using a small sandwich bag or some plastic wrap, seal 3 or 4 pits in plastic. Hold the plastic down firmly on the counter so the plum pits don’t move around as you gently smash them with a meat tenderizer, rolling pin, or hammer. Place the smashed pits in a small saucepan and add the cream and sugar. Over medium heat, simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat, and let the cream sit for 10 minutes. Pass the cream through a strainer imo a bowl. Discard the pits. Place the bowl in an ice bath to coo!. Transfer to the refrigerator to chill until the cream is cool enough to whip. Whip the infused cream before serving.

  7. Serving Suggestions:

  8. Present the compote in a small bowl with a dollop of the infused cream in the middle. Vanilla or cinnamon ice cream is also delicious with this compote.



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