a crumble is one of the easiest desserts to bake. in short, you fill a baking dish with almost any kind of fruit and a bit of sugar and maybe some spices (if you want to get "fancy"), then you sprinkle over some sort of crumbly topping, and you shove the whole thing in the oven for a bit. a crumble is basically an almost-naked pie, and that is what we are talking about today.
i did a bit of searching to find a couple recipes that i could offer for reference, should you feel a sudden urge to start baking. problem is, i suck at following directions—shocking, i know—so i made some alterations to both recipes. i will include the link to the base recipe, but i will highlight the changes i made with each dish. i am using the Joy of Baking's cranberry, pear & apple crumble recipe as the starting point for the crumble, and i will save the crumble cake for next time.
i mapped out the changes i was going to make to each recipe in advance.
the crumble begins with fruit (apples and a couple pears in this case). i intentionally left some traces of peel on the apples, because i like the subtle bit of texture it adds to the finished dish.
cut the fruit into bite-size pieces, adding a squeeze of fresh lemon juice every now and then to keep them from turning brown.
then just repeat until you have enough for the recipe, or in this case, until the bowl is overflowing. i did not measure/weigh the fruit. i just peeled and chopped till the bowl was full... and then i added another apple or two just for good measure.
next, add a bit of light brown sugar to the fruit. i prefer my crumbles on the "barely sweet" side, so i used about the same amount of sugar as the original recipe. however, i had roughly twice as much fruit as the recipe called for, so my fruit mixture was less sweet overall. i also added a healthy dose of freshly-grated ginger at this point, and some cornstarch. the cornstarch will turn the watery juices into a rich syrup that clings to the pieces of fruit so you do not end up with a puddle of liquid in the bottom of the bowl. this is the secret to preventing the dreaded "soggy bottom" when you are dealing with a pie crust. i always include a bit of cornstarch, even with a crust-less crumble.
full disclosure: i did not peel the ginger before grating it. life is far too short to waste time worrying about a bit of ginger skin.
because i overfilled the bowl, i had to dump everything into a roasting pan to be able to give it a proper mix without making a big mess. i have exactly zero regrets about using that much fruit.
i took a look at the assembled ingredients at this point, and i realized that i had to go searching for a larger baking dish than the one i originally planned to use.
one larger pyrex dish later, and it was time to start assembling.
first add half the fruit mixture.
this is when i realized that something was missing. one quick search through a cabinet later, and i returned with the dried cranberries.
sprinkle on a handful of cranberries.
then repeat both layers.
now it is time to make the titular "crumble". this is the bit where i go nuts with the ingredients.
i will draw you a literal picture of what went into that mixture.
- chopped walnuts
- rolled oats with the zest of a lemon grated on top
- oat flour (more about that later) topped with salt and a pinch of freshly-grated nutmeg
- ground ginger and ground cinnamon
- light-brown sugar
next comes the butter, right from the fridge to keep it cold until the last minute.
this recipe requires the most basic kitchen tool.
a bit of pinching is all it takes to make a crumbly topping.
this gets sprinkled over the fruit.
check out that side-view. yes, i did get a bit carried away with the amount of fruit i used. luckily, that mountain will shrink in the oven.
this gets baked until the top is brown and toasty.
i let it bake until the whole place smells delicious, then i check to make sure that it is bubbling away at the sides, which usually means that the fruit is cooked enough to suit my taste. i do not like super-mushy fruit in this kind of dish.
notice the considerable amount of shrinkage. there is a joke in there somewhere.
as i noted, i used more fruit than was called for in the original recipe. i also cut back on the sugar content in the topping mixture, using roughly two-third of what the recipe suggested. as a result, my crumble was on the less-sweet side, which is how we tend to prefer that sort of thing. it can be 'desserted up' by adding a scoop of ice cream or you can have some for a light meal. that first image was my breakfast on Sunday morning. it has fruit and a granola-ish topping. that is practically a health food when you think about it.
one of the things i like most of all about a crumble is that i can avoid using wheat flour without tormenting myself with one of those gross gluten-free alternatives. unlike a traditional pie, which has a crust on the bottom, the starchy part of a crumble is on the top. it does not bear the weight of the fruit filling, so there is zero need to worry about replacing the gluten if you are omitting the wheat flour. i like the taste of oat flour as a baking ingredient, so it has become my go-to substitution for recipes where the flour is not responsible for holding the whole thing together. i also use it in my favorite brownie recipe, and i do not miss the "regular flour" in that one either.
i also like that a crumble holds up pretty nicely in the refrigerator for a few-several days. because the starchy part is sitting on top of the fruit, it tends to resist going soggy. this is what was left of my crumble after almost a whole week in the fridge.
the topping still looks like it just came out of the oven.
he uses the microwave to warm up a serving, but i prefer to scoop some into an oven-proof bowl, and heat it in the oven with the broiler turned to low, just long enough to reassert the crunch in the crumbly bits. not bad for something that has been hanging around in my fridge for the better part of a week, eh?
unfortunately, i cannot same the same about the apple crumble cake, which disappeared in less than two days. but i will save that bit for the next time.