Crisps/Crumbles for Dummies

I hate cooked fruit.  It’s the texture mostly, how it’s slimy and mushy.  And if I have the choice, I’m going to choose the chocolate cake 10 times out of 10.

BUT

Crumbles and crisps are still some of my favorite desserts in the world to make, because a) they are so %*#*ing easy b) (almost) everybody loves them c) they can be adapted to any palate and any season

Moral of the story: make a crumble.  You can’t go wrong.  Because I”m going to teach you all you need to know in this special on-line edition of “Crisps/Crumbles for Dummies.” Quelle chance!  And you won’t even need a single measuring device.

Ok. So start with the fruit.  What looks good?  If it’s fall or wintertime, you’re going to want to go with pears or apples.  Spring, strawberries and rhubarb.  Summer is an all-out bonanza: cherries, berries, peaches, nectarines, or a combination.  Life is good in the summer.

Obviously you can use frozen fruit, especially berries, but its probably not going to be as good. And please don’t ever used canned stuff.  Grody. Also no citrus fruit, it does weird stuff in the heat including wrinkling up and getting tough.  And save bananas for flambe or smoothies.

Good!  Now take the fruit, skin it and slice it.   Add some sugar and spices, as long as a tablespoon or two of flour to thicken it up a bit.  Sugar totally depends on you, go easy on it because the fruit will became naturally sweeter as it cooks.  Just start with a little and taste test.

Spice-wise, cinnamon and nutmeg will make you feel cozy and warm during chilly months, but not too much.  Do enough to fill the center of the palm of your hand, which is about .  For warmer months I usually dial it down on the spices, and omit them altogether for berries and cherries.  Add lemon zest and juice instead!  Or orange zest.  Or a splash of orange liquor (I won’t tell.  It cooks out anyway)

Also, always add a pinch of salt.  It balances the sweetness.  Just trust me.  Then leave the fruit to get juicy for a bit.

Check.  On to stage two, the crumble.  Or crisp.  Still not exactly sure what the difference was, but one website said that crumbles are more British and crisps more American.  Because they typically contain more sugar and fat. Hm.

So for crumble you’ll need butter, either soft or melted.  Usually a stick is good.  The beautiful part about the crumble topping is that as long as you have butter, sugar, and flour you’re good!  But there are so many combinations that you should never stop right there.  Unless you want to then it’s ok, you’ll work up to it.  Oats, almonds (slivered or powdered),  chopped pecans, brown sugar, whole wheat flour, all those other weird flours out there these days, whatever floats your boat.  Start with about a cup of flour and a half cup of sugar in a bowl, add in some almonds, some oats, and then pour in some (but not all!) the butter.  Mix it around (I like hands for this part)

If its too dry, add more butter.  If it’s too wet, add more flour or almonds.  Taste a tiny bit (cause your life is hard), make sure it’s sweet enough.  And don’t forget that pinch of salt!  I guarantee that even if it doesn’t look like you think it should, as long as it has a crumbly look and comes together when you squeeze it, it’ll be delicious.  Heck even if it doesn’t, with those ingredients its gotta be good.  You can also add some cinnamon/nutmeg/allspice/cloves or whatever at this point.

Then put the fruit in a baking dish (no need to grease), big or small depending on how much fruit, but make sure the dish is not totally full so you can add your buttery delicious topping without massive overflow.  Then sprinkle the crumble on top, as much or as little as you like (though if it’s a little, really who are you?)  Bake in a 375 degree oven until the top is brown and the fruit is bubbly.  As long as it doesn’t burn, it’s hard to overcook.

Great tip, if you made too much crumble, add an egg white or two and drop it onto a baking sheet.  Bake in the oven until brown and you have a delicious nutritious snack.  Well, maybe not so nutritious. But delicious enough that a friend and I ate an entire batch while sitting on her sofa in Paris watching Princess Mononoke.  We’re party animals.

Here’s her adorable parisian kitchen in the throes of our crisp-baking.  Her host family loved it, and so will yours!  Or your real family.  Or your friends.  Or yourself.  Or your dog.

So what are you waiting for, get out there and make a crumble!

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Les Vacances

Back to boring real life in the south of France after vacationing in Lille, Ghent and Reims.  Ah, la vie est dure.

Since I know you all missed my updates terribly, let me make you feel better by

1) Showing you some closeups of yumtacular foods, picnics, markets, goodies etc (I learned the words for sweets this week in french class, friandises! )

2) Posting some ridiculously cute dog pictures, cause I know you all wanted it.

Let’s do this chronologically, because I don’t want to confuse you guys.

First we have a bit of the giant market at Place des Precheurs which happens every Saturday.  David dragged me there at 7 am because he had 10 hours of stupid jetlag.  These madeleines cheered me up however, served by none other than Christophe himself.


Here are some pears which were quite beautiful.  My host dad  Patrick told me (or learned me, as my host sister Chloe would say) that their stems are sealed with red wax to prevent oxygen from entering, therefore keeping them fresh longer.  HUH!

Next was our day trip to Marseille, where we had tea, corsican beer, almost got assaulted by a youth (damn them!) and had questionably the best meal of the trip: this steak

It’s even more impressive than it looks.  It was perfectly seared to medium on top of roasted carrots, parsnips, potatoes and green beans, smothered in a carmelized shallot cream sauce with a balsalmic vinaegar reduction and chives.  I wasn’t even mad it didn’t come with fries.  Oh yeah, I was “not hungry” at this stage so I didn’t order anything, but upon seeing the magnificent creature appear in front of David I didn’t hesitate to eat more than my fare share.  God I hate when people do that, don’t you? (Cough, father dearest)

Here is our super duper classy picnic in front of Mont Saint-Victoire.  We didn’t hike up it, but we did an ok job hiking near it.  Then of course we had to stop and eat stinky cheese and bread.  And champagne.

A day trip to Avignon resulted in some top-notch palace touring, a good amount of getting lost, and some yummy tartines with CORNICHONS!  My favorite thing in the world.  Also we found this adorable beat roaming the streets, obviously I stealthily approached it and patted it.  Because french people generally get freaked out when you touch their dogs, maybe because in french you ask if you can “caresse le chien.”

On to Lille!  Which is in the north of France, basically Belgium.  We decided it seemed like a mixture of rural England and Germany where everyone just happened to speak french.

Obviously my first stop was Meert, first shown to me by my idol David Lebovitz, for some high-class pastry gazing, especially the lillois gauffres.  Unlike typical waffles (and there are two types: yeast-based belgian waffles and the more rectangular batter-based ones you see more commonly) these are more like thinly grilled biscuits sandwiching some sort of delicious sugarly caramelly substance that can only be described as crack.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Unfortuantely I got distracted by a croissant here, but the waffles we tried from the Wazemmes market were also quite delish. Especially microwaved.

We also partook in the local specialties of flemish fries, carbonnade (beef stew), and lots of good beer.  And stayed in a haunted bed and breakfast!  Good times.

Next was Reims, the capital of the Champagne region of France.  Legally champagne can only be called champagne if it comes from Champagne, meaning it’s a preeeetty big deal in the world of bubbly wines.  We also checked out the Saturday market there, and I met a very nice apple man who sold us some delicious juice and a black lab!  Look at it it wanted a belly rub!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We also had our second picnic of the trip.  Similarities: champagne.  Differences: this one had a roasted chicken!  Did we have utensils?  No!  Did we care?  A little bit, but that’s ok we were really hungry.  And it was yum yum yummy.

So now I’m back in Aix where I belong.  In the immortal words of Biggie: “It’s Still All Good.”