As American as apple pie… As Canadian as crumble?
Sometimes you feel like melting into one of those warm, comforting classic deserts (or at least I do). For many of you out there the simple choice is pie. Not for me! I will go out on a limb here and admit that I am indifferent to pie. I can take it or leave it. Yes, all fruit pies. The only exception to this rule is pumpkin pie. I can literally eat an entire one in a single sitting which I am not proud of (ok I am a little proud of it).
On rainy nights when I need a little warm dessert I turn to a crumble. Like a pie, but better!
The beauty of the crumble is that you have two areas to customize and play with. There is the fruit layer and the crumble itself. Let’s examine these separately shall we?
I have read a lot of rules out there about what you can and cannot put in a fruit crumble. It is my opinion that this is nonsense. Put in whatever you want. This being said, I have a bit of a system (my brain works that way). I start with a base fruit that will cook down a little and give me some texture at the same time. Apples are the standard but pears work really well too. Then I like to add an accent fruit like berries or even a little mango. I have done banana once when desperate but it did get a little gooey.
Now that you have your fruit you can jazz it up a bit. Personally, being Canadian, I like a generous swig of maple syrup. You can also go down the booze option as I have now and add something aromatic like a flavored gin or vodka. I also like to plash a bit of vanilla on the fruit so that it mixes in as they release their juices while cooking. I have also ground some coriander seeds right onto the apples to allow it to bake in.
Now for the really fun part. For a basic crumble you need flour, butter and sugar. That is boring. I start with the butter and a little flour and then start to build. Oats are a staple in my house for crumbles and so go right in. I also like to throw in a little flax or something with some fiber (you might as well right and who doesn’t need a little more fiber?). I am also into popped amaranth right now and so I quickly pop some and throw that in.
Spices… cinnamon is the obvious choice but consider your fruit selection and what you like to eat. I consume nutmeg like it is going out of style and cardamom so those go in. I have also discovered that you can put coriander seeds into a old pepper grinder and grind into the topping as well. Add in any spice that makes you feel good and remind you of home. That is the whole point.
Nuts…I like to add nuts to the crumble topping to add both a little crunch. Walnuts work really well with pears but any nut will do. i can also highly recommend coconut but I found the coconut jar empty when I went to make this one.
Wait for it…. lemon zest! Add some into the crumble mix and you will be surprised at how nicely it comes through.
I am not going to write out a recipe for this because it is better when you just play it by ear. I will say that you should bake the crumble at 350 degrees until you can smell it and the topping has browned. You will also want to see some juices bubbling. This usually takes about 40 minutes for me but depends on the size.
I encourage you to try different fruits and crumble combinations.
Easy, warm, and oozing with melting ice cream if you like. I nice way to tuck in the evening.