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.


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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