Crumble: in my opinion the very best thing that can be done to a glut of fruit. Sure, jam is good. Obviously pie is amazing. But both require a level of commitment that I so often do not have, both in will power and time. Crumble requires no such thing. As soon as you’ve got the motor skills to play with play-do, you’re half the way to having a crumble on the table. You literally need measuring cups, a bowl, and your hands to make this. I’m not kidding; a toddler could do it. Enter: The Crumble Formula.
The beauty of the crumble, aside from its preposterous simplicity, is its infinite adaptability. When it comes to how many different ways you can make a crumble, the limit does not exist. As with all baking, the crumble is just science. It’s about combining certain ingredients in certain ratios to produce a desired result. I like a crumble with plenty of crunch, a little soft rubble melting into the fruit, and the pure, delicious taste of caramelised butter and sugar.
This formula is the basic, satisfaction guaranteed recipe for crumble success. And then from there, you can do whatever the fuck you want with it. Once the basic butter-sugar-flour ratio is in place, add nuts, spices, different grains, different flours, different sugars, whatever you want. The classic choice would be to stir in some oats, and a little cinnamon. I love to substitute some Demerara sugar, which gives great caramelly crunch.
Of course, below the crumble is the fruit and you have to work that out too. This amount of crumble makes enough to generously cover a 9 inch (23cm) pie dish full of fruit, and it cooks in 35-40 minutes. That information is what you use to inform your fruit choices. You need enough fruit to fill your pie dish, and it needs to attain perfection in 35-40 minutes of oven time.
It’s my belief that almost all fruit will need at least a little cooking to be perfect after that long in the oven. Berries will probably need only a few minutes in the pan, just to get their juices flowing. Harder fruits like apples or pears will want a longer stovetop simmer. And again, with the fruit, how you season it is entirely up to you. Lemon zest or juice, cinnamon, star anise, vanilla, cardamom, brown sugar, maple syrup, white sugar, coconut sugar, nutmeg, lime zest, orange zest. And that’s before you’ve even started thinking about possible combinations of fruit.
There’s no bad way to go about this. You can be as creative, or as classic as you like. You just have to use a little common sense. If you’re adding cinnamon to the fruit, maybe leave it out of the topping. Add more or less sugar to the filling, depending on how sweet your fruit is. Or if you want to feature some tart raspberries, why not pair them with sweet pears or plums. When you’re cooking the fruit, start with the least ripe, hardest pieces of fruit, adding the softer, riper pieces as you go. For this peach and blueberry number, I sautéed one hard, un-ripe peach in a little butter to begin with, then turned the heat off and stirred through my blueberries and a touch of sugar, then topped with a beautifully ripe, juicy peach and a scattering of lemon zest. See what I mean? Use your intuition. Now get crumbling!
The Crumble Formula is below or CLICK HERE for the full recipe for this Blueberry Peach Crumble!
- 1 cup (150g) plain flour
- ½ cup (100g) caster sugar
- 100g (1 stick minus 1 tbsp) salted butter
- 1 tbsp salted butter
- 4 cups chopped fruit or berries
- sugar, to taste
- Preheat the oven to 180C/350F.
- Place the flour and sugar into a large mixing bowl.
- Cut the butter into small cubes, and add to the flour and sugar.
- Rub the butter into the flour and sugar, using your fingertips and thumbs, until a clumpy crumble forms. At this point you can refrigerate or even freeze the mixture.
- To make the filling, place the butter in a large pan, add the fruit and cook just until the juices start to run. Add sugar and other seasonings to your taste (see article for ideas). And place into a 9 inch (23cm) pie dish.
- Scatter over the crumble and bake for 35-40 minutes, or until the fruit is bubbling and the crumble is golden and crisp.