Thursday, January 16, 2014

Crumbles are a desert I make, without measuring, anytime I’ve got some leftover fruit that is on the edge of being past its prime. You can, of course, use the best quality fruit in season, but this comforting dish, for me, is all about the unplanned and the accidental. Ever been stuck with a couple quarts of those wooden – out of season - strawberries that someone else thought looked appetizing at the grocery store? Add a splash of strawberry liqueur, elderberry syrup, or even balsamic vinegar to accent what little flavor they have and you’re on the road to something delicious.  Ever get the overly optimistic idea that you’re going to make a pie in a week in which you’ll be lucky to find time to change your underwear? The crumble in this picture above is the result of precisely that kind delusional purchasing.   

The recipe that follows is precise, but let inspiration and necessity be your guild. I certainly do. You can, of course, peel and core the apples, but I find it infinitely quicker to cut the cheeks away from the core with a sharp knife. This dessert is not only about improvisation, but speed. No matter how detail oriented you care to be, a crumble will always have a thrown together aesthetic, so it might as well be.  

You’ll need:
For filling:
1 kg apples (any variety you have)
175g light brown sugar
25g corn starch
7g ground cinnamon 

For topping:
210g all purpose flour
150g rolled “quick cooking” oats (not instant)
75g old fashioned rolled oats
50g sliced almonds
100g light brown sugar
3g ground cinnamon
225g unsalted butter*  

*The butter should be still cool but not refrigerator cold and not yet soft either. Remove from refrigeration approximately one hour before using, or half that time if your kitchen is hot.  

Preheat oven to 350ºF [180ºC] 

Peel apples and remove the cheeks from the core. Slice the cheeks very thin and place in a large mixing bowl. Toss apple slices in brown sugar, corn starch, and cinnamon, and let them stand for ten minutes. Transfer to the baking vessel.* 

Assemble crumble topping. Place flour, rolled oats, brown sugar and cinnamon in a medium sized mixing and stir with your fingers to combine. Cut the butter into ½ inch cubes [1 cm] and work these into the topping with your fingertips until it resembles course rubble. Add the almond slices and gently mix through.  

Top the prepared fruit with the crumble mixture keeping it as level as possible. 

Bake 45 minutes to 1 hour until fruit is bubbling up around the edges of the crumble topping. 

Cool 30 minutes before serving with cold heavy cream. 

Make ahead:
You can make this one or two days ahead. Bring to room temperature and warm individual servings in the microwave oven before serving.  

*Note on the baking vessel: The casserole or baking dish you choose should be just large enough to hold all of the fruit you are using. The crumble topping should be mounded higher than the edge of the vessel. As the fruit cooks and softens, any air pockets will collapse and the crumble with sink during and after baking.

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